Despite all its accolades, sometimes American Idol makes a mistake. Nowhere more is that evident than with its Fifth Season. I bet that people don't even remember who won that year (It was Taylor Hicks, who Jay Leno called his son). I think he was doing the Food Festival circuit last I heard. On the other hand, the Runner Up (Katherine McPhee), 4th Place (Chris Daughtry) and top 6 (Kellie Pickler) have by far proven the judges and viewers wrong.
Also having greater success than the eventual winner is top 9 finalist Mandisa with her latest release What If We Were Real. As she burst onto the CCM scene (where other Idol castoffs such as Chris Sligh, Phil Stacey and Brooke (Barrettsmith) Adams have found success) with the help of Toby Mac and Gotee Records. The latest release is a blend of Gospel, R&B and Dance. I admit to be less than enthusiastic about her earlier music, and it had nothing to do with her weight at the time.
[I want to make a weight related musical aside here. In Christian Music, especially Gospel, there are an abundance of "plus sized" women who nonetheless have the pipes. Of course there is no correlation between the pipes and the weight, and the proof is Mandisa, who still has the pipes, and having reportedly lost 100 pounds, has developed a yowza factor as well]
The album begins with the first Radio Single, the Gospel/Dance hit Stronger, and from the first notes of this third album we know we will not be experiencing the usual mandisa album. The pop is gone, and it is replaced with high energy rock/R&B/Gospel. Even if you can't dance to save your life, you will dance when this comes out of your stereo, you can't help it. Though the overall tempo is high speed from beginning to end, we do slow down to "catch our breath" twice. I put that in quotes because The Truth About Me and Just Cry take full advantage of Mandisa's vocal range, with the result that both songs take on an operatic quality. It's hard to catch your breath while it's taken away.
For my final verdict, I am giving What if we were real by Mandisa 5 Emeralds. The perfect rating sets it as the bar to be reached in the Gospel/R&B genre. Though you should never say never, unless over seven nominees reach the coveted 5 Emerald Rating, it will guarantee the album entry among the final 7 nominees in the category. Without sounding overly crass, don't cry, just buy this album.