by: Mandisa

The ex-Idol finalist has been discredited on previous releases for sticking with adult contemporary rather than venturing into urban pop. However, to her credit, the brand of contemporary gospel on her 2007 debut, True Beauty, works best for her powerhouse voice. Rather than attempting an ill-fated imitation of Beyoncé or Alicia Keys, Mandisa again finds the sweet spot for her own voice on Freedom. As a result, this album is a slam dunk. Mandisa feels quite "free" and comfortable in her own skin. This safety may be a liability for other artists, yet it seems to bring out the best in her. She wears her convictions on her sleeve on tracks like "My Deliverer," and the poignant "Not Guilty." Other highlights include "Victorious," "Freedom Song," and the melodic "You Wouldn't Cry," all of which encapsulate her magical touch with gospel. If you're expecting her to be someone she isn't, you might be surprised at how well she pulls off this album by simply being herself. ~ Jared Johnson

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