Prime Cuts: Prove Me Wrong, Bleed the Same (Featuring TobyMac & Kirk Franklin), Back to Life
Overall Grade: 4.5/5
It may be twisted to say, but the depression, isolation, and anguish have refined the artistry of Mandisa. Forming the backdrop of the album is the much publicized battle the former American Idol had with depression. Shortly after the release of her preceding record, the ironically titled "Overcomer," Mandisa was overcame with depression. The malaise started when she watched a dear friend lose her battle with breast cancer, leaving behind a husband and two young sons. Suddenly, the world didn't seem to make sense anymore. Reeling from the pain, she isolated herself from everyone, gained back the weight she had fought so hard to lose, and sank into a deep depression.
The album's opener "Voicemail Intro" actually strings together encouraging vocals notes of friends and family who cared enough to check on Mandisa when she was not well. Normally such theatrics can be annoying, but this time it brings out a realism to Mandisa's mental plight, giving this album an added humane touch. This segues into the bright, danceable, and popish "I'm Still Here" which Mandisa calls her "comeback song." More or less in the same lyrically trajectory of Mandisa detailing her triumph over depression is the R&B-styled title cut "Out of the Dark." If you want your view of yourself radically changed by Christ, mediate on the flagship single "Unfinished," a song deeply rooted in Eph 2:10, where Paul reckons us as God's masterpieces.
Though Mandisa's triumphant over own her own personal ordeal informs many of the songs, she doesn't succumb to self-indulgence. "Bleed the Same" finds her tackling the issue of racism. Unlike many lesser artists, Mandisa doesn't approach this touchy issue with a self-righteous platitude. Rather, appealing to God's creative design that all of us -- regardless of our skin color -- are God's handiwork, "Bleed the Same" is one of the best songs in combating racism. "Prove Me Wrong" is the first and only piano ballad on the record and it's Mandisa's crowning moment. A potent song that speaks of God's faithfulness, Mandisa sings with a understated passion that is just pulverizing. One would have wished Mandisa would have included one or two more of such ballads in which she handles with first class honors.
Jeremy Camp is touted as a duet partner on "My First Love." But in reality, his vocals take a seat way beyond the reaches of a microphone. Much better is Britt Nicole who joins voices with Mandisa on the dynamic and highly singable "What You're Worth." Fans thinking of saving a few bucks by not buying the Deluxe Edition (which boasts three extra songs) may want to think twice. "Back to Life," one of the three bonus tracks, is a must-hear. It's a fitting testimony that actually encapsulates Mandisa's recent experience told with lots of tear-inducing honesty.
"Out of the Dark" certainly was not birthed out of Mandisa's most positive season of her life, but it's also her most intimate and personal record. On this album, she sings with great depth and emotional nuances, and her artistry has certainly improved by leaps and bounds.