Review Rating: Must Listen (4.8 / 5)
Until now, beloved artist Mandisa had not released an album for three long years. Overcomer made an impact in the contemporary Christian music community, ultimately culminating in viral success. The following years have been filled with moments of loss and struggle for the Grammy-awarded singer, but with the recent release of Out Of The Dark, Mandisa has shown listeners just how faithful God has been in all of those moments. Packed with energetic pop sounds, passionate vocals, and tracks guaranteed to become favorites, Out Of The Dark tells Mandisa's incredible story, a story of her Savior's power.
The album opens with a context track called "Voicemail Intro" that leads into the energetic "I'm Still Here." The melody has an electronic and keyboard emphasis, setting up a catchy pop-song atmosphere with joyful energy. Mandisa's bright vocals lead, telling a story of God's faithfulness even in the midst of hardship. Considering her previous track "Overcomer," the song's story is impactful and personal. Across the chorus, Mandisa's song of victory in dark times shines brightly - "by the grace of God, I'm still here … yes my God is not done with me yet!"
Her story of God's faithful work continues with "Unfinished," a slightly laid-back but nevertheless upbeat track. The electronics take on slightly lower tones across the verses, rising and joining joyful clapping across each chorus. Its lyrics "celebrate the truth (that) His work in me ain't through, I'm just unfinished!" It's a story of God's continuing work, fueled by upbeat instruments, bright vocals, and the refreshing, sincere honesty of the artist.
Farther along is "Bleed The Same." With a piercing and thought-provoking intro from guest Kirk Franklin, the song begins with suppressed and calmer electronics, accented by slight beats. Guest vocalist tobyMac joins Mandisa for a song that does not dance around issues that plague our country today. As the chorus crescendo, the lyrics call for an end to our nation's divisions and hatred, escalating with a plea for God to come and heal our land once again. Where many similar songs forget or neglect the role of the Savior in our politics, "Bleed The Same" ends on a note of repentance and humility, as the final words ask God to help us "seek Your face, forgive our sins, and heal our incredible land."
Farther along in the album, the music takes a slightly different tone. "Prove Me Wrong" is Mandisa in a moment of pure honesty and vulnerability. The electronics of previous songs give way to soft piano notes that provide a foundation for her angelic vocals. A perfect mood for the lyrics, the words describe moments of dismay when God does not act exactly as we wish He would. "And I read Your ways are higher, but I just don't understand" Mandisa sings, asking God to remind her of His faithfulness even when it does not seem to make sense.
It's not that we see a different Mandisa in Out Of The Dark. Instead, we get a glimpse into a beloved artist's honest walk with the Lord. Though the same celebratory spirit in "Overcomer" is present across Out Of The Dark, especially in "I'm Still Here," there's a story of brokenness that culminates in God's faithfulness. Thus, the album's strengths are in this story. Even the non-musical context tracks like "Voicemail Intro," "Dear John Praise Report," and "MothDisa Interlude" give listeners a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the story of how God has worked in Mandisa's life.
All in all, Out Of The Dark is an incredible collection. The tracks are energetic, sincere, and guaranteed to become favorites among Mandisa's discography (personally, this reviewer has put "I'm Still Here" on repeat.) Best of all is the passionate love Mandisa displays for Jesus Christ, a love that is saturated in every lyric. It's a worthy sequel to Overcomer, in many ways shining all the brighter.