Gospel music is a rare thing to see on American Idol, and even rarer post-Idol. Mandisa, the ninth-place finisher on season five, opted to stick to what she does best: praising her Lord through her voice. Dedication can be heard in every note of True Beauty, and she never loses her poise or chops throughout the record, something that many of her Idol peers tend to do after the show. What's an even bigger feat of True Beauty is that it's catchy, entertaining, and passionate at the same time. Album openers "Only the World" and "True Beauty" could slide into any radio station across the country. Even better, they actually produce a positive message for those who listen. Instead of singing about money in the bank, Mandisa chooses to promote a healthy body image by diving into the beauty of the soul, where it truly counts. Afterwards, she glides into "God Speaking" and "Voice of a Savior," which will melt any heart. She minimizes the backup vocalists and heavy production, letting herself shine through and distinguishing herself from most of her Idol contemporaries. Perhaps the strongest track on the album is the fifth one, "Love Somebody," which features the talented gospel rapper tobyMac. Mandisa and tobyMac combine gospel, soul, and rap seamlessly in four minutes of pure heaven, no pun intended. The most poignant point on the album follows right after, when Mandisa belts out "Unrestrained." Mandisa expresses her love for her God with such a level of earnestness that it leaves the listener breathless. After listening to the first half of the album, it is easy to be convinced that this is the best post-Idol album to date, regardless of genre. However, if you want to keep that belief, stop listening there. The first six tracks on the albums are all stellar, but the second half slowly falls apart. Tracks like "Oh, My Lord," "Only You," and the tepid and contrived Mary Mary cover of "Shackles (Want to Praise You)" seem tedious and bland. In other words, the second half of the album merely comes off as a B-level version of the first. The other weakness on the album is the songwriting. Mandisa only co-wrote three tracks on the album: "True Beauty," "Love Somebody," and "Only You." For an artist whose entire album -- no, rather genre -- is essentially a dedication, the amount of original material from her seems low. In the end, however, whatever Mandisa lacked was picked up by others, and although she didn't actually write much here, she made up for it in her chops. When compared to some of the other finished products of her season (Taylor Hicks, Princess P), Mandisa's first effort was pretty awesome, and she distinguished herself from her former rivals by bringing an original and tasty dish to the table.
AllMusic Review by Matthew Chisling