Spurred by a dramatic weight loss, Mandisa brims with confidence and a newfound security in herself on What If We Were Real. The album -- released five years to the day since her exit from American Idol -- showcases the gospel singer 100 pounds lighter but without any loss of her trademark voice. Not only does this disc remind listeners that she has the chops, it also proves she has staying power. The physical transformation corresponds to the album's theme of keeping it real and showing one's true self. Mandisa has never sounded more authentic than when singing that she is "tired of saying what I'm supposed to say." Where she might have powered her way to making such a point on previous albums, this time around she shows restraint and lets the songs do the talking. What If We Were Real features an upbeat urban pop mix of Natasha Bedingfield, Jordin Sparks, and Leona Lewis. It's a step apart from her Idol identity, but if this is the Mandisa she truly wants listeners to know, it seems to work rather well. She may have shown her inner diva as a reality TV contestant, but this resilient vocalist has done a true makeover to become a contemporary gospel star whose time in the spotlight has only begun.
AllMusic Review by Jared Johnson