Prime Cuts: Way Maker, God Speaking, Shackles (Praise You)
Overall Grade: 4.5/5
Mandisa is indeed an overcomer. She's one of the few survivors from the onslaught of American Idol contestants looking for record deals and hit records. Other than Carrie Underwood and Mandisa, most of the alumni of the popular singing contest are either struggling to get their music out or they have returned to their day jobs. And the irony of it all is that Mandisa didn't even win the Idol crown or come close to winning. In fact, she only made it to the show's top 9; yet, she has won a Grammy Award, charted 2 #1 hits and 3 #1 albums, released 5 major-label albums and one Christmas offering, and duetted with high profile artists such as TobyMac, Michael W. Smith and Matthew West. Now, 15 years later, she's releasing her first greatest hits collection. "Overcomer: Greatest Hits" is a hefty 15-track collection featuring one new song ("Way Maker") and songs garnered from all 5 of her studio albums, from 2007's "True Beauty" to 2017's "Out of the Dark." What makes Mandisa such an overcomer?
First, Mandisa is firm in the articulation of her beliefs and faith through pounding stately anthems. Songs such as "Overcomer," "Stronger," "Press On,"and "My Deliverer" are by no means anemic. Rather, quipped with propulsive melodic drives and state of the art sounding percussions, they are powerful statement songs that charter faith not only in God, but also in the worth God has placed in us. Like a seasoned spiritual coach, in the song "Overcomer," Mandisa comes alongside us encouraging: "You're an overcomer/Stay in the fight 'til the final round/You're not going under''Cause God is holding you right now." Without any hint of self-deprecation, in the song "Unfinished," Mandisa affirms we are precious and useful in God's sight: "But I picked myself back And I started telling me/No, my God's not done/Making me a masterpiece/He's still working on me."
Second, Mandisa has always kept Christ central in all her songs. While many of Mandisa's peers have tried to diversify into the secular market by camouflaging their faith under love songs, this is never Mandisa's temptation. Right off American Idol, she perspicuously sings about Christ's redemption in the Mary Mary's cover "Shackles (Praise You)." And she delivers one of the most endearing love songs to God in the gorgeous ballad "God Speaking." But Mandisa doesn't just ramble on about faith for faith's sake. Rather, in her songs she applies such truths to everyday life circumstances. Case in point being "He is With You:" "He is with you when your faith is dead/And you can't even get out of bed/Or your husband doesn't kiss you anymore."
Nevertheless, what discounts this album from a 5/5 rating is that the selection of the songs on this set is far from creative. For starters, there's only one new song. "Way Maker" is currently a popular worship song that has been recorded by Sinach, Leeland, Paul McClue, Michael W. Smith and many others. Though Madisa's version is convincing, she adds nothing new to an overladen bandwagon. Second, though most of Mandisa's charted singles are here, there are no surprises. Why is there no inclusion of some of her harder to get songs, such as "We Are Family"? Or non-album singles such as 2013's "Jesus, Firm foundation" or her 2018 duet with Crowder "Let it Rain"? Nevertheless, if you are looking for a straitjacket run down of Mandisa's biggest songs from 2007 to now, this collection is a great introduction.