Fans of Christian pop music expect a certain vulnerability from their favorite artists. But it's less common to see that vulnerability played out on national television. Yet that's what has happened with American Idol alumnus Mandisa Hundley, who has just released her debut album, True Beauty (Sparrow/emi).

Hundley faced the uncommon challenges of her AI run with grace. After judge Simon Cowell mocked her weight, she forgave him and accepted his apology on the show. Later, when she spoke about her longing for freedom from "lifestyles" before a performance of the gospel hit "Shackles (Praise You)," some homosexuals assumed she was singling them out. In a gracious interview with the gay newsmagazine The Advocate, Mandisa clarified that "Shackles" referred to her own obesity-related obstacles, while sticking to her traditional Christian beliefs about homosexuality. Still, the strain—and Hundley's disappointment over losing—took a toll. This album provides listeners a glimpse into her recovery.

True Beauty's highlights include the sunny funk-pop of the No. 1-selling "Only the World" and "(Never Gonna) Steal My Joy": "Life may push my heart to the limit / But I won't let go / Of the joy in my soul / 'Cause everything can change in a minute / And the world may try / But they're never gonna steal my joy."

"Oh, My Lord" features the Fisk Jubilee singers and sounds like an updated spiritual, while "Unrestrained" echoes the worship songs Hundley performed at Beth Moore's Living Proof Live events, and allows her to demonstrate her emotive range. "Love Somebody," a collaboration with tobyMac, will remind AI viewers of Hundley's bold performance of Chaka Khan's "I'm Every Woman." The collaboration highlights Hundley and tobyMac's shared passion for racial reconciliation.

True Beauty represents Hundley's emergence from a season of disappointment, so it's no surprise that its 11 songs describe the comfort of faith, the nearness of God to those who suffer, and a personal confidence grounded in something more meaningful than body size. Hundley may not be an Idol winner, but she has the boldness and joy that points people to her Savior.

LaTonya Taylor, associate editor of Ignite Your Faith and founder of

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Christian Music Today reviewed the album.

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