Nicole C. Mullen has been a household name in Christian music ever since her breakthrough hit, "Redeemer," back in 2000, and continued with another mega-hit, "Call On Jesus," as well as garnering a Dove Award for Female Vocalist. However, with her fourth release, Sharecropper's Seed, Volume One, Mullen decidedly showcased her own heritage with a series of more mellow, acoustic tracks. The album, nor any of its singles, fared too well with its audience, and with A Dream To Believe In, Volume 2, Mullen returns with a collection of both upbeat and slower tunes.
The theme of Sharecropper's Seed continues with this album: a theme of family and love towards people. Nicole has always been very vulnerable as an artist, and this album strongly highlights that. The record opens with a fitting, yet not really necessary, "I Have A Dream" intro, which features many different people of all backgrounds and ages, saying "I have a dream," repeatedly. The intro leads right into a funky "Look Like Me," something totally new for Nicole. "Look Like Me" is an upbeat track that returns listeners to her Talk About It album, and is the first song to quench those who were disappointed at all by Sharecropper's Seed. However, although Mullen has recorded many upbeat, urban-pop songs before, this one has a guitar-driven, rock flavor to it, which shows a completely different side of her. The song also talks about race, which is a topic Mullen has written about many times before. This new rock-driven style continues in songs like "Like A Lady" and "Like I'm In Love." "Yo Mama" is a slick R&B track, and serves as an ode to the caring mother of a friend. "Brainwash" uses clever lyricism to express the need to infiltrate worldly things, and even has a brief rap in the middle, similar to "This This" from her Everyday People album. However, the chorus seems a bit juvenile with its chanting of "I need a B-R-A-I-N-double-wash."
But those who are still longing for another classic Mullen ballad will sadly not find it here. "Start Over Again" and "Blessed And Broken" are the closest things to ballads on this album, though neither really has the power or punch of songs like "Redeemer," "Come Unto Me," "I Am," or "Call On Jesus." "There Is Still A Dream" is a cover of the song released a few years ago by Aaron Neville and Rachael Lampa for the One project. But Mullen's version doesn't exactly measure up, and her vocals don't soar like Lampa's did, although the "unity" theme of the song does fit well with this album as a whole. "Forever You Reign" could have been a great worship track, but its clichéd lyrics make it feel like just another routine worship song. The album closes with the techno-flavored "Work With Me." Although the song is definitely a fun one, there is no depth to the song at all, and the only lyrics are "Work with me now," and shouts of "Dance!"
A Dream To Believe In, Volume 2 will bring listeners back to Mullen's more upbeat material, but the album collectively just doesn't measure up to some of her previous work. Hopefully Volume 3 will provide a steady mix of everything we've come to know and love about Nicole C. Mullen.- Review date: 7/22/08, written by Matthew Watson
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