Talk About It
- reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2001 1 Jan
Prior to 2000, most people knew Nicole C. Mullen as a backup singer for the likes of Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, as well as the voice behind Veggie Tales' "Larry Boy" theme song. But after the release of her self-titled effort just a year ago, this behind-the-scenes cast member became the "Song of the Year" Dove Award winner for her hit, "My Redeemer." The timeless ballad showcased Mullen's majestic voice, while the worshipful lyrics became ingrained in the minds of countless listeners. Such attention for the single launched Mullen back on tour with Michael W. Smith, but this time as an individual act on the bill, as opposed to just a background vocalist.
While Mullen could have gotten a big head from all the attention and her promotion from a supporting singer to spotlight talent, she's done just the opposite. Mullen used her newfound fame to serve as a mentor to young women in her hometown just outside of Franklin, Tennessee—and also speak out against racism. Her passion for unity regardless of skin color or denomination and for being a good role model to teens are the focus of her latest release, Talk About It.
The 11 tracks are a melting pot of sounds, ranging from brisk dance-floor grooves to somber but soulful ballads performed with eloquence and ease. After the joyous "All Aboard" introduction, Mullen belts out the hearty title cut. The thumping bass and vibrant horn section add to the diva-like vocals that proclaim Mullen's unashamed faith and no-fear attitude. "Baby Girl" follows suit, with a sound blending the pop sensibilities of Sunshine Anderson and the funk of Jill Scott. The track is told through the eyes of a teenager who's discouraged with all the troubling situations around her. The youngster complains her mother doesn't understand her and is angry that her father left the household, but Mullen reminds her Jesus is our ultimate provider.
"Witness" is also a motivational song during which Mullen repeats the catch phrase, "Can I get a witness?" The vibe is similar to any urban gospel sing-a-long, but it's far from traditional sounding thanks to a thick bass line and rap by David Cox. "The Ring" brings to mind groups such as Out of Eden or Trinitee 5:7, complete with some turntable scratching and crisp synthesized beats. "Sometimes" follows on the disc, keeping the energy level up with the combination of a jangly guitar and catchy drum loops.
But Mullen really shines on the tamer numbers, such as "Let Me Go" and "Black Light." The latter tactfully addresses the issue of race in the context of the Civil Rights movement. "Come Unto Me" and "Call On Jesus" are the project's two power ballads, which bear similarity to "My Redeemer." "Call on Jesus" has classic written all over it, mixing the vocal stylings of Whitney Houston and Jaci Velasquez. The chorus is easy to memorize but remains poignant—"When I call on Jesus/ All things are possible/ I can mount on wings like eagles and soar/ When I call on Jesus/ Mountains are gonna fall/ ('Cause) He'll move heaven and earth to come and rescue me when I call." The track is a viable contender for the same Dove Award Mullen picked up last time around.
After one spin of Talk About It, listeners will most likely want to spread the word about how delightful the project is. Not only does it possess a diverse lineup of instruments and song styles, the disc's lyrical elements are also inviting to a wide age group of music lovers. The disc will undoubtedly make this critic's top-ten list come year's end, and it's destined to stick in the spotlight for some time.