Nicole C. Mullen has been making Christian music for many years now, and she’s got a new CD called “Captivated” out this May, on the Maranatha label. It’s called her “worship” album, and we find it interesting that in order to be considered worship music in America, songs have to be earnest and slow and the kind people squint their eyes to while looking up with hands outstretched in church.
“Captivated” starts off with “Holy-Captivated,” which sounds exactly like what you’d expect a Nicole C. Mullen worship song to sound like. It has the unique ability to be a Christian radio hit AND a church classic—artistically, though, it’s nothing out of the ordinary.
But then, “I Can” comes on and suddenly Mullen’s sleepy worship album shifts into slinky disco mode, and we can’t help but shake our shoulders and wanna dance. Imagine if Janet Jackson had a deeper voice and sang “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” back in 1990 or so—that’s “I Can.” This is one of those songs Mullen’s older white audience will consider “edgy.” Ha!
The third song on “Captivated” is a new take on a classic scripture, “As The Deer…” Again, here’s another tailor-made Christian radio hit waiting to happen with this one, fully titled “I Need You (As The Deer).” It’s very pleasant to listen to, and it gets bonus points from us for taking scripture and making it sing-able for 2011 in a smooth adult contemporary way.
The awful “Christian beat” — that so permeates Christian radio that it causes Christian Music Makers to listen to secular radio just to get better beats – shows up on track number four, “Kingdom Come.” This is textbook Christian music that will undoubtedly appeal to many church worship leaders. It’s not bad, but it is bland.
C’mon Nicole C. Mullen—show us your sparkling personality. Where is dynamic Nicole? A-ha! On “My Shepherd,” track 5, she finally does something musically adventurous, taking us to the islands with her reggae-influenced worship song. Thank you Nicole! This one’s going on our iPod.
Track 6, “Forgive Me,” has “warm strings” in it, and is a “tender ballad” from Mullen. It sounds like something that would roll over the end credits of the movie as people are leaving the theater.
Ok, Mullen didn’t forget black folks on this album, because “Lead Me,” while not quite black Gospel, does employ a Luther Vandross-Never Too Much-like beat that toward the end, complete with soulful background singers, allows her to s-a-n-g, or as it’s called in the business—“vamp”—with oomph.
“My Tribute/Redeemer” finds Mullen, with her soft, little girl voice, fusing together a cover of the Andrae Crouch Gospel music classic, “My Tribute,” with her own mega-hit, “Redeemer.” The result? It sounds like middle-of-the-road 1970s soft rock, ending with a triumphant “To God Be The Glory” where Mullen stretches herself vocally, like never before. Wow, she really opens up on this one. If you’re sick in bed and want relaxing, inspiring music to listen to, “My Tribute/Redeemer” is perfect. Indeed, most of the “Captivated” disc works well for that sort of thing.
Track 9 is called “A Song For You,” and we’d like it but at the beginning it employs the Christian music beat we cannot stand. At least it gets a little slinky as it goes along.
So far, the disc is “nice,” but nothing has stood out too much. However, track ten is called “I’ll Praise Your Holy Name,” and this was listed as the first song Mullen wrote, at age 12. This song stands-out because you feel that she truly feels what she’s singing on “I’ll Praise Your Holy Name.” It’s as if her young heart and seasoned voice meet and this gem of a song is the result. It’s the most “pure” worship song on the album.
Nicole C. Mullen will be singing these new songs to the usual crowds of already saved people in Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta during a promo tour this year. They will undoubtedly bless many people. Our hope is that she puts out a totally upbeat dance album in the future, because we miss that side of her.