‘American Idol’ notes: Mandisa overcomes suicidal thoughts, Nikki Sixx, Adam Lambert

This was posted on Wednesday, June 28, 2017 by Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

In 2013, season 5 “American Idol” finalist Mandisa hit No. 1 on the Christian charts with her triumphant song “Overcomer” and won two Grammys the following year.

She was on top of the world professionally. But privately, her life was falling apart. The song had been based on her best confidante and back-up singer Kisha Mitchell battling breast cancer. But Kisha, pregnant with her second child, didn’t overcome and died.

This setback set Mandisa back into a dark place. She began eating compulsively again and hiding from friends and family for about three years. After losing more than 120 pounds a few years earlier, she regained those pounds and 75 more during her depression. She had suicidal thoughts.

Good news: she’s back with a new album called “Out of the Dark.” The first single “Unfinished” is already in the top 5 on the Christian pop chart.

Plus, Mandisa will be touring with two “Idol” alums Danny Gokey and Jasmine Murray this fall.

Locations and dates are coming soon but they are hitting the following states: MO, TX, AR, MS, FL, LA, NC, VA, NY, PA, OK, CO, GA, TN, IN, IL, MI, KY, OH, VA and MD.

How did Mandisa’s roller coaster ride happen?

She first met Kisha while at Fisk University in Nashville and attending Greater Grace Temple Community Church. Kisha was the pastor’s wife and began doing Mandisa’s hair. After Mandisa appeared on “Idol” in 2006 during its most popular season, she hired Kisha as a back-up singer. She toured with Mandisa for the next seven-plus years. They were tight. Mandisa wrote “Overcomer” after Kisha was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Mandisa, in a recent interview, said she prayed hard for her friend to recover. When Kisha passed, “I was angry at God. I know how much my song ‘Overcomer’ has inspired people but it didn’t help the person I wrote it for. It’s just not the way the story was supposed to end. That ushered me into this season of darkness.”

She couldn’t deal with her grief so she opted for her comfort zone: food. Pizza. McDonald’s. You name it. A depression she had never faced before befell her. For three years, she stopped singing. She didn’t record music. She watched copious amounts of TV. Not surprisingly, she likes reality competition shows: “Survivor,” “American Idol,” “The Voice.” She also binged crime dramas, the “Law & Order” procedurals, any Dick Wolf show with the word “Chicago” attached to it. “Anything to escape what was happening in my life,” she said.

She avoided calls and texts. When people stopped by to check on her, she’d put on earplugs and pretend she wasn’t home. She even had thoughts of taking her own life.

Last year, she decided to venture out of the house by herself and see some movies at a theater. One was a Christian film “War Room.” “It angered me,” she recalled. “They lived happily ever after. That’s not reality. They prayed and got what they were asking. My situation was the opposite.”

When she stepped out of the car, she saw sticky notes all over her car, placed  there by concerned friends and family. They said things like “We love you,” “We miss you” and “Come back to us.” They had camped out for hours, then had an intervention.

They convinced Mandisa to go into counseling. “I look back and I have no idea what could have happened to me if they hadn’t pursued me so hard. Their message was, ‘We love you just the way you are. We love you too much to leave you this way.’ ”

The therapy helped Mandisa face her grief head on, as well as various childhood and weight issues. “I felt hopeless at the time,” she said. “It was the first glimpse of hope I might be able to do this tomorrow. I couldn’t imagine my life a year from now, that I could be where I am today.”

She got back into the recording studio. Her first song “Prove Me Wrong” was basically a plea to God that she made after her friend died, opening with these lines:

You could’ve healed her
You’ve done it before
You could’ve sent the angels down
And turned it around
Wouldn’t that have meant so much more?
Instead you took her
Left a young family behind
And I’m wondering where you are
You seem so far, while we’re all here asking why
And I’ve read your ways are higher
But I just don’t understand
Trying to hold onto my faith
But it’s slipping through my hands

“I channeled every negative thought I had into that song,” she said. “It was the most cathartic song I wrote.” The rest of the album came much easier after that.

She opens the album “Out of the Dark” with some saved voicemail messages she received from friends and family, leading into “I’m Still Here.” That message: “My heart is still beating. My lungs are still breathing. God wasn’t done with me yet.” She wanted that as the first single but the label chose “Unfinished.”

“It’s a universal message people can identify with,” Mandisa said. “It’s a message of grace, knowing the burden is on God to sculpt us and shape us. Our role is to partner up with Him.”

She is thrilled to be working with Gokey, who has gone through his own moments of darkness, not only after his first wife died in 2008 but after his efforts to break into country music fell short. (Read my interview from January.)

“I really feel like we share a lot of similarities in our style and our music,” Mandisa said, “and just in our message. It’s going to be great!”

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INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 03: Musician Nikki Sixx attends the iHeartRadio Music Awards at The Forum on April 3, 2016 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue is being considered as a judge for “American Idol,” TMZ reports.

That would be an unusual pick, to say the least.

Then again, Fox’s “Idol” tried Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler for a couple of years. While Tyler was amusing during auditions, his critiques on the live shows were frequently repetitive and non-constructive.

TMZ also said Ryan Seacrest held a meeting with ABC and while the executive producer title isn’t quite resolved, they almost have a deal in place to have him re-join as host. Lionel Richie also remains in the mix as part of the panel with Katy Perry, the only judge confirmed to date.

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Adam Lambert’s latest single is called “Two Fux,” not the most radio-friendly song title.

Billboard magazine recently gave him a thumbs up for his role as front man for Queen.

Perhaps not since Mick Fleetwood stumbled upon the Buckingham Nicks duo at Sound City 43 years ago — leading to a lineup change that would turn Fleetwood Mac into one of the biggest bands of all time — has there been a more serendipitous fusion of two established recording acts.

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Kelly Clarkson is challenging folks to sing “Hamilton” songs for an immigration charity:

She has already covered “It’s Quiet Uptown” from “Hamilton.”

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The Mediabase 24/7 airplay chart update:

Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood “The Fighter” (No. 6, country)

Kane Brown featuring Lauren Alaina “What Ifs” (No. 29, country)

Lauren Alaina “Doin’ Fine” (No. 57, country)

Mandisa “Unfinished” (No. 5, Christian AC)

Danny Gokey “Comeback” (No. 17, Christian AC)

Colton Dixon “All That Matters” (No. 27, Christian AC, peakeda at 18)


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