Monday, December 21, 2009

Mary J. Blige discography

Tommorow Mary J. Blige ninth album, Stronger with Each Tear. Like I recently did with Janet Jackson and Jay-Z, here's a look back at her arresting catalog:

What's the 411? (1992). With production skills from P. Diddy and LA Reid, Mary's first album launched her a career which would span seventeen years in the process earning her title Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, a unique title salvaged from this albums winning blend of hip-hop, R&B and soul. From the rugged bass line of opening track "Leave a Message," to the effective piano and bass laced balladry of "Changes I've Been Through," and all the sultry goodness in between, the album delivered on all counts; it had the hits ("You Remind Me" and "Real Love") the introspective lyrics and cutting-edge beats. Best track: You Remind Me. (4.5/5)

My Life (1994). Like her first album, My Life provided another solid set of hard hitting beats, harmonies and melodies, raw lyrical and vocal depth and emotion however even more captivating and enduring with its lengthy 17 track set which manages to manages to maintain its grip throughout, showcasing her raw and passionate emotions on big bold numbers like "I'm Goin' Down" and "I Never Wanna Live Without You," whilst remaining a party record with tracks such as "You Bring Me Hope" and title track "My Life." Best track: I'm Goin' Down. (5/5)

Share My Life (1997). This album was Mary's first major shift both in music and professionally, she had changed record labels and took a brief break from the harsh but effective blend of hip-hop and soul to a more burnished indulge in glossy '90s R&B showcased on the enchanting Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis produced single "Everything," where it fell short was that it was too long for its own good--It wasn't as gripping as My Life, therefore where its first half is excellent its whole second half is underwhelming however still owning the albums best track, the deeply emotive ballad "No Gon' Cry," an impassioned ode to a destructive relationship, with some awesome lyrics, ultimately the albums savior. Best track: Not Gon' Cry. (4/5)

Mary (1999). Mary's fourth album was her first to experience artistic growth and was probably her most critically acclaimed. The album was a risky move considering it lacked the radio-friendly appeal her previous three albums had, however its showcasing of maturity and embracing of class worked the charm. It was the lyrical-rawness of My Life without the beaming production adding a touch of personality (although rather hit and miss for me). It would also be the first time she would take an extensive interest in collaborations with artists outside the the hip-hop and R&B genre, which would be why they were the albums biggest highlights. The harshly piano driven "Deep Inside" with Elton John is fantastic moment, so is the whimsical "All I Can Say" with Lauryn Hill and "Don't Waste Your Time" with Aretha Franklin however there are some great solo moments such as "Your Child," and "Give Me You." Best: Deep Inside. (4/5)

No More Drama (2001). Mary began the decade with a bang, her fifth album couldn't have arrived at a better time, it followed her recovery from drug and alcohol abuse and other personal endeavors, hence its abrasive title and uptempo radio-friendly lead single "Family Affair," which landed her first chart topper. This was Mary's first album to have some pop appeal which essentially broadened her audience, the fresh piano key backed title track "No More Drama" is a highlight, so is the hip collabo with Ja Rule on "Rainy Dayz," which both carry the same "the storm is over" message. One of the album more defining moments is on "Forever No More," a self-written poem. Best: Family Affair. (4.5/5)

Love & Life (2003). This was part of the reason Mary's eventual comeback album was such a triumph. Her sixth album is my least favorite from her collection and whilst there are some good tracks such as the acoustic-tinged "It's a Wrap," funky "Love at First Sight" and lead single "Not Today," a good chunk of the album is very weak, ultimately a mislead ball of uninspired R&B suffering from little or no distinction from each other and not amounting to much. Best: It's a Wrap (2.5/5)

The Breakthrough (2005). From the swaggering opener "No One Will Do," to the sensational duet with U2 on "One," Mary's seventh album is a modern masterpiece and was her best since My Life, returning to her comfortable blend of hip-hop, soul and R&B without one genre over powering each other, showcased perfectly on "MJB Da MVP," however its best track came in the form of "Be Without You" a heart-felt ballad with a rugged edge that landed her one of the biggest hits of her career, topping the US R&B charts for a staggering four months. It's usually a common thing to compare this to Mariah Carey's The Emancipation of Mimi, which was released the same year and was also Mariah's comeback album and worked the same charm, however Mary's was superior. Best: Be Without You (5/5)

Growing Pains (2007). Mary's eighth album was a nice follow-up, as if the mix of hip-hop, R&B and soul had gotten boring, there were some cool pop and disco influences such as the joyful lead single "Just Fine." However nowhere as strong as its predecessor I found it a bit too patchy to compete but still delivered a decent set of tracks somewhat in the same vein as The Breakthrough, it didn't have its "Be Without You," but the collabo with Usher on "Shake Down" was the albums biggest highlight, the skittering "Roses" is another gooden. Best: Shake Down. (4/5)

2 comments:

Mel said...

YESSSS. I've heard most of the record and I'm fairly mollified. It's not necessarily the hard-hitting Mary of the past, but she could basically sing the phone book while being completely bored and I would be like "YOU TELL 'EM MARY!"

I saw her live a few years ago and expected it to be a spectacle but it was super stripped down. She had one outfit (with stilleto boots), no dancers, just her and a band and she sung her heart out. It was incredible. I still get goosebumps thinking about it.

J.Mensah said...

Haha! Ditto to that!

I wish I could see her live too, I've only seen performances on YouTube--she gives such a stunning vocal!