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My Life 25

by Brian Salkowski 14 days ago in 90s music

Mary J Blige Classic Is 25

ARTIST: MARY J BLIGE

ALBUM (LP): MY LIFE

ALBUM

BUM

LBUM

RELEASED: NOVEMBER 1994

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Honestly, What can I say about this album that hasn't already been said? This 4X Platinum sophomore effort from The Queen of my generation Ms. Mary J. Blige is hands down the greatest R&B/Hip-Hop/Soul album of all time in my opinion. Don't get me wrong, people make amazing albums all the time, but it's something about this album that puts it on another plateau. You ask your favorite singer what is their favorite R&B album of all time, and I guarantee you that it's My Life. No singer will ever come close to the pain, conviction, emotion, and hard-hitting beats synergy that Puffy and Mary created with this masterpiece. This album literally sums up and defines a whole era. You cannot be a fan of R&B music or the culture and have never heard My Life. That's like being a fan of Hip-Hop and never hearing Illmatic or Ready To Die. It just doesn't make sense. I won't even say buy it because honestly if you don't have it by now, you're just stupid.

Honestly, What can I say about this album that hasn't already been said? This 4X Platinum sophomore effort from The Queen of my generation Ms. Mary J. Blige is hands down the greatest R&B/Hip-Hop/Soul album of all time in my opinion. Don't get me wrong, people make amazing albums all the time, but it's something about this album that puts it on another plateau. You ask your favorite singer what is their favorite R&B album of all time, and I guarantee you that it's My Life. No singer will ever come close to the pain, conviction, emotion, and hard-hitting beats synergy that Puffy and Mary created with this masterpiece. This album literally sums up and defines a whole era. You cannot be a fan of R&B music or the culture and have never heard My Life. That's like being a fan of Hip-Hop and never hearing Illmatic or Ready To Die. It just doesn't make sense. I won't even say buy it because honestly if you don't have it by now, you're just stupid.

 

But to get to the nitty gritty of it all. "My Life" was planned well before most of us were born; its foundation was created on the soulful sounds of Curtis Mayfield, Barry White, and Rick James among others. The blend of the tracks she sampled combined with the harmony she pours into "You Bring Me Joy", "Be Happy", "I'm Going Down", "I'm the Only Woman", and "Mary Jane" almost shame the originals. Mary J Blige pulls no punches and conveys emotion and urgency on each track, which leans back and forth from old-school 70's soul to modern hip hop. But the album's showstopper, in my opinion, is the straight-to-the-heart jam, "I Love You," which is an often-overlooked breakup song. Unlike other r&b records that grow stale after a good 18 months, "My Life" still sounds remarkably fresh and vibrant after all these years. It's the great r&b record Ashanti and Beyonce can only hope to make. A verified classic.

 

That is what I believe is the spark that sets the album blazing. Its a shift and far cry from what was being played at the time. Now, were still talking pre "puffy "bling, bling" era" that began to dominate the late 1990's and by doing so, it almost ruined the credibility of talented artists in all genere's of music. Its the passion that was put into the album I beleive that put into a leauge of its own. At the time, you had polished artists like Mariah Carey (but later down the road, she would break free from "molded record company singer" and become her own). Mary J Blige with "What's The 411", released in 1992, gave a breath of fresh air to a musical genere that was almost about to crumble. 

 

Before "What's The 411", the foundation of african american music (r&b, soul- whatever you wanna call it) was in a state of confusion. Whitney Houston was the voice of all voices. Amazing range. Insatiable vocal ability. Everyone was team Whitney in late 80's and early 90's. Or, everyone I thought. After I viewed a documentary** recently about the fusion of r&b and mainstream music, I learned that African American's were not buying the squeky clean image of Whitney and showed that by booing her off stage at the 1989 Soul Train Awards. Apparently, her music was too polished and did not relate to the opressed people of urban communties. Enter Mary J Blige- the "Anti Whitney Houston"

 

After her debut, Mary was having a bit of drama. The album was a breakthrough for her, who at this point was in a clinical depression, battling both drugs and alcohol, as well as being in an abusive relationship with K-Ci Hailey, which was reported in several tabloids. With all this drama and turbulence, she needed to release it somehow. The melodic sources on the album are so expertly incorporated into the music that they never seem to be intrusions, instead playing like inspired dialogues with soulsters from the past, connecting past legacies with a new one. This certainly isn't your parents' (or grandparents') soul. But it is some of the finest modern soul of the '90s, backing away to a certain extent from the hip-hop/soul consolidation that Mary introduced on her debut album. The hip-hop part of the combination takes a few steps into the background, allowing Blige's tortured soul to carry the album completely, and it does so with heartwrenching authority. My Life is, from beginning to end, a brilliant, wistful individual plea of desire. Blige took a huge leap in artistry by penning almost everything herself (the major exception being Norman Whitfield's "I'm Going Down") in collaboration with co-producers Combs and multi-instrumentalist Chucky Thompson, and everything seems to leap directly from her gut. Blige's strain is sleekly modern and urban, and the grit in it comes from being streetwise and thoroughly realistic about the travails of life. My Life, nevertheless, emanates from some deep, dark place where both sadness and happiness cohabitate and turn into one single, beautiful sorrow.

 

**Publications/Media Used For This Note:

Documentary- "The Deep Rising Of Soul: Mary J Blige"

Entertainment Weekly Magazine

Soul Source

Vibe Back Issues 1995, 97

90s music
Brian Salkowski
Brian Salkowski
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Brian Salkowski

I am a writer. I love fiction but I also I'm a Watcher of the world. I like to put things in perspective not only for myself but for other people. It's the best outlet to express myself. I am an advocate for individualism and Free Speech. )

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