Tuesday, August 30, 2011

279. My Life. Apparently her name isn't Bilge.



Album: My Life
Artist: Mary J Blige
Genre: R and B
Year: 1994


Tracks

1. Intro
2. Mary Jane (All Night Long)
3. You Bring Me Joy
4. Marvin (Interlude)
5. I'm The Only Woman
6. K. Murray (Interlude)
7. My Life
8. You Gotta Believe
9. I Never Wanna Live Without You
10. I'm Goin' Down
11. My Life (Interlude)
12. Be With You
13. Mary's Joint
14. Don't Go
15. I Love You
16. No One Else
17. Be Happy
18. (You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman


I've never actually heard anyone say Mary Jane Blige's name out loud. Seriously. She's never come up in any conversation I've ever had with anyone. For ages I thought her name was actually Mary Jane Bilge. It took me ages to realise that there wasn't someone out there who made Mr and Mrs Bilge proud every time they saw their daughter on the telly.

Now that I've clarified her name I've actually heard her music. My Life is the first MJ Blige album I've ever sat down and listened to and so it's my first experience with the woman that many regard as the queen of R and B.

There's no denying she has a nice voice and can hold a tune. Apparently Rolling Stone magazine decided to include her in the top 100 vocalists of all time (she just squeaked in at number 100) and I wouldn't argue with them. The problem is that she appears to be the only talent in the room. Most of the instrumentation on My Life comes from sampled beats and instruments augmented by the occassional low-key addition from a studio muso. Unlike Muddy Waters' Folk Blues, where the room was so full of talent even the janitor could probably have played a wicked harmonica solo, everyone surrounding Blige in the studio was only interested in providing a harmless backing to her vocals. The five producers (five!) who worked on the songs written by the 13 songwriters all contribute bits and pieces but were basically just padding out the sound so Blige wasn't singing accapella. Consequently if you think Blige has nothing more than a pleasant voice, there's nothing to latch onto.

Apparently My Life's reputation has increased over time but I wonder if it's days as a well-regarded album are limited. Other girls with nice voices will always be around and new ones appear every day. There will always be pretenders to Mary J's throne and one day she may be relegated to the pile of promising artists whose time came and went. It's a sad fact that the music industry is much harsher on middle-aged female artists than it is on their male counterparts.

Influenced by: Aretha Franklin (and who wouldn't be?)
Influenced: Lots of people who's names I've never heard said out loud either.

Highlight: You make me fee like a natural woman
Lowlight: Anything with the word interlude after it

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "This was one of her best albums during her whole career span."

-Interesting that even people who give her albums five stars are talking about her career in the past tense.

So does this represent your life or someone else's entirely? Let me know below.

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