Mary J. Blige | The London Sessions (Capitol)

cd mary-j-bligeA bit more time would have allowed the artist to produce a genuine feeling, an evolved musical album, but it just isn’t there.

 

 

It seems that reviewing The London Sessions was inevitable for me. I overlooked the emails because I wanted to try something different, and what do you know? I ended up at an impromptu album release party for it in Nashville, so here goes.

This album is a rather eclectic from Mary J. Blige; I wish I could love it, but I don’t. The trouble begins with the first single “Whole Damn Year,” which has a catchy beat, but the words don’t convey a complete story, even though it goes through each season. Her vocals are clear and strong that’s the absolute highlight of the album, but the lyrics to the songs aren’t thought-provoking or memorable.

This is especially true on “Not Loving You,” an introspective story of a person who is mistreating themselves by putting toxic things into their body, from alcohol to negative thoughts. “So what are you going to do now?/ Now that you’re falling, you’re falling down?/ There’s only so much I can do/ if you’re not loving you.” In these lyrics, you can tell that Blige is looking on at a loved one, wondering how can they make it better. The golden vocals continue to “When You’re Gone” and “Worth My Time,” the latter of which is my favorite track on The London Sessions.

Featuring writing and co-production from Emeli Sande on “Pick Me Up” and Sam Smith on “Therapy” (writing only), The London Sessions proves to be a newfound sound for Blige than all of her previous albums—but it just doesn’t feel like the Mary J. Blige that we once knew.

No, I don’t expect her to stay in a heartbroken, sad stage in life for every album, but I do expect her to still give us good music that is filled with rich, lyrical content, storytelling, and a journey. I expected the queen of R&B and hip-hop to show up and out. I can’t deny her singing abilities have improved with great quality, but I also can’t deny that I just wasn’t very moved by the album, either. Instead of her just writing for Sande, I would have loved to hear a duet between the two, or a feature on one of the songs.

Blige created The London Sessions in 20 days, and it shows. I can see where a bit more time would have allowed the artist to produce a genuine feeling, an evolved musical album, but it just isn’t there. It just felt like a whirlwind with no common thread other than Blige’s voice. D | Ashley White

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