Prior to writing this review, Mary J. Blige was more of an icon or a subject than an actual artist, so to speak.
I don’t make this remark to discredit Blige as it’s more a thought about how I, and perhaps others, view popular musicians. It’s at times hard to imagine an actual background to the celebrity. Where this feeling stems from, I will never know, however, I can say that I am delighted to find Blige’s context.
Her new album, “My Life II … The Journey Continues (Act I),” is aurally appealing and, if nothing else, soulful.
Blige’s new record satisfies a tenet of hip-hop soul with the theme of all her songs — they are all about love in its inconsistency. It’s inconsistent in its way to be pleasurable and wrenching.
There’s the grooving “Midnight Drive,” on which Blige sings about rushing to her love. This yearning for love is present in “Why” as well, where it’s backed by an overtone of optimism to make a relationship work when things seem discontent. “Loving A Woman” has a powerful, female-singer duo with Beyonce’s feature. It’s an anthem piece in its attempt to “teach” future lovers to know how to treat a woman.
The track “25/8” radiates Blige’s strong sense of empowerment with her love — she states she has “days and days of love,” more than can be given in during the standard calendar year. “Don’t Mind” has much the same feel.
One can’t stay completely happy all the time in a relationship. Blige reflects this sentiment in “No Condition.” The sometimes too-honest, perpetually whiny Drake appears on “Mr. Wrong,” a song about being with someone that is fun but regardless proves to be a terrible fit.
The album holds several other distinctive soulful love songs that showcase love as a raw material shaped pleasantly or disfigured by a relationship. Blige has been around for more than a decade now, and I’m more than slightly ashamed that this album was my first experience with her veracity.