Before Beyoncé there was Aaliyah, and before Aaliyah came Mary J Blige. Mother of ‘90s R&B, Mary J Blige has become one of the most successful female artists of the genre with her unique blend of raw, emotive vocals delivered over hip-hop influenced production. Since her debut in 1992, Blige’s longevity has been cemented largely by consistency, rather than reinvention. Possessing seemingly endless amounts of emotional trauma to draw upon, Blige has produced twelve albums all characterised by songwriting of deep introspection – apart from 2013’s ‘A Mary Christmas’, perhaps. Over the last 25 years, Blige has worked to keep her place as contemporary R&B’s matriarch and her thirteenth record, ‘Strength of A Woman’, bolsters this legacy.
‘Strength Of A Woman’ follows on from 2014’s ‘London Sessions’ LP, an attempted departure from Blige’s usual studio sound, prompted by her crossover success featuring on Disclosure’s hit ‘F For You’. While the ‘London Sessions’ record was admirable in showcasing Blige’s capacity to write and sing over differing styles, it lacked the consistency of so much of her back catalogue, instead prioritising generic experimentation to win over a new generation of listeners. With house music and Disclosure out of her system, then, ‘Strength of A Woman’, sees Blige return to her soul, hip-hop and R&B roots.
Read the rest of the review on Clash Magazine.
[This piece was originally published on 28/04/17]