AN ODE TO THE TITLE OF MaryJBlige’s NEW ALBUM by @CritCondition

October 26, 2011
Mary J. Blige doesn’t make mere albums. She makes testaments.

That’s why I love her: As much as any pop star in history, Mary J. Blige turns her own life into an epic narrative. She frequently sings about herself in the third person, as though she were watching herself in an opera, riding cosmic waves of heartbreak and redemption.These are not just the stories of a woman in pain. These are the stories of Mary, Woman In Pain.

Her music and her singing are just as grandiose: She hollers until her earrings fly off. When she’s feeling her music, she might stomp through the floor or smack you with an espadrille or punch a hole in a fish tank. We just don’t know where the journey will take her.

But wherever she goes, she’s really going there. Mary J. Blige is a gifted and controlled performer, but she always seems like she’s getting kicked in the face by pain at the very moment she’s sining. She’s so raw and vulnerable that it’s easy to forgive her hysterical self-aggrandizement and just savor the intensity of her art.

Take this performance from the 2007 Grammys: She starts with a monologue about how she struggles to love herself while strings play in the background. Then she says she’s found love: “For Mary J. Blige,” she informs us, “that’s rare.”

Again with the third person! Because she’s not just a woman falling in love. She’s Mary J. Blige! If Jennifer Lopez or Lady GaGa or even Kelly Clarkson tried this shit, we would create a hate website called But when Mary tells us how it is? Somehow, it’s totally cool. Like I said, she’s raw and vulnerable about it, and also, she’s not the least bit self-conscious. She commits so fully to the Icelandic saga of her own experience that it’s easy to follow along. She seems so convinced that hers is the story of all people that maybe, just maybe, she’s right.

(Mary’s new album title… after the jump)

It matters that Mary has always treated her songs as more than personal exorcisms. She’s not telling us her stories because she wants us to love her or embrace her. She’s sharing sharing with us because she wants to spare us the same heartbreak and self-doubt that she has experience. She seems absolutely sincere in her desire to let her hardships bear the suffering of the rest of the world. It’s not “I’m celebrating no more drama in my life.” It’s “We’re celebrating no more drama in our lives.”

So even if we think it’s crazy that Mary believes herself to be the most Mary of all, we have to appreciate that she’s always thinking of us, too. She’s a fiercely talented, slightly loopy survivor who wants to help us love ourselves, so when she takes her personal mythology to ludicrous extremes, our job is not to laugh and turn the other way. Our job is to marvel at her absolute commitment to her own legend… the legend that will light our lives.

Just consider her new album, released on November 21. It’s name is My Life II… The Story Continues (Act I.)

AAAAAAH! I can’t, you guys. It’s too perfect. It’s a sequel to an earlier album, because Mary J. Blige is a series. But even better, it’s just the first act of the sequel, because that series never ends. Remember when she released No More Drama? Hahahaha! Just foolin’! Mary will always have drama, y’all.

And let’s talk about the cover for this album. Mary is the embodiment of the horizon. She is the sunrise. She is a forward-looking angel dressed in robes of the night. There’s a war going on? Fuck you. There’s a war going on in Mary. There’s a hungry child on the streets? He’ll never know the hunger in Mary’s heart. There’s a splay of peacock feathers wrapped around Mary’s neck like a trophy from Jove’s private zoo? Fuck yes there is.

All in all, this may be history’s most perfect album title/cover art combination, at least in terms of album titles and cover shots summing up every reason we can and should love someone.


ThadSlayer at: October 26, 2011 at 3:47 AM said...

You stay late!
Just let Denzel
run the site like
he been doing! You
just stay in the background
watch like you been doing!!!!!!!!!!!

Marlon at: October 27, 2011 at 8:56 PM said...

So true love what you wrote!!!!!!!

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