No More Drama

Mary J. Blige

MCA, 2001

http://www.maryjblige.com

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/07/2010

This was the album that catapulted Mary J. Blige from a star to a superstar. Huge sales, more Grammy nominations, and success abroad all marked a turning point in both Blige’s personal and professional life. The inspiration behind this project came from Mary finally freeing herself from a series of abusive relationships and dealing with her own troubled and deprived childhood.  All of this was the catalyst or Mary to take control of all aspects of her career, and it’s no coincidence that on No More Drama she wrote nearly every lyric on the record, with most of the themes stemming from her own life and past. 

She also succeeded in updating her sound into a sharper, more urban style of the Hip Hop Soul that she had pioneered on her stellar debut release What’s The 411? This is still very much an R&B record, but there are some great urban beats present and more bluesy influences than ever before. Mary’s voice sounds fantastic here; it’s that perfect blend of passion, grit, and vulnerability that works so well for this very personal material. Blige also oversaw the production of the album, along with separate producers on several tracks, but as with the songs themselves, the overall presentation and sound of this record was honed by MJB herself. 

A few guest spots are filled by her pals quite admirably, most notably with Eve on the sublime “Where I’ve Been.” Common raps his way around Blige on “Dance For Me,” one of the album’s few light moments. Blige sampled Al Green’s stunning “Simply Beautiful” for the woman’s lament “PMS,” which works beautifully, and rarely has Mary sounded better. “Beautiful Day” and “Love” are hip, upbeat numbers that again recall Blige’s early days as the new diva on the block. “Steal Away” (co-penned by Pharell Williams) is another of this album’s strongest tracks, and the pair really hit it off. The groove is infectious and Blige’s emotive delivery as she begs for love is truly memorable.  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Of course, the two biggest hits in this record remain a couple of Blige’s finest moments to date.  “Family Affair” reached the top spot on both the US Billboard and R&B charts, and deservedly so, because it’s brilliant. Possibly one of the most infectious grooves of all time, it is impossible to listen to this song and not get it stuck in your head for hours after. Lyrically, it harbors nothing but a party time attitude, and Mary is in command, encouraging everyone to “Cop you a drink, go ‘head and rock your ice / ’Cause we’re celebrating no more drama in our life.” 

The other rather sizable hit is still my favorite track on the album and one of MJB’s best songs to date. “No More Drama” finds Mary lamenting her past in a frank but defiant manner: “Only God knows where the story ends / For me, but I know where the story begins / It's up to us to choose / Wether we win or lose / And I choose to win.” Blige channels the days of old and gives a measured but highly emotive performance as the song builds to a stunning climax. The most vivid memory of this song that comes to mind whenever I hear it is of Mary’s emotionally-charged performance at the 2002 Grammy Awards that almost set the stage alight, it was so damn hot. 

There really is not one weak or even wasted track on this stunning album, but there is one more piece of the puzzle that’s worth a mention. In 2002, Blige rereleased this album with a selection of new songs that usurped some of the original tracks. Of the new songs, Ja Rule’s appearance on “Rainy Dayz” is a definite highlight, as both he and Blige share great chemistry. The slow groove of “He Think I Don’t Know” is also a welcome addition to this brilliant set and only adds more soul to what is already a truly soulful and emotive body of work. 

No More Drama is just superb in every way, mainly for showcasing the best of MJB’s talents and what she has to offer, more so than any of her work before or since.

Rating: A

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