Love And Life

Mary J. Blige

Geffen, 2003

http://www.maryjblige.com

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/08/2010

After having expunged herself of her inner demons (both past and present) on No More Drama, Mary J. Blige had a far more positive outlook on life, which saw a shift in her approach to her work. Not having the hang-ups and often cryptic references to past events to deal with anymore, Blige decided to follow up No More Drama with a happy and uplifting collection of songs that would see her in a more casual and carefree state of mind from that point on. 

Her sixth release is simply titled Love & Life, and all of its songs are made up of thoughts and feelings based around just those sentiments. Sean “Diddy” Combs is at the helm again to oversee the production of the record, though several other artists handle such duties on individual tracks. 

As with its predecessor, Love & Life made an immediate impact on me when I first played it.  Blige was clearly in a better place and that seemed to open up a side of her personality that she had always kept carefully guarded on previous works. This is most evident on tracks like “Special Part Of Me,” which sees MJB welcoming the joys of a new love. “Feel Like Makin’ Love” is more of the same, with a romantic vibe to its lush arrangement, while “All My Love” is more of the classic Mary J. sound that you’d find all over her first two albums (my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 What’s The 411? And My Life); its minimal groove and layered vocals are a direct throwback, and it works a treat. 

The slick, mid-tempo “Willing & Waiting” finds Mary J. declaring her love for a new man who’s unaware of her feelings. Again, it’s a different perspective from Blige and her wonderful voice is as emotive as ever. One of the things that I love about this disc is the great balance of slow-grooving romantic moments and upbeat casual numbers, which saves the album from love overload. One of those moments is the fourth single released from the disc, “It’s A Wrap,” which is a plea for wronged woman to dump their cheating lovers that still manages to be great fun. 

“Ooh” is more retro MJB, and coupled with “Didn’t Mean,” offers some insightful storytelling from Blige. As with any MJB release, there will be plenty of guests who are desperate to work with her, and this disc is no exception. Good pal Eve again makes an appearance on the jumpy “Not Today,” which is full of the typical girl-power sentiments one could expect, albeit with a little more grit than most. 

Method Man raps some magic over Blige’s cool, slightly ambient “Love@1st Sight;” it’s here we probably get the most traditionally-styled Hip Hop Soul that Blige does so well. Frequent collaborator 50 Cent features on the slick and edgy “Let Me Be The 1,” and the two exhibit more of their great chemistry together. They pair always come up with something original and worthy of their collective notoriety, and this song is no exception. 

Usually with most pop and R&B artists that insist on putting anywhere up to 20 new songs on each album, I find I lose interest amid a sea of filler unless the material is of really high quality.  Mary J. has, for the most part, managed to avoid that trap by keeping the quality above average on most of her records. Possibly because she spends a fair while writing and recording each album, it allows for a greater emphasis on quality control that could benefit some of her contemporaries. Deep into these 19 tracks, Blige is still delivering the goods with fabulous cuts like the somber but heartfelt “Ultimate Relationship (A.M.).” 

I’ve long been a fan of Mary J.’s and Love & Life is one of her most consistent and pleasing albums. It’s the polar opposite of No More Drama, and when played consecutively, they offer more insight into Blige’s life and loves than any of her previous or future works.

Rating: B+

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