25 years since her debut album What’s The 411, Mary is back with her 13th record titled Strength of a Woman, and to many in between that time she’s become the original Queen of R&B. Mary has CLASSICS and HITS to her name, many of which evoke the most relatable and universal qualities of the human spirit, almost always in the name of both love and betrayal. Records like Real Love, Be Happy, Mary Jane, I’m Goin Down, Not Gon Cry, Be Without You, and many many more, Mary has a discography that puts almost all artists in her genre to shame, exemplified by her nine Grammy awards and 30 nominations in case there was any doubt.
Yet if her career didn’t already speak for itself, Mary is back in 2017 with a new album along with newfound motivation, as the Queen is in the midst of a high profile divorce from her long time Husband, which many R&B fans know is likely to bring out the best of her music (as shameful as that may sound).
Nonetheless Strength of a Woman is the name of the highly anticipated album, critiqued track by track below to see it lived up to it’s high expectations.
Love Yourself ft Kanye West
“I decided not to use my color as a handicap, he a designer, artist, producer, and he rap” Classic Kanye on this and he kills it… this must be the Old Kanye as they say… either way it’s always nice when he actually comes correct… and per usual Mary comes correct on this as well over production from DJ Camper that’s definitely worthy of recognition. Easily one of the standouts on the album.
Thick Of It
“So tell me who… who's gonna love… you like I do… who will you trust, I gave you too much, enough is enough, now we’re in the thick of it” Another one produced by DJ Camper that was actually the first single on the project, and although it’s highly emotional and likely a true reflection of her current state of mind, ultimately it’s simply a good record and hardly one of her all time classics.
Set Me Free
“There's a special place in hell for you, you gon pay for what you did to me, I'ma tell you, cause the truth will set me free” DJ Camper has production all over this project and this instrumental is one of his finest, along with the melody sang by Mary that actually could be a welcomed addition to her all time classics. Not a groundbreaking hit but an incredible album cut and I definitely recommend it.
“And I hope that I'm wrong, I don't wanna be right, you won't do this to me, not me... not me…” Produced by Brandon ‘Bam’ Hodges this one’s consistent with the general tone of the album but not a standout record by any means. Not trash but debatable filler.
Glow Up ft Quavo, DJ Khaled, Missy Elliot
“You can be mad if you wanna (mad if you wanna), really I'd be mad too if I lost a real dime ass woman (dime ass woman), take a deep breath, baby cause I'm petty so you bout to see me stunting(skrrt, skrrt, skrrt), you ain't care enough to keep a good thing, I'ma do it like it's nothing (do it like it's nothin')”and another one… for DJ Camper that is… as on this record DJ Khaled's just a feature who helps bring life to this uptempo record that simply does what it’s supposed to do. Not mad at this.
U + Me (Love Lesson)
“You plus me was a love lesson, in too deep without imperfection, not always good, but I stayed on my feet, you had me, should've never questioned” The best record off Mary J Blige’s 13th studio album is definitely a smooth groove with heavy replay value, as by no surprise her recent well publicized divorce has indirectly inspired some of her best music in years. Produced and written by Brandon “Bam” Hodges, this is definitely a solid record to add to her catalogue. Maybe even her Greatest Hits.
"I know your heart is aching, but you can't let him break it, baby, you gotta love like you never been hurt, to find a love that you deserve… indestructible…” Nice message but not a nice melody… you can SKIP this...
“So thank you for showing me who you really are, cause up til now, I wouldn't believe you would go this far, see you tryna hurt me, what was deep inside but that wasn't you, oh but thank you baby, really thank you, thank you, baby, cause I know the truth…” A ballad of sorts that’s also produced by the aforementioned DJ Camper (who’s flexing all over this album and showing his range) and this record is basically the defining symbol of the album overall. All loyal fans of Mary been waiting on this one.
“No matter how low I go, I'm gonna rise up, and I can't take the credit or glory to my provider, and I'm burning so bright, you can't put out my fire, so there ain't nothing realer that can stop me, I'm a survivor” Similar to the Indestructible record previously mentioned, this is another one with a good message within forgettable music… another one you can SKIP!
Find The Love
“Now we gotta find the love” This one’s a feel good radio friendly roller skate on a sunny afternoon type of record and I’m not mad at this at all… solid album cut overall
Smile ft Prince Charlez
“I feel strong, I feel well, I feel confident, better about myself…” One of the few features on the album is provided by Prince Charlez, a soulful singer from Compton, California who definitely does his numbers on this… even still it’s a lukewarm ballad and it’s another one that’s debatable filler.
Telling The Truth ft KAYTRANADA & BADBADNOTGOOD
“I'm not gonna cry, no, not again, so much on my mind, you gotta understand” Shoutout KAYTRANADA & BADBADNOTGOOD for representing and putting on for Canada… they’ve been flexin for awhile now although I’m not particular excited about this one… SKIP!
Strength of a Woman
“I am woman, you know, and I shouldn't have to prove it cause it's just what I do, I am woman” …. Produced by Brandon ‘Bam’ Rodges and the legendary Teddy Riley the title track is unfortunately another forgettable record… SKIP!
“Hello father, it's your daughter, need your wisdom, drinking water, need your wisdom, understanding, can't live without your love” The outro produced by Hit-Boy gets the album back on track and this Gospel influenced record turns out to be one of the standouts on the projects
Ultimately Mary’s 13th studio album seems to be deserving of mixed reviews, as while there’s definitely a few highlights and great moments (Love Yourself, Set Me Free, U + Me, & Thank You) there are unfortunately too many forgettable records to ignore… thus as is the case with so many projects… if she only went with 9, 10 tracks then it overall would have been a much more enjoyable listen. Even still Mary is the Queen regardless, and I’ll be looking forward to her next album all the same.