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Love & Life

Mary J. Blige

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iTunes Review

After No More Drama (and its Dr. Dre-produced smash single, “Family Affair”) reestablished Mary J. Blige as a hit-making force and elder spokeswoman for contemporary R&B, Love & Life felt like a valedictory run. After proving the depth of her talent to the public, she wanted to remind everyone that she still held the crown as “The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul.” In many ways, Love & Life reprises aspects of Blige’s early career. It reunites her with the producers of her first two albums (Sean Combs and the Hitmen), as well as some of her most famous collaborators (Jay-Z, Method Man). Even sonically the album echoes the past, as “Don’t Go,” and “Ooh!” reprise the slamming drums and sassy attitude of What’s the 411?. Blige spent 10 years developing the two separate sides of her personality, and on Love & Life they finally come together. “When We” and “It’s a Wrap” merge the tough-chick charisma of her early years with her newfound grown-up wisdom and her patented raw emotion.

Customer Reviews

a great R&B album, but...

Mary J. Blige is one of the most special people in the music industry, right now. It seems that these days, the Billboard charts are overwhelmed with fluff R&B that goes down easy, and rap music that promotes selfishness and a refusal to take accountability for one's mistakes. Thus, through popular culture, our country is being turned into a mindless mush of artistic depravation. Mary came out during a period where young people (the target fraction of the market) favored thought-inspiring lyrical content and full dedication of the artist to his/her music. She has stuck to her guns all these years, creating music with a real purpose. Unfortunately, while her songwriting and rich voice remain strong on this album, it is also probably her weakest effort. It is STILL better than almost every other R&B album that came out in 2003, however. My key complaints are as follows. First of all, artists, in general, have been big fans of the whole intro/interlude/outro idea for a long time, and they need to stop! A track that just feels like a good opening to the album's overall vibe should be good enough to replace an "intro" track (especially one as bad as this one), and there is just never a reason for spoken-word interludes. They ruin the flow of the album, and tend to not be too clever, either. Also, many of these tracks are just not suited to Mary. Some of them are poor fits because the background music is too weak for her substantial voice. Others don't work because they never develop on the material presented at the beginning and leave her hanging. As much as I love Mary, she's no harmonic genius like Sheryl Crow or Christina Aguilera. Instead of making the repetitions sound new and interesting with her improv, she makes them sound like unfortunate attempts at musical freestyling. For example, the song "Ooh!" at first sounds like it could be a massive hit. About 2/3 of the way through, you realize that there is no bridge section...not even a third stanza. It's just a repetition of the beginning two ideas over and over. This may not be completely her fault, though, as I have a feeling that this album was actually given-up-upon over and over in the studio. The choice to work with Puff Daddy (aka Sean "Puffy" Combs, aka P. Diddy, aka Diddy) probably lead to constant arguing in the studio, and the eventual downfall of what could have been a top-notch Mary album. I can just see them discussing "Ooh!"...Mary writing a bridge section...Puff telling her it's not good enough...her telling him to write one, then...her not liking it, either...Puff getting so mad that he says there won't be a bridge section, so Mary will have to improv over the background music...Mary submitting to him because she knows how he is, and she doesn't want to make the situation worse.... Thankfully, she redeemed herself with this last album! Love & Life is an album every Mary fan should own, but anybody who is just starting to check into her should really check out any of her other albums before this one.

Solid Album

This Mary J. Blige album she did exactly what she said she would do--- reach out to the fans that were there since day 1. And that she did, pairing up with Diddy, the one with whom she created the Hip-Hop Soul genre. Positives: gritty production, samples and hip hop beats...vocals were gritty, soulful Mary and had the emotion that we've all grown to love with Mary. "it's a wrap", "don't go", "when we" and "not today" featuring Eve to me were some of the stand outs. Oh and i can't forget "press on" and "in the a.m." the songs where she takes a break from typical love songs to teach us lessons. Negatives: SLOW JAMS! not enough slow jams. And the variation and musicality associated with "Mary" and "No More Drama", were barely present so bridges and breakdowns were somewhat of a letdown.The beat kinda just played and looped and...maybe a few instruments added for the bridges and breakdowns (see "friends", "all my love"). Fans who joined during the "Share My World" era probably expected more of this musical neo-soul Mary on this album. Overall: I gave it a 4 because even with the negatives, she did what she set out to do. It was a straight up street, hip-hop soul album and it was personal and emotional like all previous albums. No two Mary J. albums are alike and I am confident that she will have a completely different album next go round. Go Mary!

Mary's Most Underrated Album

I think this was her most underrated album she released. Even tho she hooked up Diddy again. She had some nice tracks on here and I liked it.


Born: January 11, 1971 in New York, NY [The Bronx]

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

When her debut album, What's the 411?, hit the street in 1992, critics and fans alike were floored by its powerful combination of modern R&B with an edgy rap sound that glanced off of the pain and grit of Mary J. Blige's Yonkers, New York childhood. Called alternately the new Chaka Khan or new Aretha Franklin, Blige had little in common stylistically with either of those artists, but like them, she helped adorn soul music with new textures and flavors that inspired a whole generation of musicians....
Full Bio

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