It’s been almost 18 years since New York’s own hometown girl, Mary J. Blige dropped her progressive sophomore album “My Life” and revolutionized the music scene. It was her innovative mix of soul and hip-hop, (which at this time in music was unheard of) that earned her the moniker the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. Released when she was only 23 years old, “My Life” was her journal of pain and struggle. She became synonymous for sharing her truth with every new declaration, at one point asking us to share her world (“Love Is All We Need”) while at another, adamantly proclaiming that there would be no more drama (“Family Affair”). Her growth has been evident, both as an entertainer and as a woman. She is known as one of the few people in the industry who has made herself both relatable to women and desirable to men (Sorry Mariah!!) And on Wednesday night at New York’s Terminal 5, she stood proudly and let her fans know that in spite of all of life’s ups and downs, her progression continues. Her 10th studio album, “My Life II…The Journey Continues, Act I” was released to solid reviews by various music outlets including Rolling Stone and Spin magazine.
But this huge crowd of her most devoted fans had little interest in what some anonymous music critic had to say; words couldn’t describe who she is to them or her impact on their lives, they just wanted to see “Mary! Mary! Mary!!” As the crowd clamored together and the chants quieted down, she appeared out of the shadows, almost as if on cue. With the crowd’s feverish acknowledgement came the intro…a phone call with Diddy (aka Sean Combs, aka Puff Daddy aka P. Diddy aka Diddy Dirty Money aka…you get the picture!!), a reference to the first “My Life” album’s intro and Combs’ executive producer credits. She then swaggered her way down memory lane with songs like “Mary Jane (All Night Long)”, the title track “My Life”, “You Bring Me Joy”, “You Gotta Believe” and “I’m Goin’ Down”.
In continuing to pour her heart out, she sang an impromptu happy birthday to her percussionist Rex and to fellow Sagittarius in the room and dedicated “I Love You” and a moment of silence to her long time friend and fallen comrade Heavy D, calling him a driving force in her career and a big brother to so many. She then spoke directly to the fans thanking them for their long standing support, saying that her hope is to keep blessing and uplifting the masses with her music. “We’re not gonna be perfect until we’re gone, but until then, guess what I wanna be?” This lead to an explosive rendition of “Be Happy”. In acknowledging the past, she now looks towards the future. With that came some of her latest material, namely “Mr. Wrong” and “25/8”.
It’s been said that growth takes place when a person has dared to become involved with experimenting with his own life. As Mary’s incredible life goes on, thank goodness that the journey continues. We can’t wait for ‘Act II’.