Category Archives: Music Reviews

Marion’s Favorites: Mary J. Blige’s My Life Documentary

Mary J. Blige’s My Life is one of my top ten favorite albums and one of the most important R&B albums to be recorded in the last thirty years.  Blige’s pain and vulnerability soars throughout the entire album and how sings over strong hip-hop beats makes it a landmark album that has stood the test of time.

When I found a few months ago that she had released a documentary about the making of the album and where she was as an artist got me excited.  Finally, I sat down to watch it last night and the documentary chronicled her journey from growing up in Yonkers, NY to getting signed to a recording contract at 19, being molded and shaped by Sean “Puffy” Combs into becoming the queen of hip-hop soul, and her turbulent emotional state while recording the album.

My Life documentary has many celebrities like Alicia Keys, Taraji P. Henson, Nas, and Method Man speaking in glowing terms of the album’s impact and connection to so many in the hip-hop and R&B worlds.  Blige’s rawness and sincerity on the album was a breath of fresh air to the genre and added a much-needed edge.  The movie is definitely a love letter to her fans and snippets of the 25th Anniversary Concert at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and a section of it showing her family and fans gave it a feel that Mary J. wanted to show appreciation for them sticking with her through the perilous journey to musical stardom.

However, there were a couple of moments in the documentary that touched me on an artistic level. I wished the documentary showed a lot more of those moments.  The first moment was when she talked hearing Roy Ayers’ soul-jazz classic, Everybody Loves The Sunshine, for the first time and how that song became a balm during childhood. Ayers’ song took her away from the pain she was experiencing and gave a much-needed place to escape. I immediately connected with the same feeling from my childhood and said out loud to the tv….that’s what art can do.  It can take you place that you have never been before.  It can create a protective space that will help you deal with life’s difficulties. And it can provide an outlet to express who you really are inside. Mary J understood in her connection to the Roy Ayers song and it makes sense that years later she would use a sample from the song to write her best and most personal song on the album. The title track is my absolute favorite song on the album and the fact she could sing about her life in such dark terms over an ebullient music like Everybody Loves The Sunshine speaks to how good art can bring contrasting elements together perfectly.

The second and final moment that touched me was when Mary J spoke about how she sung Anita Baker’s Caught In the Rapture song for the late record executive Andre Harrell.  Harrell was head of Uptown Records at the time and was one of the pioneers in bringing hip-hip soul to popular culture in the early 1990s. Baker’s music was the polar opposite of what she would sing throughout her career.  And to see a snippet of Mary J and Anita singing together on stage at the 25th Anniversary Concert had my full attention.  In some ways it was the passing of the torch and in other ways it was a bridge from R&B’s past to its future.  I loved it and wished I could have seen more of that part of the concert.

Mary J. Blige’s My Life gives a glimpse into the singer’s life as she recorded her landmark album. I had read some critic’s reviews stating they wished the documentary went more into detail about her emotional state during the recording process. The critics felt like the documentary left a lot of meat on that bone.  It’s a fair point but somewhat short-sighted. Artists (and people) will only give what they want to show publicly and it is up to us to gleam as much from it as we can. If you can appreciate it on that level, then you will find some satisfaction. Mary J Blige provides a window into one of the best R&B albums ever released and I’m glad to have taken that journey with her.

Marion’s Favorites: Off The Wall Documentary

Questlove Supreme is one of my favorite podcasts and I have been listening to his backlist episodes over the past few weeks.  I recently heard the podcast with Spike Lee and they were discussing his career.  Spike mentions the Off The Wall Documentary as one of his favorite film projects he has done. Off The… Continue Reading

Marion’s Favorites: Ain’t Nobody Worryin by Anthony Hamilton

Anthony Hamilton is my favorite male R&B singer post the year 2000 (John Legend gets an honorable mention). I will admit that my favorite R&B music is from the late 1970s-early 1980s and Hamilton’s sound reminds me of that time period but its modernized for the current age.  His voice reminds me of Charlie Wilson… Continue Reading

Marion’s Favorites: Maze featuring Frankie Beverly

If Cookout Music was a musical genre, then Maze featuring Frankie Beverly would be the standard bearers.  For most of my life, the majority of cookouts I have ever attended would have music by Maze playing.  Their silky, elegant style of R&B reached its peak in the late 1970s-early 1980s but nearly four decades later… Continue Reading

Marion’s Favorites: Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions

One of the positive attributes of the internet is that you can be sent down a rabbit hole and pique your curiosity unexpectedly.  A few days ago, I went down that aforementioned rabbit hole and wanted to find out more Stevie Wonder’s Classic Period Albums from 1972 to 1976.  Those classic period albums were Music… Continue Reading

Marion’s Favorites: Maysa Leak

I first heard Maysa Leak on my favorite band, Incognito’s 1993 album, Positivity.  The song called Deep Waters speaks about loving someone that she should stay away from but was being pulled deeper into his orbit.  There have been many songs throughout music covering that aspect of love.  However, Maysa’s voice glides over the music… Continue Reading

Marion’s Favorites: Brother Sister by The Brand New Heavies

As a music lover, I enjoy a variety of musical genres from old school R&B and Hip-Hop, Jazz, and Afro-Cuban Music.  However, I was asked recently what is my favorite musical genre.  I told the person it is Acid Jazz. They immediately asked me what is Acid Jazz? Acid Jazz is a musical genre that… Continue Reading