Mary J. Blige has always struck me as a more well-balanced and humble singer than her contemporaries. Instead of overpowering the music with diva crescendos, Mary lets the music flow with her. This anti-diva approach is the reason she's abided twenty-plus years and two generations of boisterous divas from Whitney Houston to Beyoncé.
The last I heard from Mary was her Red One-produced cover of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" in 2010. I wanted that track to be an earnest rock cover that displayed Mary's genre range, but it ended up sounding like a bad Lady Gaga track. I was disappointed.
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Fortunately, Mary J's Electro-pop track was just a fling.
Her tenth studio album with a wordy subtitle, My Life II...The Journey Continues (Act I), released last week. While a couple of guest tracks in the album sound tacky and hasty, My Life II's got a lot of her Soul-meets-Hip-Hop past and a few teases of the present.
A highlight of My Life II is the single "25/8". While the name sounds like the flowery expression out of a teen's SMS message, this track has an old-school soul sound with samples of a full band. A couple other pop artists have tried to emulate this sound lately (I see you, Beyoncé) but Mary floats effortlessly through it.
The lyrics to "25/8" follow the joy of the track. It's a good break from the often heart-rending themes Mary covers. Almost makes you wish there were more days in the week for Mary to write more soul tracks like these.