Mary (Mary J. Blige album)

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Mary
Studio album by Mary J. Blige
Released August 17, 1999
Recorded 1998–1999
Genre R&B, soul, neo soul
Length 73:01
Label MCA
Producer Mary J. Blige, Babyface, Rich Harrison, Gerald Isaac, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Lauryn Hill, Malik Pendleton, Soulshock & Karlin, Chucky Thompson
Mary J. Blige chronology
Share My World
(1997)
Mary
(1999)
No More Drama
(2001)
Singles from Mary
  1. "As"
    Released: January 10, 1999
  2. "All That I Can Say"
    Released: July 9, 1999
  3. "Deep Inside"
    Released: September 28, 1999
  4. "Give Me You"
    Released: March 22, 2000
  5. "Your Child"
    Released: May 29, 2000

Mary is the fourth studio album by American R&B recording artist Mary J. Blige, released August 17, 1999, on MCA Records. The album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 239,000 copies in its first week. It spent 57 weeks on the chart and produced five charting singles. Upon its release, Mary received positive reviews from music critics. It has been certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America and has sold 2,100,000 copies in the United States.

Background[edit]

This album showcases a creative move by Blige from urban contemporary to adult contemporary,[1] eschewing her previous work's overt hip hop elements and raunchy persona for classicist soul music and more mature songwriting.[2] Highlighted by sleek and polished production reminiscent of 1970s soul, Mary came as a surprise to many of her fans and critics. Similar to Blige's previous release Share My World, the singer served as executive producer. Blige worked with various artists on the album including Aretha Franklin, Lauryn Hill, Jadakiss, Eric Clapton, Elton John, K-Ci, and George Michael. "I'm in Love", "As" and "Let No Man Put Asunder" are cover versions of Gap Band's, Stevie Wonder's and First Choice's classics.

Release and promotion[edit]

The album was released in the United States on August 17, 1999,[3] and in the United Kingdom on October 1, 1999.[4]

"All That I Can Say", "Deep Inside", "Your Child", and "Give Me You" were the albums commercial singles in the United States. "As" -- Blige's collaboration with George Michael -- was released as the lead single everywhere else worldwide. Three singles from the album charted on the Billboard Hot 100: "All That I Can Say" at number 44, "Deep Inside" at number 51, and "Give Me You" at number 68.[5] All four United States singles charted on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks: "All That I Can Say" at number six, "Deep Inside" at number nine, "Your Child" at number 23, and "Give Me You" at number 21.[6]

Reception[edit]

Commercial performance[edit]

The album debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 239,000 copies in the United States.[7] It also entered at number one on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, becoming Blige's fourth album to top the chart.[7] Mary spent 57 weeks on the Billboard 200 and 69 weeks on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.[8][9] In the United Kingdom, the album debuted at number five on the UK Albums Chart.[10]

On October 18, 2000, the album was certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, for shipments of two million copies in the United States.[11] It has also been certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry, for shipments of 60,000 copies in the United Kingdom,[12] and certified gold by the Canadian Recording Industry Association, for shipments of 40,000 copies in Canada.[13] As of 2009, Mary has sold 2,100,000 copies in the United States.[14]

Critical response[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[2]
Robert Christgau A−[15]
Entertainment Weekly B+[16]
Los Angeles Times 3/4 stars[17]
The New York Times (favorable)[18]
Q 4/5 stars[19]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[20]
Spin (9/10)[21]
USA Today 3.5/4 stars[22]
The Washington Post (favorable)[23]

Q gave the album four out of five stars and stated "Blige can turn from sassy to agonized to vulnerable in the space of a single phrase [...] The Queen Of Hip Hop Soul remains classy and invincible".[19] Craig Seymour of Spin praised its classicist influences and called Mary "emotionally gripping and stylistically diverse", writing that "[Blige's] assured blues moans, gospel shouts, and jazzy inflections graph the history of African-American music".[21] Chicago Tribune writer Greg Kot noted "a more organic feel" in its production, which he viewed as less "uninspired" than on Blige's previous albums.[24] Entertainment Weekly's Anthony DeCurtis complimented Blige's vocal embellishments and the album's "lush and spare" arrangements, stating "Musically, Mary is essentially a long, soulful, ballad-tempo vamp over which Blige alternately — and sometimes simultaneously — tells tales of faithless love, preaches the gospel of female strength, and determinedly clings to hope".[16] The Source complimented Blige's "pure emotion" and stated "she dares to break the hip-hop soul template she helped create, and do something different. Something our loop-weary souls need".[19] Steve Jones USA Today commended Blige for "making you feel rather than merely hear what she's singing about", adding that she "continues to separate herself from her peers, conveying a wide range of emotions without becoming whiny, petty or overwrought".[22]

Despite viewing its strength as "more in how Blige sings the songs than the songs themselves", Los Angeles Times writer Soren Baker commented that "the lively, supple instrumentation only adds to the force of her already dominating delivery" and noted "a more soul-stirring, straightforward R&B attitude than the hip-hop/R&B hybrid of her earlier collections".[17] Rolling Stone writer Touré gave the album four out of five stars and commented that "Blige seems to have moved away from the Terry McMillan once-again-he's-breaking-my-heart mantra to, perhaps, an Oprah love-your-spirit ethos".[20] Christopher John Farley of Time wrote that "Mary is somewhat inconsistent in song quality, but Blige's soul-singed vocals save the weaker material".[25] Ann Powers of The New York Times viewed that the album exemplifies a "new conscience" of feminine themes in contemporary R&B at the time, adding that "if Mary gestures toward an older, non-hip-hop audience, it also makes the claim for Ms. Blige's canonization within the rhythm-and-blues hall of fame".[18] In his consumer guide for The Village Voice, critic Robert Christgau gave the album an A- rating,[15] indicating "the kind of garden-variety good record that is the great luxury of musical micromarketing and overproduction".[26] He commented that "Rather than hating playas, she's bored with them [...] all that she can say is that she's ready to love someone serious and walk away from anyone who isn't".[15]

In a retrospective review for The Rolling Stone Album Guide, music writer Tom Moon of Rolling Stone gave the album three-and-a-half out of five stars and viewed it as an improvements over Blige's previous album, commenting that it "more fully realizes Blige's vision for Share My World".[27] Allmusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine gave it four out of five stars and complimented its "sheer classiness", writing that "There's still grit in the music, but it's been glossed over with a polished production".[2] Erlewine described it as "a rewarding, engaging way to mature" and wrote that "Blige's voice is richer and her skills have deepened, and her new songs, while not as streetwise, are worthy of her talents".[2]

Accolades[edit]

Spin ranked the album number 15 in its year-end list of best albums.[28] Blige won and was nominated for many awards for this album.

  • She was nominated for 2 MTV Europe Music Awards for Best Video and Best Song ("As" with George Michael).
  • In 2000 Blige was nominated for a Brit Award for Best International Female Solo Artist.
  • 3 Grammy Awards nominations for Best R&B Vocal Performance - Female ("All That I Can Say"), Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group ("Don't Waste Your Time" with Aretha Franklin), and Best R&B Album (Mary).
  • In 2001 Blige was nominated for a Soul Train Music Award for Best Female R&B/Soul Single for "Your Child".
  • Blige won a Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B/Soul Album, Female (Mary) and was also nominated for Best R&B/Soul or Rap Album.
  • Blige also won 2 Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards for Solo R&B/Soul Album of the Year for Mary and R&B/Soul or Rap Song of the Year for "All That I Can Say". She was also nominated for Best Solo R&B/Soul Single for "All That I Can Say".
  • Blige also won the first ever BET award for Best Female Artist in 2001 for Deep Inside.

Track listing[edit]

  1. "All That I Can Say" (featuring Lauryn Hill) (Lauryn Hill)
  2. "Sexy" (featuring Jadakiss) (Mary J. Blige, Aaron Phillips, Kiyamma Griffin, Jadakiss)
  3. "Deep Inside" (featuring Elton John) (Blige, Tara Geter, Kevin Deane, Elton John, Bernie Taupin)
  4. "Beautiful Ones" (Cecil Ward, Rich Harrison, Burt Bacharach, Hal David)
  5. "I'm in Love" (Ronnie Wilson, Lonnie Wilson)
  6. "Time" (Blige, Chucky Thompson, Stevie Wonder)
  7. "Memories" (Carsten Schack, Kenneth Karlin, Channette Higgens, Channoah Higgens, Blige)
  8. "Don't Waste Your Time" (duet with Aretha Franklin) (Gen Rubin, Denise Rich)
  9. "Not Lookin'" (duet with K-Ci Hailey) (Blige, Jean Norris, Dean Hostler, Ike Lee)
  10. "Your Child" (Gerald Isaac)
  11. "No Happy Holidays" (Blige, Griffin, Geter)
  12. "The Love I Never Had" (James Harris III, Terry Lewis, James "Big Jim" Wright, Blige)
  13. "Give Me You" (featuring Eric Clapton) (Diane Warren)
  14. "Let No Man Put Asunder" (Bruce Gray, Bruce Hawes)
Sample credits
  • "Sexy" contains a sample of "I Can't Help It" as performed by Michael Jackson.
  • "Deep Inside" contains a sample of "Bennie and the Jets" as performed by Elton John.
  • "Beautiful Ones" contains a sample of "The April Fools" as performed by Earl Klugh.
  • "Time" contains an interpolation of "Pastime Paradise" as performed by Stevie Wonder.

Personnel[edit]

  • Mary J. Blige - Executive Producer, Main Performer, Vocal Arrangement, Vocals
  • Kirk Burrowes - Executive Producer
  • LaTonya Blige-DaCosta - Associate Executive Producer
  • Hank Shocklee - Associate Executive Producer
  • Ivy Skoff - Project Coordinator

Musicians[edit]

Vocals
Instruments

Production[edit]