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R&B - Released April 28, 2017 | Capitol Records (CAP)

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R&B - Released January 1, 2001 | Uptown

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Ambient/New Age - Released January 1, 2013 | Mary J Blige PS

A truly Mary Christmas would match the distraught look on the cover. Blige's first Christmas album, guided by David Foster and Jochem van der Saag, doesn't feature sad or embittered chestnuts like "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" or "Fairytale of New York" (was Method Man busy?). Instead, it contains a mix of standard holiday songs -- a couple playful, many solemn, all dramatic. It's a big production; an orchestra backs Blige on most of the songs. She pours herself into all of the material, even when she's joined by Jessie J (of all people) for a version of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" that is overcooked. It could use a couple more joyous songs in the vein of Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas," which is a delight despite so many versions since the original 1970 version. A Mary Christmas won't likely reach the high status of, say, Mariah Carey's Merry Christmas, but it's a full-effort holiday release that many of her fans should be able to enjoy for several years. ~ Andy Kellman
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Rock - Released January 1, 2005 | Geffen*

At the end of 2005, Mary J. Blige's career was supposed to be anthologized. The singer had her way, however, and one of her best studio albums came out instead. In retrospect, her previous album, 2003's Love & Life, was awkward; the P. Diddy collaborations, likely intended to recapture the magic the duo put together on What's the 411? and My Life, didn't always pay off, and Blige was about to become a wife, so the songs steeped in heartbreak and disappointment weren't delivered with as much power as they had been in the past. The Breakthrough also contains some of the drama that fans expect, despite Blige's continued happiness, but it's clear that she has gained enough distance from the uglier parts of her past that she can inhabit them and, once again, deliver those songs. The past does play a significant role in the album, as in "Baggage," where she apologies to her husband for bringing it into their relationship. "Father in You" sounds like a note-perfect facsimile of a classic soul ballad, rising and falling and twisting with a sensitive string arrangement, but the lyrics are pure Blige, acknowledging the ways in which her husband has made up for the absence of her father. On the nearly anthemic "Good Woman Down," she sees a less matured version of herself in young women and uses her experiences to advise. She jacks the beat from the Game's "Hate It or Love It" for "MJB da MVP," where she reflects on her career, thanks her supporters, and reasserts her rightful position as the queen of hip-hop soul. It's one of several tracks to beam with a kind of contentment and confidence that Blige has never before possessed. Take "Can't Hide from Love," where she's such a force that Jay-Z dishes out a quick introduction and knows to stay out of the way for the remainder of the track, or the glorious "I Found My Everything," her "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." Beat for beat, the album features the best round of productions Blige has been handed since the mid-'90s. Apart from only a couple lukewarm tracks and a poorly recorded version of "One" with U2, it is completely correct. ~ Andy Kellman
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Pop - Released January 1, 1997 | Geffen*

The hype that surrounded Mary J. Blige in the beginning was simply ridiculous. When What's the 411? was released in 1992, she was exalted as "the new Chaka Khan"-- a definite exaggeration, considering how uneven that debut album was. But Blige did show promise, and by the time she recorded her third album, Share My World, she had developed into a fairly convincing soul/urban singer. Her strongest and most confident effort up to that point, Share had much more character, personality, and honesty than most of the assembly line fare dominating urban radio in 1997. For all their slickness, emotive cuts like "Get to Know You Better," "Love Is All We Need," and "Keep Your Head" left no doubt that Blige was indeed a singer of depth and substance. Although high tech, the production of everyone from R. Kelly (with whom she duets on the inviting "It's On") and Babyface to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis doesn't come across as forced or robotic, but, in fact, is impressively organic. With Share My World, Blige definitely arrived. ~ Alex Henderson
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R&B - Released January 1, 1992 | Geffen* Records

With this cutting-edge debut, Mary J. Blige became the reigning queen of her own hybrid category: hip-hop soul. The eloquence and evocativeness that comes through in her voice, could be neither borrowed nor fabricated, making What's the 411? one of the decade's most explosive, coming-out displays of pure singing prowess. "Real Love" and the gospel-thrusted "Sweet Thing" (the primary reason for all her Chaka Kahn comparisons) are and will remain timeless slices of soul even after their trendiness has worn off, and "You Remind Me" and the duet with Jodeci's K-Ci ("I Don't Want to Do Anything") are nearly as affecting in their own right. It's nevertheless unclear how much of the hip-hop swagger in her soul was a genuine expression of Blige's own vision or that of her admittedly fine collaborators (Svengali Sean "Puffy" Combs, R&B producers Dave Hall and DeVante Swing, rap beatsmith Tony Dofat, rapper Grand Puba). Certainly the singer comes across as street-savvy and tough -- "real," in the lingo of the day -- and even tries her hand at rhyming on the title track, but never again would her records lean this heavily on the sonic tricks of the rap trade. In retrospect, it is easier to place the album into the context of her career and, as such, to pinpoint the occasions when it runs wide of the rails. For instance, the synthesizer-heavy backdrops ("Reminisce," "Love No Limit") are sometimes flatter or more plastic than either the songs or Blige's passionate performances deserve, while the answering-machine skits, much-copied in the wake of What's the 411?, haven't worn well as either stand-alone tracks or conceptual segues. In fact, those who prefer their soul more stirring, heart-on-sleeve, or close to the bone would likely find her fluid, powerfully vulnerable next recording (My Life) or one of the consistently strong subsequent efforts that followed it more to their liking. For broad appeal and historical importance, though, What's the 411? is an inarguably paramount and trailblazing achievement. ~ Stanton Swihart
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R&B - Released January 1, 2001 | Universal Records

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R&B - Released April 28, 2017 | Capitol Records (CAP)

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R&B - Released January 1, 1993 | Geffen*

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Ambient/New Age - Released January 1, 2013 | Mary J Blige PS

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R&B - Released January 1, 1998 | Geffen*

The hype that surrounded Mary J. Blige in 1992 was definitely excessive, and those who exalted her as the "new Chaka Khan" did both Khan and Blige an unforgivable disservice (few could live up to such a title). But as the 1990s progressed, Blige really did evolve into one of the decade's most appealing R&B vocalists, and she's in good to excellent form on The Tour, which was recorded on her Share My World Tour of 1997-98. The very fact that a live urban contemporary album came out in the late 1990s was quite surprising; after all, R&B had become so technology-driven and studio-oriented that few R&B artists even bothered to make live albums anymore. But Blige was an exception, and she proves herself capable of taking it to the stage on passionate versions of such hits as "My Life," "Mary Jane (All Night Long)," "Reminisce," and "Mary's Joint." Blige could have done without the male band member who tries to function as her onstage cheerleader, but even so, this is an impressive release that her followers will want. ~ Alex Henderson
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R&B - Released January 1, 2009 | Geffen*

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R&B - Released June 3, 2014 | Epic

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R&B - Released January 1, 2002 | Geffen*

Yes, Dance for Me is another remix album from a hip-hop/urban artist, following hot on the heels of high-profile remix releases from P. Diddy and others. But unlike any other mainstream artist, Mary J. Blige has the range and energy of the best disco divas, plus the exquisite taste of any dance scenester -- both of which combine to make Dance for Me one of the best, most innovative remix albums of recent vintage. Included are remixes from producers like Junior Vasquez, Hex Hector, and Barry Harris (from Thunderpuss), who've done dozens of remixes for artists like Blige in the past, and easily display a flair for giving her songs the natural settings they deserve. "No More Drama," the title track from her full-length of 2001, particularly shines after getting treated by Thunderpuss. Tweaked out to nearly ten minutes with no sign of stretch-marks, the song becomes a multi-part epic in the hands of Blige, freestyling like the best dance vocalists of any era, from Loleatta Holloway to La India. "Family Affair," the Dr. Dre production (originally) with the lyric that spawned this album's title, boasts a chunky, classic-disco rework from Spanish Fly, while Vasquez and Hector give their inclusions the high-energy synthetics of hard house. Al B. Rich offers some variety (and a nod to dance taste-makers) with a 2-step groove for "Never Been," and the last track -- Blige's 1999 cover of the seminal disco anthem "Let No Man Put Asunder" by First Choice -- ends it on a high note, proving to anyone who's curious that, no matter who invented the remix, Mary J. Blige is her generation's most artistic diva. ~ John Bush
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R&B - Released February 17, 2017 | Capitol Records, LLC

Pop - Released January 1, 2010 | Geffen* Records

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Pop - Released January 1, 1994 | Uptown

Perhaps the single finest moment in Sean "Puffy" Combs' musical career has been the production on this, Mary J. Blige's second proper album. The production is not exactly original, and there is evidence here of him borrowing wholesale from other songs. The melodic sources this time around, though, are so expertly incorporated into the music that they never seem to be intrusions, instead playing like inspired dialogues with soulsters from the past, connecting past legacies with a new one. This certainly isn't your parents' (or grandparents') soul. But it is some of the finest modern soul of the '90s, backing away to a certain extent from the hip-hop/soul consolidation that Blige introduced on her debut album. The hip-hop part of the combination takes a few steps into the background, allowing Blige's tortured soul to carry the album completely, and it does so with heartwrenching authority. My Life is, from beginning to end, a brilliant, wistful individual plea of desire. Blige took a huge leap in artistry by penning almost everything herself (the major exception being Norman Whitfield's "I'm Going Down") in collaboration with co-producers Combs and multi-instrumentalist Chucky Thompson, and everything seems to leap directly from her gut. Blige's strain is sleekly modern and urban, and the grit in it comes from being streetwise and thoroughly realistic about the travails of life. My Life, nevertheless, emanates from some deep, dark place where both sadness and happiness cohabitate and turn into one single, beautiful sorrow. ~ Stanton Swihart
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R&B - Released January 1, 2011 | Geffen*

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R&B - Released April 28, 2017 | Capitol Records (CAP)

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R&B - Released September 2, 2016 | Capitol Records, LLC

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Mary J. Blige in the magazine
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