Mary J. Blige: A Mary Christmas

Posted November 19, 2013 by in Pop



2.5/ 5


Genre: ,
Genre: Adult contemporary, pop, r&b
Producer: David Foster
Label: Verve
Format: Digital download, compact disc
Time: 45:53
Release Date: 15 October 2013
Spin This: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "When You Wish Upon a Star"


The new-and-improved Mary 2.0 can sing almost anything - and David Foster knows that


Lack of uptempo numbers, original numbers and soul-powered performances hurt the First Lady of Hip-Hop Soul

Mary J. Blige 2.0 reduced to AC schmaltz on first holiday affair

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Mary J. Blige 2.0 reduced to AC schmaltz on first holiday affair

As the modern-day holiday album continues to fall victim to the AC brainwashing of Muzak domination, we expect to see more talented singers being pulled into its vortex. Count Mary J. Blige – a singer whose vocals have only improved over time – as one of the new converts. In a way, it was to be expected. Blige 2.0 has a better sound, technique control and still can hammer away at the urban soul angst. The dramatic vocal cracks heard on earlier works like “Real Love,” “You Bring Me Joy” and “Not Goin’ Cry” have since been dipped in butter and no longer sound like the elements of late-night partying, boose and cannabis worship. Blige 2.0 is a better instrument today, so it’s obvious that AC hit man David Foster thought it would be a great idea to use his Josh Groban/Michael Buble magic on the once crowned Queen of Hip-Hop Soul.

Someone please snatch those credentials from Blige 2.0, because there’s no soul for her to mess around with in Foster’s environment. Forget about the fact that Foster co-wrote “After the Love Is Gone” and did wonders on Whitney Houston via “I Will Always Love You” and “I Have Nothing.” There’s nothing aboard this disc that walks in those paths. What you get instead is a MOR holiday album that walks the tepid planks of the occasional pop sensation pair-up (Barbra Streisand and Chris Botti on “When You Wish Upon a Star;” Marc Anthony on a bilingual “Silent Night”) and the standard rundown of familiar holiday treats. There’s some guilty pleasure in hearing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” done with a slow jam swag, Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas” done for the one-hundredth time and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” decorated with Ella-does-Vegas cosmetics, but it’s not enough to rescue Mary 2.0 from what the album should have been. Those expecting to hear soul on a holiday disc from one of the most popular soul singers of the 21st century are instead treated with dreamy, almost sleepy vibes around an open fire. There are no original numbers here, the ballads are taxing on the ear and the Disney-like arrangements are overcooked with angelic strings, ultimately overarching Blige’s vocal prowess. In the end, this formula eats away at the album’s potential. At best, she’s only doing what’s already been done before and hardly adding anything new to the conversation.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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