Mary J Blige, crowned by Billboard as the most successful female artist of the last 25 years, has just released her new album The London Sessions; recorded unsurprisingly, in London. This is the thirteenth studio album for the world-renowned soul singer. Her powerhouse voice, natural charisma and relatable lyricism have all contributed to the longevity of her success.
The London Sessions, a 12-track album, trails at the end of large discography and a globally recognised career for Blige. A conglomerate of pop, soul and hip hop are infused in each track with a touch of blues and jazz that are particularly evident in the opening track ‘Therapy’; a catchy song with a predicable hook in the chorus to grind your teeth into – a promising start, but not consistent. It’s followed up with a slew of songs that become consistently less catchy and more and more monotonous. This particular track, however, is quite enjoyable and may inspire a few trips to the replay button.
Blige is undoubtedly a superstar, yet songs such as ‘Long Hard Look’ and ‘Right Now’ are verging on bland. The simplistic pop beats provide an underscore for the relatively uninspiring and inanimate melodies. The saving grace of a number of these tracks, including the predictable rhythm pacing through ‘Nobody But You’, is Blige’s slow and passionate vibrato coupled with the ostensible sincerity in her voice.
The album presents a mish-mash of songs that blend together so precisely that it’s quite difficult at times to distinguish between them; to the effect it is easy to switch off and yearn for tunes with a more unique gusto. Many of the tracks produce a calm yet indifferent temperament, with lyrics such as ‘every day is different, like every love is different’ in ‘Long Hard Look’, lulling one into a slightly bemused daze instead of stimulating the senses in a motivational way.
British electronic duo Disclosure feature in the song ‘Follow’, which is one of the tracks on the album that is distinctive and memorable, breaking the mantra of the album for a few minutes. This is the kind of collaboration that is unexpectedly successful. Two different genres come together despite their differences for a greater cause – white washing the dimmer light emitted in the previous tracks, and allowing Blige’s true embers to burn brightly – showing off her range and song writing ability.
Blige is unfailingly an important female artist and a beautiful soul, born with her captivating singing voice and lively persona. The London Sessions however reads as an afterthought – a blunt sentence strapped to the end of a poignant and well established piece of writing, or in this case, a successful and celebrated discography. It’s not that this album isn’t enjoyable, but that it lacks the greatness of her former releases. It’s easy listening, but in need of some of that elusive snap, crackle and pop.
The London Sessions was released on December 2nd via Capitol Records.