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I'm going to admit something flat-out: I had no idea who Mary J. Blige was for the longest time, had no idea she was regarding as the queen of R&B until a few years ago, when I started seeing a certain song on various music channels every fifteen minutes: All That I Can Say. They played the damn video more times than I cared to remember, and while I liked the song a great deal... I was still ready and willing to fling my T.V. out the window and roar like Godzilla if I had to see it one more time. Unfortunately, I couldn't lift the T.V. and there was a tree in the way. But I digress. Then, she finally came out with a new, less-overplayed song whose title I can't even remember. All I know is that the video scared the hell out of me for some reason. Wow, that?s a big help. And then, in 2001 (what a year, what a year for music), all that changed - the classy, infectious beats of Family Affair started to blare from radios the world over. Mary talked about hateration, and holleration in this dancery - whatever the hell that meant. Possibly she drank a little too much of whatever had been perculatin' earlier in the song. And - as people more well-versed on her life story than I currently am have pointed out - she seemed to be in a great mood. She seemed to be doing loads better in life - she was on her way to better days. All I knew was that I liked the song and video, and on the cover of the album - No More Drama - her jacket was cool, her hair was cool, and she appeared to have one boob. I was tempted to nickname her Cycloptra - One-Breasted R&B Princess. Maybe the other one just took a vacation. Or, I told myself, maybe it?s just camera-shy - well, no, I discovered that indeed, she had another breast as evidenced in the liner notes with the various cleavage shots - in the booklet I swiped off my mom's copy of this CD. She always gets the best CDs before I think to buck up and buy 'em. Meow. Grr. Hiss.
Either way, the disappearance of her breast on the cover unnerved me greatly. Then I swiped it a few days ago, copied it to my computer - known to me as Lula (don?t ask) - and everything was spiffy. And just because I felt like looking at the guitar-wielding hottie (did I just use that word?) on the page opposite the lines of a poem Mary wrote, I stole the booklet. I?m a little juvenile delinquent. And upon listening to the rest of the tracks (after getting over my fear of her one-breasted visage), I quickly grew to know just why Mary was (and still is) hailed as the queen of R&B. Aside from about one or two irritating no-talent rappers showing up to spoil two otherwise ass-kicking tracks, every last song pulsed with sincerity, soul, and sex. Well, maybe not sex (don?t ask me) but I needed something to round out the trio. Shh. Don't tell Mary. And if all the songs are pulsing with the above, then the opening track - incidentally, my favorite and the shortest - just flat-out pounds, and with sound, as well. Love - with its extremely heavy bassline, dark snare pounding, choppy, military-esque trumpet, and rhythmic jingle-bells - bulges with energy, ready to burst at the seams half the time. Adding to the powerful energy booming through the song, Mary screams out the letters comprising "love" in the background of the chorus, keeping things calm and smooth on the verses: "Well, you can take your life of love, and stick it up in your main frame... 'cause there'll be no more second chances; no more hot romances - and I like it this way, so let me break it down for you!" Around the end of the song, she even starts to rapping - and not only does she pull it off well, but I have a feeling that if she wanted to, she could make an entire rap album and it'd do well - at least, judging by this one. And that's saying something. It's also the perfect weapon for those sadistic bastards who like
to drive around sleeping neighborhoods at around 2 AM with their damn windows rolled down and the friggin' bass chugged all the way up so every goddamn thing in the house levitates a few feet, but I digress. When I looked on the back of the CD case and saw that there was a song on here called PMS, I realized that it's nearly possible to die laughing. I showed it to my mom and started to announce that this could be her anthem, but promptly shut up when I caught the look she gave me. Opening with a bit of electric-strumming from Lenny Kravitz, this laid-back ode to bitching about a certain "monthly visitor" (my best friend, Audrey, calls it "George") glides along, bloated and pissy, on strumming acoustics, casual strings, and a quiet, stuttering beat - maybe Mary took some Midol before recording this? Maybe, but she still sounds as if she's PMSing - least, she sounds quite grumpy - as she lets us know what she's going through: "Down and out in depression - I think the worst of everything. My lower back is aching, and my clothes don't fit... now, ain't that a bitch?" Ummm... yes? I don't know, Mary, I'm not a woman (thank god), I don't get PMS (again, thank god) On another note, on Saturday, my mom decided to skip this track when we were driving to the mall, declaring that she was PMSing and didn't need to hear about it. Well, there goes part of the audience. I just hope that Mary doesn't do a song about menopause next, or menstruation - those are the last two things I want to hear someone singing about. And knowing my luck, someone else will make those songs and I'll cry. But anyway. Just as laid-back and relaxed as PreMmenstrualSyndrome, but breezier and slicker, Flying Away relies more on minimal acoustic twangs, and more on soft electric-piano/keyboard beats and a slow, calming beat amid occasional harp-strums (listen close for them). Like I said b
efore - all very relaxing. Refreshing. "Baby, here's your only chance - call me your sunshine!" Mary insists calmly, sounding dreamy and casual. "On a rainy day - love is on the way - don't you worry bout nothing at all! If you really need a friend, it's me you could call - I won't bring you down, we'll fly high above the ground!" Throughout some parts of the song, also, she keeps screaming "Climaxing! Climaxing! Climaxing!' and suddenly, I'm quite worried about the direction this song is heading. Thankfully, she says no more on that. Relax, just do it... or whoever the hell that song went. But sit back down and relax - you're not goin' anywhere yet. In The Meantime makes sure of that - sounding a bit like Flying Away with its soft synthophones and quiet, smooth beat - but carries along triangle-taps and humming strings as well, sounding something like elevator music. I happen to like elevator music, though. Yay. Calm and cool, Mary glides through the song, sounding like all traces of her PMS have vanished - "There is no need for you to fear, for I am here, I'll be right here all of your life... and I am willing and able to pull you, pull you through, through the storm that might await you on the outside..." The title track - No More Drama for the ignorant twits out there - while being a beautiful track, is something I tend to avoid when I'm in a state of depression. You'll know why when you listen. Carried throughout by the theme to The Young And The Restless (which I don't know) on the piano, accented by ominous, dramatic bells, a bit of cello and clarinet, a dark, mid-tempo beat, and dramatic strings, this song has reportedly brought a few of my friends to tears (or so they claim) when they're in great moods - and, yes, it's had that effect on me as well. Brimming with pain and determination, Mary cuts loose here, pouring her heart into the
lyrics, promising herself better days: "I don't know - only God knows where the story ends, for me, but I know where the story begins... it's up to us to choose whether we win or lose - and I choose to win! No more pain - no more pain, no more pain! (Tired of hurting!) No more game (tired of you playin' games with my mind!) No drama (no more drama in my life), no more! No more! No more! No more!" Every year will play host to about a billion ubiquitous songs that make you scream and ram your head through the nearest object after hearing them again and again and again on the damn radio day in and day out. Some, you like too much to care if they're overplayed. Meet Family Affair - and don't ask me what the hell the title means, I don't even know - where Mary invents such lovely words as "dancery," "hateration," and "holleration." American Heritage Dictionary be damned. Synth piano mingles with a steady, thudding beat and vaguely-classy, light-hearted strings for a bit of background music that most R&B artists have wet dreams over - and light-hearted vocals invite the listener to "get it crunk, we're gon' have fun up on it, in this dancery - we got y'all open, now you're floatin', so ya gots to dance for me, don't need no hateration, holleration, in this dancery - let's get it perculatin', while you're waitin'! So, just dance for me!" I would, but I suck at dancing, especially while I'm floating. I usually get wary whenever I see that there are going to be guest rappers on one or more songs on an album - Where I've Been is just one of the three tracks to do this, bringing in Eve, of the Ruff Ryders. Which is good, since I love Eve - who does a great job with her rap verse near the end. At least Mary has one good guest on here. Carried by chirping, echoing, bleeping synths (well, not exactly bleeping - I have no idea wha
t in the hell they're doing. They've stumped me) and yet another thumping R&B beat, Mary creates a sunny-day vibe to go with her somewhat-autobiographical lyrics, sounding encouraging as she tells us about how "I grew up as a 70's baby, brought up in poverty and sin - makin' jokes at the crazy lady; never cared how she was dealin' within. I knew all the words to Micheal Jackson's album as a kid, and when it came to the biggest crusher - no, he wasn't my man." Well, thank god for that. Then again, I assume that back then, he didn't want anyone who was prepubescent. Unfortunately, for two decent bits of rapping - Mary on Love and Eve and Where I've Been, there must be two sucky rappers - Ahkim Miller on the otherwise-fine Dance For Me, and exceptionally-annoying Eminem-soundalike Pharrell Williams on the Neptunes-produced could've-been-stunner, Steal Away. By could've-been, I mean it would've been great if he hadn't opened his goddamn mouth and screwed things up from the start, chanting "it's ghetto-ghetto-ghetto! You know, that ghetto-ghetto-ghetto!" I don't give-a, give-a, give-a, give a-fuck, a-fuck, a-fuck. Otherwise - with its synth drums, typical smacking-a-can beat effect, and heavy bass (with occasional strains of a great string section), with Mary lovingly singing, "And we make love, all damn day... steal away" - the song is fine. ...Well, okay, not really. Pharrell decides to further torture me, deciding that his rapping just isn't sadistic enough to make me cry. He decides to sing at the beginning, and I contemplate killing myself. Then I contemplate killing Pharrell instead. And then I spot a hardcover book nearby and just beat myself over the head with it. But then all my evil thoughts are wiped away as Mary decides to read us a poem she wrote - no music. No singing. No production. Just Mary, and Forever No More - the poem
in question, a poem which I think is quite beautiful. Due to its length, (and the fact that I can't just bring myself to post only snippets of it here), here's a link to the words of the poem (since the link won't code properly for whatever reason): http://www.sing365.com/music/Lyric.nsf/songUnid/8126D2B873E9879A48256B68000815 F1 I'm a sucker for happy, "hoorah it's such a nice day out it's all sunny and hoohah and yay and all PROZAC!!!!!111111" songs, so it'll probably come as no surprise to you that I want the song Beautiful Day to become human so I can marry it. More breezy, sunny, relaxing chirping-and-bleeping synths, with the occasional spiraling-whistle sound in the background... and you can probably guess about the beat. You know, calming and relaxing and cheerful and all. Consult the handbook. Uplifting and positive, Mary sounds rightfully happy, again calm as she notices that "I woke up this morning, opened up my eyes, and prayed - Lord, 'cuz it's a beautiful day, no matter what nobody say! Even though it's cloudy, I can see the sun rays, oh, 'cuz it's a beautiful day! No matter what nobody say! Cuz it's a beautiful day, a beautiful day!" We have too many of those in Florida. Sunny for a whole month. Then when we gripe enough, rain for a month, then we complain again - no wonder people only visit here and never end up living here. But anyway. To quote Jennifer Coolidge from her role in Legally Blonde, "What's this Vivian got that you haven't? Three tits?" Let's replace "Vivian" with "Mary." In which case, no - Mary only has one. She might have two, but the second one has a mind of its own. But she does have a powerful voice, great producers, and wonderful prowess at songwriting backing her up - almost every song on No More Drama is brimming with energy, a great sense of relaxation, or some other irres
istible force that draws you in and doesn't let go. I call it Mary's Web. Mary J. Spider? Maybe. In any case, you'll find a great blend here: Addictive, catchy, butt-shaking R&B club hits, laid-back sunshine cuts, the occasional bit of drama, and an ode to a condition that makes females crabby, bloated, and god-knows-what-else. You'll also find Mary, and maybe even her other breast. You'll find talent. A voice that can send shivers down your spine - of delight, awe, anything she wishes you to feel. So, if you're freaking out about what to buy the next time you're browsing for some great R&B, pay a visit to Mary - and there'll be No More Drama concerning your decision. God that sucked. Great Music to Play While: Relaxing, dancing around in your bedroom looking stupid (stop looking at me like that), PMSing, announcing that whatever-it-is is "ghetto-ghetto-ghetto," plotting to hurt Pharrell Williams (or is that just me?), wondering where the hell Mary's other breast went to on the cover, and not having any hateration or holleration in this goddamn dancery.
From her first album Mary J. Blige has established herself as the Queen Of Soul. Now with a new album, her fifth, entitled No More Drama, Mary J. Blige seems to be set to become the most creative and respected R ‘n’ B female artist ever. No More Drama sees Blige relieving all her excess tension, from her personal life to her anxiety on the mic, No More Drama is a roller coaster of emotions from a woman who has lived it all. From the Notorious B.I.G to the more recent Ja Rule phenomenon, Ms. Blige has spoken nothing but knowledge when embracing the mic. The Tracks 1. LOVE 2. Family Affair 3. Steal Away 4. He Think I Don't Know 5. PMS 6. No More Drama 7. Rainy Dayz 8. Where I've Been 9. Beautiful Day 10. Dance For Me 11. No More Drama 12. Flying Away 13. Never Been 14. 2 U 15. In The Meantime 16. Forever No More - Poem 17. Testimony 18. Girl From Yesterday The basis and main structural backdrop for the album is Mary’s personal life. The album is the alphabet of her life and the psychological and emotional mountains she has had to climb to get to the level of respect and admiration she is at now. And like Wyclef’s music, this makes for an album, which fills the spectrum of the R ‘n’ B scene. The tracks on the album are very much up and down, there are many mega producers who work on the album such as Dr Dre but you feel that it is the powerful and energetic vocals of Mary J. Blige, which actually drive the songs. The range is from the party fuelled Family Affair which is very energetic, unpredictable and exciting to the more maintained, crisp and quintessential Rainy Dayz featuring Ja Rule. Perhaps the Neptunes on a track entitled Steal Away bring the most intricate and provocative beat science. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the head nodding rhythmic of the Neptunes, there latest production i
s the Pharrel Williams featuring Britney Spears Boys (Co-Ed) remix. There is some influence from Bay Boy P.Diddy on the No More Drama track but if you want to find a true collaboration of the two artists then P.Diddy’s Remix album is your best bet in which No More Drama is completely remixed. I’m highlighting Dr Dre because I feel as though ever since the Message (A track on the Aftermath album), he and Mary have had a unique work and social relationship. Ever since then, there collaborations together have been both inspired and imaginative. Now, although he is mainly recognised for his work on Family Affair, it is clear that the once N.W.A producer has also influenced other beats on the album such as the powerful and emotional No More Drama. On the album you will find guest appearances from the most sophisticated in the hip hop industry and since this is an album of contrast her guest artists contrast too. From the more pop-fuelled Ja Rule who performs a duet with Mary on Rainy Dayz, to the more conscious and politically orientated raps of Common in Dance For Me, each guest brings something unique and incredible to the album. In saying this, although the guest appearances are putting something forward for Mary’s album, you can’t help but feel that they walk away with a bit of her creativity and unique flow too. For instance, Common’s latest album, Like Water For Chocolate sees the rapper producing a few Mary inspired songs and it was rumoured that the two collaborated. Expect to find a guest appearance from Lenny Kravitz on the PMS track in which the guitar fuelled artist performs a harmonic acoustic guitar solo. Eve and Missy Elliot are two artists who also dabble in this classic album. No More Drama as the name suggests is an emotional roller coaster which shall not only leave Mary but yourself emotionally exhausted as her melodic vocals cause your own personal emotions and memories to up
rise. With No More Drama there is no more doubt, Mary brings fire, and with her scratchy blues vocals, she brings drama.
Angry, soulful, despising, romantic, determined, fragile, aggressive, female, all on one CD and sung in a voice that reaches into the recesses of your mind - Mary's back with big time attitude. The Queen of Hip Hop Soul, Mary J Blige has created in the "No More Drama" album a collection of strong tracks which can easily hold their own individually and which cover the emotions from A to Z. This is her 5th album and presently has racked up 13 million sales worldwide. Could all those fans be wrong? I don't think so. I am a relatively recent covert to Mary and this 2001 produced album has quickly become one which rarely makes its way back into my CD rack. You don't have to dig too deep to discover Mary's turbulent past but in this album she declares over and over again that she is no longer the victim and you get the feeling she means it. From the opening pulsing beats of the track "Love" you get the message which is repeated often throughout - "But I'm focused now People saying, "Wow!" In place of a frown on my face, a smile". This delivered in a strong, in your face rap lets you know Mary means business. The second Dr Dre produced track is the popular "Family Affair" which to me is reminiscent of Destiny's Child's "Bootilicious" in that I defy you to listen to it and remain still. The words "No more drama" make their first appearance here and the strong rhythm coupled with Mary's truly original lyrics make this one of the best tracks on the CD. The next track "Steal Away" is produced by the Neptunes and features Pharrell Williams of the group in introductory vocals with the backing rap by Marshane L Winfield. I know this track has come in for some criticism but I love it and think the opening vocals blend easily into where Mary takes over and then once again into the slick rap. "Crazy Games"
; isn't one of the stronger tracks and I think acts merely as a bridge into the track "PMS". OK I'm a woman and I have listened to this track over and over again in an attempt to get to like it. I'm sorry it's my least favourite. I know it's original etc etc but I just can find nothing about it to like. "No More Drama" the title track is a raw, strong song which is excellently delivered by Mary and strongly backed with background vocals sung by her as well. The piano theme tune of the "Young and the Restless" an American soap runs throughout the song. "Keep it Moving" "Destiny" and "Where I've Been" and the jazzy "Beautiful Day" follow in quick succession and in them Mary displays her vocal and musical range to excellent effect. These to me are bridging and not among the stronger songs on the CD but they are still easy on the ear and never boring. "Dance for me" will have you bopping along once again to the strong hip-hop beat and "Flying Away" is almost Whitney-esque and unlike most of the other tracks with its light but funky beat. "Never Been" produced by Missy Elliott, is sexy, soulful and stupendously wonderful when listened to at loud volume through your headphones. "U2" continues this run of strong songs and is amazing once again in how expertly the background vocals blend with the main refrain to give a repetitive but pleasing chorus. "In the Meantime" is easy late night listening and is followed by "Forever No More" a poem written and spoken with no apology by Mary ending with the clear message "And Thank you God - for Giving Me back Me". This is followed by "Testimoney" a slow moving song reflecting where Mary seems to be in her life. And just in case you thought this new found calm meant that Mary had lost her feistiness "Ch
eckin for Me" leaves you in no doubt that this is not the case at all. This CD has 18 tracks and it is only to be expected that there should be a few fillers along the way. These are however in the minimum and what you are getting is excellent listening value for money from an album which grows more and more on you with each listening. Mary J Blige has been crowned the Queen of Hip Hop Soul. This CD confirms that this is a well-deserved title.
After hearing the song “Family Affair” and absolutely loving it, I rushed straight out and bought the new Mary J Blige album. I’m quite into soul and RnB so I thought this album would live up to her great reputation. I got home and blasted track 2 out right away, actually I played this one song sooooo much that it was a couple of hours before I got round to listening to the rest of the album… …what a disappointment it turned out to be! Considering Mary has a great production team, including Ruff Ryders, Dr Dre and Missy Elliot, some of the songs are Goddam awful. Track 5, PMS, is in a word, terrible. Why anyone would want to write a song about periods I don’t know. I think it’s supposed to make women feel better about themselves or something; but quite frankly it makes me cringe and I’m sure any man listening to this album would feel like a bit of a tw*t when this song comes on. Hmmmmm. Poor show. Track 11, Dance For Me, is quite good, the best on the album besides Family Affair. The poem included as Track 16 is a bit pointless in my opinion, in fact it’s b*llocks. I haven’t the faintest idea what she’s trying to say. The first verse goes: “No more invisible speeches, deaf and blind child With neglected pleasures being addicted to denial Floating through time, gravitating towards a warm arm With an appetite for the emptiness that promises no harm.” What?? If anyone manages to figure out what this means exactly then please let me know!!! I know this op is probably sounding really bitchy. But I used to really like her. I just think she’s turned into too much of a diva, and I honestly think she’s trying to be too much like Miss E. She even looks like her now. Mary… please get back to being original. Belt out more tunes like Family Affair, something with a bit of funky rhythm and stop going on about pre-
menstrual syndrome. All us girls have to go through it but I’m damned sue I don’t need to hear a song all about it!!!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Family Affair
3 Steal Away
4 Crazy Games
6 No More Drama
7 Keep It Movin'
9 Where I've Been
10 Beautiful Day
11 Dance For Me
12 Flying Out
13 Never Been
14 2 U
15 In The Meantime
16 Forever No More
18 Checkin' For Me