“Queen of Hip-Hop Soul” Mary J. Blige has just dropped her 13th studio album simply titled “Strength of a Woman” which follows up her highly underrated album “The London Sessions” which saw her delivering a solid vocal performance over British electronic beats and the writing was stunning.On this album she delivers her most rawest and most personal material to date, she is in so much pain yet she rebuilding herself into a even stronger version of herself, not letting her divorce from her husband (Martin ‘Kendu’ Isaacs) of nearly 13 years break her.
“Sometimes I have dark days, sometimes I have light days, I’m having dark moments. I’m just going through it right now but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. That’s what the album represents… I’m indestructible. I’m not going to let this destroy me. I’m going to keep people around me that make me smile.” Blige shared during a recent interview.
She kicks off the album with a very empowering song called “Love Yourself” which sees her teaming up with Kanye West, sending a message on the importance of self-love “You gotta love yourself before you love somebody else” and it also addresses the daily struggles that black community faces and motivates people to live their lives to it`s fullest ‘I decided not to use my colour as a handicap. I cannot be complacent, in my job, be courageous.’
The song starts off with a piano driven melody that slowly builds up and then triumphant horns follows and the beat drops, leading into Kanye’s fiery verse. The song features a great late 90`s vibe to it and it`s a great opener.
She follows it up with her chart-topping number one hit “Thick Of It” which is her strongest single to date as it sees her rawest displaying so much realness as she sings about love on the rocks. The song was written by the extremely talented singer-songwriter Jazmine Sullivan who also provided some great background vocals over a very minimal production. “Are we worth this fight? Cuz I ain’t no quitter babe and I be damned if all these years I let you diss me babe. I was there when no one wanted to stay with you baby, you know I deserve more than this, I do” She sings so beautifully.
On “Set Me Free” is smooth-fiery jazzy piano-horn driven number that sees Ms. Blige spilling some dirty details behind her breakup :“Tell me how you figure that you made me and you gave me what I had before I meet ya. Ain’t gon’ have it when you’re gone and how you fix your mouth to say I owe you. When I have another bitch and taking trips and shit, with my money for so long. You must have lost it, nigga, you won’t get a dime but all you’re gonna get, too bad, I can’t get back my time. Wasted all this time, I’ma be alright, be just fine. There’s a special place in hell for you, you gon’ pay for what you did to me.”
‘It’s Me’ is understated and refreshing number that fuses trap-influenced sub-bass and smooth heavy drum work, as she sings about a lover who is acting very suspicious behind her back and creeping around with other women and stuff and tries to put her as if she is the one creeping around.“I don’t know what you’re doing or how you spend your time. I’ve been getting this feeling, that something just ain’t right and I hope that I’m wrong, I don’t wanna be right. You won’t do this to me, not me, not me.”
“Glow Up” sees Mary teaming up with the legendary artist Missy Elliott and DJ Khaled and Quavo, who came together to create this laid number that is about flexing on all of her ex and letting him know she will keeping shining, not letting this situation break her but letting her ex know that she will remain strong and remain to shine without him, he lost a the realest thing he ever had.: “How much did I warn you? I keep telling your ass what I’m gon’ do. You keep trying and trying my patience, now you’re lost and confused and you’re pacing, you wasting your time. Promise I made up my mind, just worry ’bout you, nigga, I’ma be fine. I’m good, save your I’m sorry’s, just keep it, nothing you say’s gonna stop me from leaving ’em out. Oh, you can do that dumb shit so well. Yeah, baby, they don’t call me the Queen for nothing.”
“U + Me (Love Lesson)” is a groovy mid-tempo number that was produced by Brandon Hodge, it finds her reflecting on her toxic relationship and committing to herself that she saw all the signs but remained in it because she loved him hard until she finally saw the light and packed her stuff and left: “Tell me what you’re thinking, ’cause this is what you wanted. Should’ve been the one to hold me when I got lonely.’Cause every time I think of the lies you told to me, make it easy for me to leave,”
This situation right here is so relatable on so many levels, we stay far too longer in bad relationship hoping it would change for the better but we need to remove ourselves from it and know that God has the right person for us, not someone who will mistreat and disrespect you but inspire you to be the best version of yourself and show you the richest kind of love.
“Gotta keep on pushing and love myself through the hard times, gotta keep my patience,still a long way to go now. There’s so much to learn. When we trust the love that’s deep in us, then love will return, boy this thing was, a love lesson.”
“Indestructible” is a very uplifting ballad that sees her sounding her most vulnerable as she talks about not letting past hurts/relationships hold you from living your life fully and embracing her scars to able to embrace real love when it comes your way, “I know he hurt you after swearing that he would change. You’re not the first to take him back again and again and you ain’t the first to cry, ain’t the first one asking why. So you can’t give up the fight, you never know when it’s your time. Think about how valuable you are, you are, you are. Don’t let what he put you through cause you to close your heart…”
She follows it up with another ballad simply called “Thank You” which is such a beautifully raw number that finds Mary baring her and soul as thanks her ex that treated her badly for showing her the truth that she is better off alone than staying in a relationship where she is giving 120% of herself to someone who was busy loving someone else and disrespecting her to make her feel less: “It’s funny how you think you know someone, until they pull the switch on you. You never ever think they do you wrong until one day they flip on ya. That’s the time you know they hurt you bad, because you know you let your guard down (did it all for you, yeah). Oh, Lord, you know you heard me, you were so unworthy and you know you didn’t deserve me. I was lost but now I’m found. So thank you for showing me who you really are, cause up ’til now, I wouldn’t believe you would go this far…”
Blige finds her strength on “Survivor” as she stands in her truth and knows that her painful situations throughout her life are blessings as are not meant to break her but build her further into a stronger individual and her music is therapeutic to her and her fans “Heart of a fighter, so no, you can’t break me. Lock me out if you wanna, already found the key. You can try but don’t be surprised ’cause I’m a survivor, no matter how low I go, I’m gonna rise up and I can’t take the credit or glory to my provider. And I’m burning so bright, you can’t put out my fire, so there ain’t nothing realer that can stop me, I’m a survivor.”
“Find the Love” is a soulful disco number that feels so out of place and would be more fitting on her “The London Sessions” album but the track on it`s own sounds so joyful and cheerful about finding love and embracing that moment “How beautiful are you and me? Living out our wildest dreams. We can be anything, we can have everything. Just keep the faith in what you believe, gotta live it up.”
“Smile” is another track that also sounds so out of place but proves to be a great collaboration between Mary and Prince Charlez as deliver some raw and heartfelt vocals as they sing about finding peace in some of the most painful moments in life and building themselves up and looking at the bright side of a storm: “If I tell the truth, I would say that I’ve been hurt many times before. So it’s hard for me to ever wanna give anybody, anybody else love, what’s bitter and broken until you, jumped inside my heart. I guess God needs you where you are, cause the pain I felt before, don’t exist anymore. You light up my dark, I been broken for a long time. Now I’m standing in the sunshine, It’s kinda crazy how you make me smile. Cause the winds in my life been blowing but you make me smile.”
She shifts the tempo once again with “Tell The Truth,” featuring Kaytranada who provides a chilled and vibrant electronic production which created a solid foundation for her to sing about her resilience in re-ordering her path as a person in the face of dealing with heartache “Now you miss you water, what you gonna do? Your well went dry. Was I the one you thought of? I know you see that pain behind these eyes, now I know you’re caught up. Yeah, I know you’re caught up, oh, baby, you’re not telling the truth. After all that I done for you, still tryna play me for a fool.”
The title track “Strength of a Woman” is a beautiful song leaves you feeling inspired, motivated and uplifted as she sings encouraging words about every women knowing their worth. “We’re the wisdom like a guiding light, we’re the trees left standing through the storms of life. We’ve come so high and we’ve come so far, can’t hold us back.” She closes the stunning album with “Hello Father” which is a fantastic and spiritual track that sees her praising God for all his blessing in her life even when she is in pain, God is always there for her to lean on and help her power through her struggles.
Overall the album is simply phenomenal and a great addition to her amazing catalogue of music, this album sees her at her rawest and most transparent as her pain leaks all over this album and hits you hard from the first minute you hear and she also inspires and uplifts the listeners because through all the pain you become stronger and wiser.
“Strength is not always in denying yourself, sometimes strength is in just letting go; strength is not always in tensing up.”-MJB
Best tracks:”Thick Of It”, “Set Me Free”, “Indestructible”, “Glow Up”, “Thank You” and “Strength of a Woman”