Monday, October 27, 2014

Mary J. Blige-What's The 411? (1992)


One of the hottest female superstars in the world of r&b coming to pay a visit to "The Music Spectrum"—that's the 411! My extended 'M' series seemed it would not have been complete without featuring the amazing Mary J. Blige, who became household name in the 90's when she broke out with this memorable debut album! I was in seventh grade when I first got introduced to Mary J., thanks to a talent show that was being held in my middle school's gymnasium. Just like ex-SHALAMAR songstress Jody Watley was 'looking for a new love' back in 1987, Mary J. was searching for a real one back in 1992 on "Real Love". It was this hit that was used by a couple of classmates in my class for an acrobatic hip-hop performance in that talent show; the same hit today remains as my #1 Mary J. favorite. The instant I hear the familiar beat and that keyboard arrangement, childhood memories come rushing up and the 90's r&b music lover in me is ready to snap my fingers and groove to the music! 'Someone to set me heart free, real love.....' The reminiscing, however, starts a little earlier than that whenever I hear another memorable favorite: "Reminisce". This may've been the second song of Mary J.'s that I heard following "Real Love". I've always liked the way she shows off the versatility in her voice when she sings acapella in the opening moments, then gets high and lofty when she repeats 'reminisce' while the backup ladies sing the lyrics to the main chorus. A third favorite I can reminisce about all day long isn't even a Mary J. original: "Sweet Thing". Everyone up on the popular music scene knows that the great r&b/soul queen Chaka Khan delivered that golden classic back in the 70's. But you know what? Mary J.'s remake, which I've treated myself to at least a half-dozen times since I've been going back through my 'M' collection, is just as golden, and it was actually her version of it that I'd heard long before I even knew of Chaka Khan's original! Though I must say that I like it better when Chaka's voice soars on and on when she sings the word 'crazy' on the line 'hold me now or I'll go crazy'. Then on the other side of that coin, I like it better when Mary J. delivers the line 'don't you know you're my everything'. Either way, "Sweet Thing" is a sweet listen, and if that one didn't prove that she had what it takes to become a bonafide r&b superstar, then the slow jam three songs after that surely did: "Slow Down". Just like THE POINTER SISTERS wanted a man with a 'slow hand' back in 1981, Mary J. wanted her man to slow it down with the love-making. 'What's the 411?' isn't the only thing she's asking here on her debut. 'What'cha gonna do without my love?'—seeking some answers from the man who played her as a fool on the album's tenth track, a great uptempo jam that's so easy to get into with the repeating of that interrogative over and over. Then a jam I'd forgotten all about but still sounds great to the ears: "You Remind Me". And the music on this album reminds me why I miss 90's r&b music so much! So what's the real 411? Vintage Mary J. still sounds as great as contemporary Mary J., and that's the message I'm leaving for you:

1. Leave A Message
2. Reminisce
3. Real Love
4. You Remind Me
5. Intro Talk
6. Sweet Thing
7. Love No Limit
8. I Don't Want To Do Anything
9. Slow Down
10. My Love
11. Changes I've Been Through
12. What's The 411?

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