Ever since breaking through with her landmark 1992 album What’s the 411?, and hit single “Real Love,” Mary J. Blige has established herself as an enduring artist for more than two decades. The strength of her debut inspired Uptown Records head Andre Harrell to dub her “The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul” and the title stuck. That said, her musical range is actually a bit more diverse, and with Blige lending her voice to disco-inspired dance tracks, neo-soul numbers, and even an album of Christmas standards, the fact remains that she's an icon in every sense of the word. 20 years worth of platinum albums and a mantle full of Grammys prove it.
Aside from consistently working with the best songwriters and producers, much of Blige’s career longevity lies in her ability to convey the emotional pain in her life through her music. Whether she’s drawing on her hard upbringing, romantic turbulence, or her struggles with addiction, much of Blige’s work hinges on a remarkable resilience and an inspiring struggle for inner peace in the face of adversity.
Now that the singer is starting another chapter in her life with her newfound sobriety, it makes sense that she’d kick it off with a new album. On The London Sessions, Blige teams up with the likes of Sam Smith and Disclosure, resulting in a fresh and vital collection of songs. Plus, only an artist of Blige’s magnitude could hop across the pond on a whim and end up with a finished record a month later.
Before we delve into her exciting new album, let’s take a look back at all the times Mary J. Blige has won our hearts by singing about the heartbreak and pain we’ve all endured and the optimism that ultimately gets us through it all.