Strength is the key word for Mary J. Blige’s 13th album, Strength Of a Woman, on which the R&B powerhouse returns to showcase exactly what her strengths as an artist are.
Throughout these 14 soul baring tracks she is unflinchingly honest on the subject of heartbreak whilst showing a defiant refusal to play the victim. Besides the biographical lyrical content, Blige is first and foremost a singer, and her vocals are the main focal point across the album, thankfully mixed in a way to show off her natural talent, as time has not diminished her range or power.
While the production is decidedly slick and modern it doesn’t try to push Blige into any unnatural corners for the interest of relevance or radio play. One of the standout songs is Survivor, which finds Blige in a soulful slow jam mode over a moody minimal soundscape populated by a heavy beat, booming synth bass line and reverb drenched backwards guitars. It feels like something of a nod to the early 2000’s productions and tastefully allows her vocals the space they deserve to breathe and emote.
Elsewhere Blige embraces disco inflected house with Find The Love and the dance vibes provide a welcome shift from the confessional mode, while Telling The Truth, produced by Kaytranada and featuring BadBadNotGood is good, but due to the recognisable fingerprints of its producer, she comes off sounding like the guest.
This is a well put together modern soul album that represents Blige’s fortitude and plays to her strengths.
Originally published in Beat Magazine.