Mary J. Blige brought in some of the United Kingdom’s hottest writers and artists to record her upcoming album The London Sessions. This connects her with a long tradition of American musicians looking overseas for new ideas: back in the ’60s, for example, Jimi Hendrix left the States to find a band. He returned as a star. Blige’s forays across the Atlantic helped her create a saavy album, part tough ballads (her bread and butter), part vibrant dance tracks that reach back to ’90s house music and the U.K. garage of the early ’00s. Read on to see what Blige had to say about her collaborators — and vice versa.
“Jimmy has a lot of swagger and confidence but he’s humble at the same time,” says Blige in describing the songwriter, who was born James Napier and has worked with Sam Smith.
Smith broke through stateside — and invited comparisons to Adele — after appearing on Saturday Night Live this past spring. “He is brilliant — and as sweet as pie,” says Blige.
This article first appeared in the Nov. 29 issue of Billboard.