Seventeen years after baring her tortured soul in one of her best works to date (“My Life”), Mary J. Blige has returned with the highly-anticipated sequel, “My Life II… The Journey Continues (Act 1).”
“It’s not a competitor. It’s a sequel. In a extension of how far we’ve come,” Mary J. Blige tells Diddy of her tenth studio album on the album’s own introduction. “Not saying that pain doesn’t exist no more in our life, but now we understand how to navigate.”
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As deep from the pit of her heart as in “My Life,” Mary J. Blige sings of the highs and lows of the new state of love and life the singer is in, healthier but still intertwined with harsh reality and heartbreak. With the blessing from her longtime friend, mentor and collaborator, Diddy — yet no collaboration with him on the album itself — MJB recruits close VIP friends ( Nas, Beyoncé, Busta Rhymes and more) to pen the blueprint to the second phase of her journey.
How does Mary J. Blige’s sequel stand up to the original, “My Life”? Here’s our Twitter-length track-by-track review of “My Life II… The Journey Continues (Act 1).”
1. Intro: Diddy, longtime friend and collaborator on “My Life 1,” picks up MJB’s call to ultimately reassure her it’s time for a sequel.
2. Feel Inside feat. Nas: Two of New York’s finest fight for love, for one more chance to make it better over a Wu-Tang classic, “Triumph.” Better than leaked version?
3. Midnight Drive Feat. Brook Lynn: MJB unleashes her rap moniker, Brook Lynn, in the Rico Love joint only to join her for a late night ride to some lovin’.
4. Next Level Feat. Busta Rhymes: MJB ditches the hot spot for her mans spot on the Danjahandz produced track. The feel good track features the new YMCMB signee, Busta Rhymes!
5. Ain’t Nobody: MJB takes it to the dance floor with a Rodney Jerkins’ rendition of Rufus & Chaka Khan’s ’83 signature song, “Ain’t Nobody.”
6. 25/8: Passion reminiscent of her former work can be heard in Mary’s highest pitch. MJB slows down and samples the late Heavy D classic, “Now That We Found Love.”
7. Don’t Mind: Mary’s never been, nor will be, fearful of standing up for her love. Case and point: mid-tempo Priscella Renea co-written, “Don’t Mind.”
8. No Condition: “Now I am in no condition to love you, no more,” MJB, with help from Kevin Cossum, sings. Mary, honest to her heart break, waves her white flag on the emotional ballad.
9. Mr. Wrong feat. Drake: With Jim Jonsin on the keys and penmanship by Rico Love (and sound a bit like “Motivation”), MJB brings out the Mr. Wrong out of Drake.
10. Why feat. Rick Ross: Safe to say MJB loves her rappers at the jump of a song. The boss lays down his authority while MJB try to figure out where the sour taste from her relationship is started.
11. Love a Woman feat. Beyoncé: Two R&B/Soul divas go pipes vs. pipes when schooling men on just how good to love a woman.
12. Empty Prayers: You’ll find MJB at her most vulnerable in the Tricky Stewart-produced ballad in which the singer pleads with a lost love.
13. Need Someone: Mary strips down Matt Morris’ “Someone to Love You” with heavy orchestration and velvety vocals.
14. Living Proof: MJB seals the second phase of her journey with the heartfelt theme song from the film, “The Help.”