11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2003
In the times when being a diva becomes more or less a caricature, Mary J. Blige proves with her 2003 album "Love & Life" that she is still up there at the top of contemporary r&b. On this, not less than a sixth regular album since the 1992 breakthrough debut "What's The 411", the songstress teams up again with Sean (P.Diddy) Combs, with who she collaborated on the 1994 release "My Life", still considered by many to be her best.
Times have changed but she still sounds fresh and groovy. "Love & Life" does not include such killer singles as the previous album's title track "No More Drama" or the stellar Dr. Dre-produced "Family Affair", but, for that matter, is more consistent. Starts with a unique, movie-like intro in which Mary is getting a call from P.Diddy, before Jay-Z gets his rap job done. Follows the first 'normal' track, "Don't Go", which pretty representatively sets the mood for the entire, 70-minute album.
The catchy first single "Love @ First Sight" with Method Man cleverly employs an eloquent bass line, before being replaced in loudspeakers by relaxed, summer-y feel of "Willing & Waiting". Mary's voice is again full of raw emotions, as on "When We" and "Friends", the album again offers great beats (Eve collaboration "Not Today" or "It's A Wrap"). "Ooh!" follows the footsteps of Aretha Franklin, pounding "Press On" is downright glorious, a cream of Blige, as is positively erotic "Feel Like Makin' Love". The record's end simmers down to ballad territory, in which the singer relishes, apparently drawing from her personal life.
With "Love & Life", Mary J. Blige easily outshined the other, currently more successfuly sold R&B female artists, who may produce great singles (Beyonce, Ashanti) but only uneven albums. Blige remains the real premiere urban diva of her generation and this recording will go down as one of her very best.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2003
Being a MJB fan since the beginning, I must say this effort is absolutely embarrassing. The music or should I say the beats and countless samples (thanks alot Puff) are elementary, there's no real instrumentation; everything sounds programmed, and the most shocking thing for me are the vocals which are horrid, ill-structured, and off key throughout the whole cd. I'm thankful I got a chance to preview it on AOL which saved me from wasting my hard earned cash. I checked it out from the library because the quality was not that great on AOL and it still has that nails scratching a chalk board effect on me. The only decent cut is the final track "Ultimate Relationship (AM)." Mary you got too much talent and heart for this type of material.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 2003
Mary's voice is a force of nature, and even when she's singing of joy and love, as she does on most of this album -- the tension in her voice always reveals the natural blues within. That said, the songs here are only ocassionally up to par with her artistry. The best track is the blistering ballad "Friends," and the old school call-and-response of "When We" and "It's A Wrap" are perfect hybrids of classic soul and hard-core hip-hop. The rest of the album is erratic, and saved only by Blige's torrid vocals. In a way, this album is as inconsistent as both versions of the album "No More Drama" -- classic songs burst out of runs of mediocrity. To this listener, Blige's "Mary" raised the bar for all contemporary singers, and is Blige's masterpiece. So in the tradition of Chaka, Aretha and Gladys, the singer is usually better than the song. When the two match, as it does a few times here, it's perfect soul.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2006
I don't know why this cd is the one of Mary J's that just seems to get ignored? I just bought it recently and I have to say it is very good. I was at a MJB concert recently and hardly any of the fans siting near me had even heard or bought this cd. Which surprised me as it went to #1! Its got dance songs, ballads, passionate songs a little bit of it all and I reccommend it to anyone who likes Mary but dont own it. Mostly everyone likes Whats THe 411 and I agree its a great cd but this cd is just about as good... of course my favorite is her new cd The Breakthrough...but this cd is very close to the same type sound....give it a shot!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2003
The Queen of Hip Hop Soul has proven her self to be a no-nonsense taking, ghetto yet pure diva throughout her incomprable career as today's leading lady of RnB. Blige is hands down the most consistent female entertainer in the industry today. Ever since her debut album Whats the 411 was released in 1992, she has been churning out albums that are straight through listens with an excellent & eclectic mix of RnB, rap, gospel & pop. Blige's latest effort, Love & Life is an album full of fantastic anthems that fans of grown used to.
The album's lead single "Love @ 1st Site", her first re-teaming with Method Man since "Your All I Need" hit #1 in early 1995. The duo is a guaranteed success as 'Love' proves to be another smash in Blige's song book. Other sure fire hits include "Let me Be the 1" with 50 Cent, the breath taking "Friends", "Ohhh", "Willing & Waiting" and hands down the album's best track, the Dr. Dre produced "Not Today" featuring Eve.
In fact the only misfires on the disc are the spoken word interludes, such as "Free", "Finally Made it" & "Message in Our Music". The album's 'Intro" however is actually worth a listen to hear Jay-Z spit a hot, nearly 2 minute verse. Reuniting with Sean 'P. Diddy' Combs clearly fits Blige well as the album is a ode to old school hip hop soul, that Combs helped Blige carve out in 1992 with Whats the 411 & in 1994 with her classic sophomore effort My Life.
Blige is a true diva. Her life performances have so much emotion and feeling, her songs are so deep and personal, and her attitude is a perfect mixture of both good and bad. Mary is a phenominal artist who is guaranteed to leave listeners happy every time she comes out with an album. Do not sleep on this, its a smash.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2003
Mary J. Blige - Love & Life (Geffen, 2003)
Have you ever started dating your high school sweetheart again after being apart years and years after graduation? Then you find that some of things you liked about him/her are still there but it's still not the same because you've moved on? Well, similar to that scenario is Mary J. Blige working with Sean "Puffy" Combs again. But forget these metaphorical questions--you wanna know if Mary's new album will make you wanna dance, right?
Well, since Sean Combs produces most of the album, the answer is YES. But a lot can happen in the nine years since they worked together (Mary bounced because Puffy was too busy with his new Bad Boy label). Puffy changed his name to "P. Diddy", and if that is any indication, then you know that things done changed.
The album starts off with an answering machine/phone call convo between Mary and Diddy. That alone brings back great My Life memories, but unfortunately, recreating that magic can be a double-edged sword. Diddy goes back to his trademark digging in the crates and pulls out samples that we haven't heard since the mid-'90s (see "Ooh!" and "Love @ 1st Sight"). The result will sometimes take you back to the good ol' days like on "When We" (actually, the beat is better than the vocals; more on that later). Other times, it'll drag you back there like on "Don't Go" (don't confuse it with her 1994 tune of the same name): with its ancient drum beat, it'll make you say, "Step your game up, Diddy." Thus, Love & Life's production walks a fine line between classic and dated.
Now Mary's voice is another story. She can still sing the heck out of a track but sometimes she gets so out of control that she gets off-key like on "Don't Go" and "When We". It's better when she calms herself down on midtempo tracks like "Willing & Waiting" (contains samples from Atlantic Starr's "When Love Calls") and "All My Love" (contains a sample last heard on Grand Puba's "I Like It"). Even better than those are the slow songs "Friends", "Special Part of Me", "Feel Like Makin Love" and "Ultimate Relationship". Slow songs have always been Mary's bread-n-butter, not that hip-hop soul stuff.
As you can tell, it was hard for me to rate this album. I was ready to give it three stars for lack of originality, especially when I heard the "Message in Our Music" interlude (I mean, how many times can you sample "Summer Madness"??). But there are many dope moments like the Dr. Dre-produced "Not Today" which warrants a 4-star rating. Yet I had to trim it down to a 3 1/2-star rating due to the fact that Mary's voice is starting to weaken and she sounds too old to be singing over some of these What's the 411-esque songs. Especailly since she's matured with songs like "7 Days", "The Love I Never Had", and "He Think I Don't Know".
Still, you can see why Mary is crowned the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. The hip-hop is covered with cameos by, among others, Jay-Z (a dope freestyle on the "Love & Life" intro) and 50 Cent (a painfully watered-down verse on "Let Me Be The 1"; he never sounds comfortable rapping on R&B records). And the soul is also covered with a little more highs than lows. This album isn't a classic like What's the 411? and My Life, or as memorable as Share My World and Mary, but it's a lot better than No More Drama. When you hear the name Mary J. Blige, expect good things, and this album still proves that. -EJR
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2003
As any fan of urban music knows, the genre of contemporary R&B music is an ever-changing landscape of artists, who achieve unparalleled success and enjoy tremendous popularity one year and then struggle to find an audience the next. One of the exceptions to this rule is the proclaimed "Queen of Hip Hop Soul", Mrs. Mary J. Blige.
For over a decade now Blige has attained icon-like status in not only urban music but popular music, as well. When Blige dropped her debut album What's the 411? back in 1992 fans were floored by the sound of her distinctive and soulful voice over innovative, edgy hip hop beats provided by then little known producer Sean "Puffy" Combs. Along with Combs, Blige was able to push the hybrid category of hip-hop soul into the forefront of contemporary R&B music.
Following the release of her second proper album the critically acclaimed, My Life, in 1994, Blige and Combs went their separate ways, and while Blige continued to have success she faded out her hip hop roots. Thus with Blige's sixth studio album Love & Life Combs is back to "Take it back to the gutter" as he puts it.
With Combs back at the helm as executive producer and overseeing 17 of the 18 tracks on the album, Love & Life defiantly has a more cohesive feel reminiscent of the production on Blige's first two albums. The album intro which features rapper Jay-Z, finds Blige setting the tone for the album singing "Live your life cause life is love/Always thank the man above/The more you give the more you get."
The next track the soulful ballad "Don't Go" places a tough drumbeat over an eloquent, lush sample while Blige provides the pleading lyric, "Sometimes I'll say things to hurt you, but I apologize/You know no love is so perfect /So you should realize/Don't go baby/Baby don't you go/Don't go baby/I still love you so." This song has all of the elements of another classic Blige ballad but this only one of the many highlights of Love & Life.
The momentum picks up with the club bangers, "Ooh!" and "Love @ 1st Sight" featuring Method Man and the collaboration with 50 Cent on "Let Me Be The 1". There is also an old school 80's R&B feel on the bouncy, feel good love song "Willing and Waiting."
Of course Blige hasn't abandoned tackling the serious issues too. As in the past Blige finds a way to put the unfaithful men in their place, with the Dr. Dre produced "Not Today" featuring Eve and the self-explanatory "It's A Wrap". Blige also deals with her own demons on the emotional and powerful "Friends" and the pressure of everyday life on "Press On". Blige's lyrics on the latter song forces the listener to feel her pain, as she sings, "I've got troubles within/Troubles without/Can't get it through/But trying to figure it out/Trying to stay right when the world is wrong/But I got to keep moving and press on."
The album finishes out with the emotional, quiet storm-like ballad "Special Part Of Me" and is followed by the lovely, spiritual closer entitled "Ultimate Relationship (A.M)"
At this stage in her career Blige is capable of doing no wrong. She is so versatile, capable of making feel good party tracks along with emotional message songs and ballads. Credit Combs too, although he still samples from many old songs, he is crafty enough to make the music on Love & Life sound original and fresh. Combs' influence along with Blige's maturation and overall greatness make Love & Life arguably Blige's best album to date and re-establishes Blige's title as the "Queen of Hip Hop Soul."
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2003
I know that Mary J. Blige is a talented singer.I know she puts out great albums.This one sounds if she's slightly coasting.Considering your current choices,this is pretty good.In a nutshell,It's better than "No More Drama" but not better than "Mary".
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2003
The Queen of Hip-Hop/Soul is back with her sixth studio album, Love & Life. Using her "back in the day" formula, Mary teamed with P. Diddy for most of the writing and production on the album. Another reunion was with rapper Method Man, who appears on the pumping first single "Love @ 1st Sight." Mary's current single "Ooh!" has been heating up on radio and has been a fast pace on the charts. The track "Not Today," which features Eve, is a male-bashing tune targeting all the men who've wasted their time, it also the most likely third single. "Not Today" was produced by Dr. Dre, he who also helped Mary obtain her first #1 Single with "Family Affair" from her album No More Drama (2001). Other special guests include fellow rappers Jay-Z and 50 Cent. Wondering why there are only Hip-Hop artists appearing on Mary's record?, maybe because there aren't too many R&B artist who could match up to Mary, she would most likely out do them. On one of my most favorites tracks, "Feel Like Makin' Love," Mary sings soothingly, harmonizing with the background instruments. Debuting at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 Album Chart, Love & Life sold 316, 000 copies in it's first week. As of now the album has been certified gold and is on its way to platinum.
Hot Tracks: "Not Today" featuring Eve, "Feel Like Makin' Love," "Don't Go
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2003
I was hesitant to get the "Love and Life" album, by Mary J. Blige, because I didn't really feel the first single "Love @ 1st Sight", and I wasn't to impressed by her working with Puffy, thinkin that he'd pop up all over her album with little appearances here and there. Add to that, I wasn't too big about her (Insert Song Title Here feat. Insert Rapper Name here) tracks.
But thank goodness, I picked this CD up. Her CD is pure fire. It's starts out with a bangin' intro with Jay-Z rappin over some tight string beats. Then it goes into one of my favorite songs on the album, "Don't Go". This song is just pure Mary. It has this flavor that makes you wanna just sing right along with her. The following couple tracks are pretty good also, "When We" and "Not Today" with Eve gettin' back at some dude...and then she hits us with the first of three hot interludes. "Finally Made It" has a very inspirational message with it, without beign overly sappy or way too preachy. "Ooh!" and "Let Me Be The 1" follow, with the rapper of the moment 50 Cent. But I actually heard it all the way through and I liked it...then comes "Love @ 1st Sight", the 1st single. I actually love it this time around, its different from the version you hear on the radio, it comes with a intro almost, and it sounds better on the CD. I wasn't too impressed by "Willing and Waiting", but it was a hot song nevertheless. "Free" came next, and its sort of an anthem for Mary. I loved her voice on this track specifically. Next came my three favorite songs, "Friends", "Press On", and "Feel Like Makin Love". I'm glad they are set up back-to-back so I dont have to skip through. These tracks are just fire, from the words to the rhythm to the production. 'It's A Wrap' follows, bringin' another "been cheated on" women's anthem...I guess there's always gonna be a woman in need of a 'man done me wrong' anthem...lol. "Message In Our Music" is the last of the three interludes, and it is as hot as some of the full length songs on the album. "All My Love" follows, and it brings the album full circle, in the theme of "Love and Life", when she sings, "I'm gonna give you all of my love..." the listener can actually feel the love she pours into her music. "Special Part Of Me" is a love letter to her man, and its awesome. She sings her heart out to this man, and it is a beautiful quiet storm jam with excellent results. The album is brought to a conclusion with "Ultimate Relationship", and the opening guitars remind me of Tamia's song, "Officially Missing You", I love the words on the song here though, "It's about the words you say to me in the a.m., it's about the way you hold me in the a.m., somethin bout a sweet rondevouz in the a.m., God I like spending time with you in the a.m...." That's as intimate as this album gets...and thats a beautiful thing.