Mary J. Blige - Strength of a Woman (2017)

Mary J. Blige
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Mary J. Blige – Strength of a Woman

“If you can’t be the tablecloth, don’t be the dishrag.” “Hindsight is 20/20.” “Rotten wood can’t be carved.” When word spread that Mary J. Blige was filing for divorce after nearly thirteen years of marriage, any one of those truisms could have come to mind. We the public may never know all the reasons that pushed the former Mrs. Kendu Isaacs to that point, but what we always knew was this: Mary J. was Mary J. before Isaacs, and she remains Mary J today, which is why fans knew that triumph and testimony would assert themselves all up and through the contents of her latest CD, Strength of a Woman.

Mary J. Blige – Strength of a Woman

“If you can’t be the tablecloth, don’t be the dishrag.” “Hindsight is 20/20.” “Rotten wood can’t be carved.” When word spread that Mary J. Blige was filing for divorce after nearly thirteen years of marriage, any one of those truisms could have come to mind. We the public may never know all the reasons that pushed the former Mrs. Kendu Isaacs to that point, but what we always knew was this: Mary J. was Mary J. before Isaacs, and she remains Mary J today, which is why fans knew that triumph and testimony would assert themselves all up and through the contents of her latest CD, Strength of a Woman.

Throughout the set’s fifteen tracks, MJB is running the emotional gauntlet --there’s betrayal, heartbreak, fury and yes, even a healthy dose of petty when she reminds listeners, and her soon-to-be ex, that she’s rocking “Queen” title for a reason. If folks thought she bared her soul with that first single, “Thick of It,” their ears will catch afire when they hear Mary flay the man on the seething manifesto, “Set Me Free”;  “Tell me how you figure that you made me and you gave me what I had before I met you and gon’ have it you’re gone/And how you fix your mouth to say I owe you when you had another [expletive] and taking trips and [expletive] with my money for so long? You must have lost it…..” 

“Glow Up,” featuring Missy Elliott, Quavo and DJ Khaled, is all flex and fiyah, with Blige proclaiming to all that she’s a ‘dime’ and will continue to move on up as folks move out and away from the throne. Before any dirt gets brushed from her shoulders, however, fans get chapter and verse from the Book of Mary on self-esteem thanks to the invigorating “Love Yourself,” a track reminiscent of “Grown Woman” delivered in half singing and half chanting and enhanced by a blistering cameo from Kanye West; “I know it hurts, but I made it work/cuz’ I’m no beginner I’m a winner/paid my dues and I know my purpose.”

Is Strength only about gnashing of the teeth, broken windshields, tears in the bubbly and swearing off men forever? Nah. Mary is encouraging and empowered also, singing to the single ladies (and likely herself) with ‘keep-your-head-up’ mantras (“Indestructible,” ”Find The Love”), gratitude (“Survivor,” “Smile”) and showing her resilience in re-ordering her path as a person and performer. Some fans want Mary to stay wallowing in the madness and others want her to get the “holleration” popping off again in the “dancerie”…..both sets will find something appealing in the mix.

Mary J. Blige was once a woman who managed to churn out memorable hits while doubting her worth, squandering her value and sabotaging her own right to exist. She rose from the ashes but is no stranger to struggle either, so Kendu’s low blows will certainly test her, but not destroy her. Strength of a Woman, closer to Growing Pains than it is to The London Sessions, accomplishes what its cover demonstrates: keeping Mary centered, in the forefront and on the throne. Highly Recommended.

By Melody Charles

 
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