Mary J. Blige reinvents herself with 'The London Sessions'

The singing veteran debuts a new sound inspired by the London scene


Album: The London Sessions

Artist: Mary J. Blige

Label: Capitol

Release Date: Dec. 2

Grade: A

After 25 years in the music industry, Mary J. Blige has solidified herself as a queen of R&B and soul.

But with her 13th album The London Sessions, Blige steered away from her traditional R&B to explore her full vocal range, deriving from UK garage, ’90s house, soul and jazz.

For a month Blige moved to London. She engrossed herself in the foreign culture with her American executive producer, Darkchild, to make vibrant, fresh tracks with young British acts: Naughty Boy, Disclosure, Sam Smith and Emeli Sandé.

The London Sessions kicks off with “Therapy” a track written by singer-songwriter Sam Smith. The song features a smooth church-inspired doo-wop and light bass, emphasized by Blige’s powerful vocals.

“Why would I spend the rest of this year alone / When I can go therapy?” Blige questions, while she harmonizes with Smith’s back-up vocals.

The song is highlighted with thumping drums and a faint organ, and it will cause you to stomp to the beat and clap voraciously to the mesmerizing soulful vibe.

The London Sessions takes a turn and heats up with “My Loving,” an upbeat dance anthem, a sound that’s never been heard from Mary J. Blige before. Yet it feels natural, as if she built her career making this type of music.

The singer’s exhilarated vocals are complimented with light piano that explodes into entrancing synths and hypnotizing hi-hats.

“’Cause nothing brings the fire / And nothing gets you higher / Ain’t nothing good as my loving,” the songstress croons over a track powered through heavy production.

The British team made of producer Naughty Boy and singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé provide Blige with an up-tempo melodic dance track in “Pick Me Up.”

The sound starts with an enchanting clarinet igniting Blige’s exuberant vocals complimented with smooth piano chords giving the song a celebratory vibe.

“Pick me up, pilot / Fly me straight to the island / Soon the sun gon’ be shining on me.” Blige sings about escaping hard situations to have good times, her infectious vocals and the enthralling retro sound pushes the listener in a trance.

“Follow” is another bright spot on The London Sessions partially due to the upcoming British production duo Disclosure and the emergence of Mary J. Blige vocal experimentation.

“I write the rules, for shame on you / You won't forget it,” Blige sings about making her own music – and she hammers home her point with a new musical style.

The sound is compelling with house inspired hi-hats, celestial synths and booming drums with faint tambourine ringing in the background.

Disclosure gives Blige an intriguing, exquisite fast paced sound filled with soulful beats that highlight her intriguing vocals and adlibs.

The London Sessions is an inspired effort for a veteran’s album. Blige delivers an album that’s authentic powered by her famously known husky voice, which compliments The London Sessions diverse but cohesive sound.

While it’s easy to follow the trends of what’s popular in mainstream R&B music, Blige manages to evolve and forges her own path with the city of London and a new generation of musicians assisting her.