Mary J. Blige, Share My World

Peter S. Scholtes

By Peter S. Scholtes

on 10.20.11 in Reviews

Share My World

Mary J. Blige

The case could be made for every Mary J. Blige album after her first two as an atmosphere to be bathed in, essential — and probably too long — the primary variable being the quality and the number of “nobody loves you better” hits and “why do I love so hard in the first place?” deep cuts. Which is another way of saying this first record without Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs (on Uptown parent company MCA) doesn’t miss him; not because he had no influence but probably because he had so much, both on her and on contemporary R&B in general in 1997.

An improving singer comes out from under her cloud

So the Trackmasters executive-produce for elegant intimacy, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis keep it upscale-emo, and others smooth out Blige, but not by much. And there are more hits than ever, half of them slow jams for an improving singer now apparently out from under a cloud. “Missing You” sounds giddy with desire after Sunday morning mass. Malik Pendleton’s “Seven Days” is both complicated in a real-life way and pop-happy in how it lists off the days of the week. And the Rodney Jerkins-crafted title track is lushly harmonized full-band Valentines soul, rephrasing the melody of “Mary’s Joint” as if to say, I’m not that desperate girl anymore. Babyface’s masterpiece “Not Gon’ Cry,” a No. 2 pop and No. 1 R&B smash, must have contained some truth about that cloud: “While all the time that I was loving you, you were busy loving yourself,” Blige sings, maybe envying the latter ability.

The album sold 2.8 million in the U.S. — as well as My Life — and cracked the U.K. Top 40, while picking up another Grammy nomination for R&B album. If it was too slow to expand her appeal, that was the world’s loss, not R&B’s.