Happy Birthday to My Life, Mary J. Bliges sophomore LP, originally released November 29, 1994.
When songstress extraordinaire Mary J. Blige releases her new album The London Sessions next week, it will be the twelfth studio album she has unveiled in her 22-year recording career. Twelve albums in 22 years. While some may casually dub her a diva, Id say the lazy label sells her way short. Blige is a workhorse, an artist who has always been fiercely devoted to her craft, brimming with grit, integrity, and of course, soul.
And nowhere is this more evident than on My Life, the album that followed her equally stunning debut Whats the 411? and cemented hers as a voice to be reckoned with. And while its predecessor inspired the much-deserved Queen of Hip-Hop Soul moniker applied to Blige, it was My Life that found her embracing the confidence, maturity and sophistication truly worthy of the royal designation.
Unlike her debut, Blige co-wrote all but one of the original songs on My Life, infusing them with a confessional sincerity and vulnerability that few artists are fearless enough to share so broadly with the world. And co-producers Chucky Thompson and Sean Puffy Combs were both in top form, integrating an ear-tickling selection of samples from the likes of soul heavyweights Barry White, Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, Al Green, Roy Ayers, and Mary Jane Girls, among others. The album is sample-heavy, for sure, but it never feels like a complacent recycling of familiar hits. Instead, the samples selected here complement the signature passion and power of Bliges voice and lyrics, ultimately making for a thoroughly gratifying listen.