Mary J. Blige: No More Drama

Mary J. Blige: No More Drama

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Mary J. Blige

Album: No More Drama
Label: MCA

Since the release of her influential 1992 debut, What's The 411?, Mary J. Blige has evolved from a rough-edged homegirl whose public private life mirrored the drama-filled world of her music, into a seemingly content, emotionally healthy superstar. But the almost oppressive honesty of her singularly emotive voice has remained consistent. In the past, that voice has conveyed untold worlds of pain and anguish, but on Blige's fifth studio album, No More Drama, it's put to good use mining the foreign terrain of happiness, contentment, and other emotions seemingly antithetical to the soul singer's tragedy-filled milieu. Title aside, No More Drama isn't devoid of hardship. The bluntly titled "PMS," for example, is a thrillingly plainspoken piece of hormonal blues that's as overtly feminist in its own way as anything Ani DiFranco has done, while the dramatic title track builds on a cheeky sample of the theme from The Young And The Restless. Still, No More Drama's primary emotion is joy, not pain, though that joy is tinged with pathos, having come out of a long, hard battle against personal and professional demons. Working with past collaborators and a predictably high-powered lineup of super-producers, Blige sounds happier and more relaxed than ever, whether indulging in dance-floor escapism on the sultry, Dr. Dre-produced "Family Affair" or reveling in infatuation on the Missy Elliott-penned "Never Been." Boasting nearly as many producers as songs, No More Drama is clearly a group effort—the credits even list a "Team MJB"—but it's a testament to Blige's force of personality and the authenticity of her vision that the disc feels as personal and intimate as the most heartfelt four-track demo.