Mary J. Blige has made a phenomenal mark in the music industry since her debut in 1992. She has a lot to say about success, confidence, and above all, romance on her new fifteenth album Good Morning Gorgeous. Released just two days ahead of her monumental Super Bowl performance, and three days ahead of Valentine’s Day, the album’s release is the perfect time to appreciate all of the soulful, powerhouse artistry she has to offer.
So, to provide the best picture of Blige’s repertoire of lessons in love and heartbreak, I’ve divided this album up into three categories: the crestfallen, the lovers, and the self-assured.
Taking up the bulk of the spotlight on this album are the crestfallen tracks. Fit for those who may have spent this Valentine’s Day in the company of just themselves. Unlike the self-assured tracks however, they aren’t very happy about it. Downtrodden on the R&B ballad “Love Will Never,” Blige insists that the damage dealt from her last relationship will forever effect her future endeavors. The velvety synth pattern juxtaposes the harsh verses: “Don’t deny the part when you lied and I cried.”
Being taken for granted seems to be a common theme on this project, as so bluntly put in “Rent Money” featuring Harlem rapper, Dave East. Her tone is delicate as she details the bitter end to an unbalanced relationship (“I ain’t got nothing left / I’m in over my head”), with a largely staccato delivery. By contrast, East’s voice is raspy with a cadence flowing like water on top of the breezy, lo-fi percussion. The words seem to lazily roll off Blige’s tongue in the soulful record “Enough.” Perfectly matching the exasperation felt through the candid lyrics: “All the signs I ain’t been readin’ / The seven to five years of cheatin’.”
In alignment with the resentment some may feel toward love, tracks like “Love Without Heartbreak” can offer a sense of comfort. Its glissando synths are an enchanting addition to the bass-driven sentiments: “I’m so goddamn sick of the pain / Wastin’ all my time playin’ so many games.” The verses breathe a sigh of relief as she lists the easy parts of love, while reaching her breaking point in the tense chorus.
These tracks are alluring, warm, and bask in the blessings of romance. Anderson .Paak lends his unique style on “Here With Me,” a smooth R&B tune with a bit of funk. At only 2 minutes and 19 seconds, it ends far too early! Their harmonies blend beautifully as they sing about their idealized form of love over a groovy melody. They even claim their love is “Bumper to bumper like LA in traffic,” a phenomenon that usually has a negative connotation, cleverly turned into a lighthearted play on words.
Even more fun to sway to is “Come See About Me,” a feel-good track sung with grit. Guided by a moody guitar and a graceful piano progression, it’s the most sensual song on the album right beside “Need Love” with Usher. The album comes to a close with his angelic vocals, and the reverb on their harmonies feels like floating. Soft and rhythmic, this song is about making a lasting impression on someone, but as opposed to “Love Will Never,” this time her efforts are made worthwhile!
These are the self-confident tracks, all about the work it takes to love yourself and the liberation that comes from doing so. The introductory song, “No Idea” is hard-hitting from start to finish: “Been doing shows since high school / To the mall, then record in the mic booth.” Blige briefly narrates her upbringing, grateful to be in a better place than she once was. She also emphasizes how staying honest and humble has been integral to her success, a message further explored in “Amazing” featuring DJ Khaled. But despite the inspired lyrics and Khaled’s hype-man energy, it feels lackluster in comparison to the bolder celebratory anthem, “On Top” with Fivio Foreign. This particular song stands out among the rest. It impresses with a New York drill beat (fitting for the Bronx native), and holds a level of fiery determination that is quite unexpected. Fivio’s verse (“She want a demon and I was selected”) holds a lot of power amplified by the vigor in his voice.
But the most significant track pertaining not only to this category, but to the album as a whole is “Good Morning Gorgeous.” Combined with the mellow interlude preceding it, listeners come to understand Blige’s motivation behind the album’s title: “Like, when I was going through all this bad shit in my life / I started waking up and saying, “good morning, gorgeous.” Through rich falsetto notes and smoky electric guitars, she preaches the importance of being connected to oneself “mentally, spiritually, [and] physically.”
Listeners are in for a good time with thirteen R&B tracks, hearty vocals filled with color, and hip-hop influences sprinkled throughout. Blige is a seasoned musician with a diverse set of accomplishments under her belt, and as of the release of Good Morning Gorgeous — a new project to be proud of.