Our Top 10 Mary J Blige Songs list looks at an artist many regard as the Queen of Hip Hop Soul. Mary J. Blige was born Mary Jane Blige on January 11, 1971. Mary J Blige has had a long career preforming in the music business for 30 years. Mary J Blige started her career in 1991 when she signed with Uptown Records. She has sold more than 50 million albums in the U.S. and sold 80 million records worldwide. Mary J Blige has won numerous awards throughout her career.
In 1992, Mary J Blige released her debut album What’s the 411? She worked with executive producer Sean “P Diddy” Combs on this project. He was the executive producer on this album. The name of the album came from her days as a 4-1-1 operator. This album established her as a storyteller. She shared her experiences in life on this album. The album had an r&b, hip hop soul and new jack swing sound. It debuted at number one on the r&b charts. This album features the hit singles “You Remind Me,” “Real Love,” “Reminisce,” “Sweet Thing” and “Love No Limit.” The album sold over three million copies.
In 1993, Mary J Blige was dealing with a lot of personal issues when she recorded her second album My Life. The album was cathartic for her because she was dealing with depression and addiction. She was also in an abusive relationship with r&b singer K-Ci from the group Jodeci. The album was finally released in 1994. The album peaked at number one on the r&b charts. It sold over 481,000 copies in its first week. It stayed on top of the r&b charts for eight weeks. This was an accomplishment at the time this album was released. This album features the singles “Be Happy,” “I’m Goin’ Down,” “Mary Jane (All Night Long),” “You Bring Me Joy” and “I Love You.” The album sold more than three million copies.
In 1997, Mary J Blige signed with MCA Records after Uptown dismantled. She released her third album Share My World in 1997. She ended her working relationship with Sean “P Diddy” Combs. She replaced him with Trackmasters and Steve Stoute. This album was a healing process for her because she was trying to get her life together by overcoming drugs and alcohol. She also ended her relationship with K-Ci. She dealt with an incident where someone tried to kill her. This made her decide to change her style of music. She wanted to sing more upbeat and happy songs. This is her first album to reach the top of Billboard 200. This album features the singles “Love is All We Need,” “I Can Love You,” “Everything,” “Missing You” and “Seven Days.” The album sold more than three million copies.
Mary J Blige released her fourth album Mary in 1999. She changed her style of music again by singing more earthy and adult contemporary songs. The album debuted at number two on the charts. The album features the singles “As,” “All That I Can Say,” “Deep Inside,” “Give Me You” and “Your Child.” The album sold more than two million copies. She released her fifth album No More Drama in 2001. The songs on this album were about what was going on in her life. This is another album where she wanted to break free from her addictions. It features the number one song “Family Affair.” It also features the singles “Dance for Me,” “No More Drama” and “Rainy Dayz.” The album sold over six million copies.
Mary J Blige released her sixth album Love & Life on Geffen Records in 2003. She reunited with Sean “P Diddy” Combs on this album. This is a continuation of her album My Life. This album features the singles “Love @ 1st Sight,” “Ooh!,” “Not Today,” “Whenever I Say Your Name” and “It’s A Wrap.” This album sold over one million copies. She released her seventh album The Breakthrough in 2005. The album debuted at number one on the charts. She returned to the drama-themed music that made her famous. The album features the singles “MJB Da MVP,” Be Without You,” “Enough Cryin’,” “One” and “Take Me As I Am.” This album sold over three million copies.
In 2007, she released her eighth album Growing Pains. It sold 629,000 copies in its first week. It debuted at number two on the charts. It is one of the top 50 albums in 2007. She won a Grammy for this album. She talked about growing as an artist on this project. The album features the singles “Just Fine,” “Work That” and “Stay Down.” She released her ninth album Stronger With Each Tear on her own record label Matriarch Records. It was released in 2009. This album represented who she was at the time of the album’s release. It was about life, love, change and strength. It is about being confident about who you are. The album features the singles “The One,” “Stronger,” “I Am,” “Each Tear” and “We Got Hood Love.” This album debuted at number one on the r&b charts. It sold over 700,000 copies.
Mary J Blige released her tenth album My Life II: The Journey Continues Act 1 in 2011. This is the sequel to My Life. The album debuted at number five on the charts. She wanted this album to be similar to her debut album. This album features the singles “Someone to Love Me (Naked),” “25/8,” “Mr. Wrong,” “Why” and “Don’t Mind.” This album sold more than 760.000 copies. She released a Christmas album called A Mary Christmas in 2013. Producer David Foster produced the majority of the album. The album sold over 500,000 copies.
In 2014, she released her twelfth album The London Sessions. She moved to London and created a new sound. She worked with a lot of young British acts with this album. The album features the singles “Therapy,” “Right Now,” “Whole Damn Year” and “Doubt.” The album debuted at number one on the r&b charts. It sold more than 109,000 copies. She released her thirteenth album Strength of a Woman in 2017. This album features r&b and hip hop soul music. The album features the singles “Thick of It,” “You+Me (Love Lesson),” “Love Yourself” and “Set Me Free.”
Mary J. Blige has had a long career. There are many artists who tried to duplicate her style of music, but they were unsuccessful. A lot of acts came and went, but she managed to sustain a long career. She has had many hits throughout her 30-year career. She is not the best vocalist in the business, but her songs are infectious and relatable to the public. She sings with a lot of heart so it’s easy to overlook that she isn’t one of the best singers in the business. This Top 10 Mary J. Blige Songs list will focus on 10 of her hit songs.
# 10 –Family Affair
The first song on our Top 10 Mary J. Blige Songs list is the thumping jam “Family Affair” from the therapeutic album No More Drama. It is the lead single from this album. This is an upbeat dance song. This bumping song is about getting down on the dance floor. Here is some trivia about the song. Blige wasn’t originally intended to sing the song. Producer Dr. Dre was in a jam session with his musicians. The song was supposed to go to rapper Rakim. She heard the demo and wanted to write verses for it.
“Family Affair,” is one of the great Mary J. Blige songs with amazing has crossover appeal. The music is the star of the song. There’s no way to sit still while listening to this pumping track. She uses her gospel roots in the vocals. She sings with grit towards the end of the song. Her vocals are pretty decent until she tries to do runs. Her voice breaks a little when she tries to do the runs. The song should come with lyrics because she is hard to understand. The lyrics are misheard lyrics throughout the song.
# 9 – U + Me (Love Lessons)
The next song on our Top 10 Mary J. Blige Songs list is the break up ballad “U+ Me (Love Lessons)” from the cathartic Strength of a Woman. This sultry soul ballad is about the break up of her marriage. The music sounds sultry and romantic despite the theme. If you go by the music, it could easily be a love song. You have to pay attention to the lyrics to realize that it’s about a break up. Her vocals are pretty strong in this song. She sounds a little different at first. She sings a little higher at the start of the song and then goes into her alto range just before the chorus. She sounds soulful throughout the track. Her vocals are layered because she has a double throughout the song. She didn’t do any vocal runs or hold any notes, which was a good thing because the music didn’t call for it.
# 8 – No More Drama
This empowering single is from the healing No More Drama album. This is third single from the album. This anthemic soul ballad is about going through hard times and moving on from the pain. It samples “Nadia’s Theme” from the soap opera The Young And The Restless. It is befitting that she chose to use a soap opera theme for the music since it’s about drama. Only Mary J. Blige can find a way to incorporate a soap opera theme in her song and turn it into gold. She turns pain into an art form. She does a lot of vocalizing and it fits for the theme of the song. She is crying out that she wants her drama to end and we believe her. She is really passionate and immersed herself in the song. There were moments when her voice could have betrayed the intensity and cracked, but she had control over her vocals.
# 7 – You Remind Me
This contagious song is the lead single from the enormously popular What’s the 411? album. This catchy midtempo track has an r&b, hip hop soul and new jack swing sound. This song is about someone reminding her about the love she once she had. The music is a head nod and will have you moving around in your seat. She shows versatility by singing in an upper key. She also sounds as if she’s trying to take you to church. She takes advantage of her church roots when she belts in the song. Her vocals were pretty good and her voice didn’t crack when she started singing the ad libs. Her voice went up a little and could have cracked, but it didn’t. This song was the perfect way to introduce her to her future fans.
# 6 – Everything
This loving song is the third single from the upbeat album Share My World. This exceptional song contains a sample of “You Are Everything” by The Stylistics, “The Payback” by James Brown and “Sukiyaki” by Kyusakamoto. Blige is right in her element with this extraordinary song. She creatively incorporated three samples to make this gem. The music is complimentary to her voice. Producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis do a fantastic job of allowing her to be herself on the track. Jam and Lewis were known for their r&b/pop hits while Blige was a hip hop soul artist and the marriage was a homerun for the fans. They worked really well together. You can tell in her vocals that she sounds happy in the song. It was refreshing and a nice change of pace from her drama-filled songs.
# 5 – Be Without You
This superb song is the second single from the chart-topping album Breakthrough. This soulful ballad has a contemporary r&b and hip hop soul sound. This emotional song is about a couple deciding whether or not they want to be together. She wants people to appreciate what they have. This song is one of her most successful r&b songs and it’s easy to see why. This song is relatable for couples that aren’t sure whether or not they want to stay together. The introduction of the piano chords will hook the listener until the end. Blige’s vocals are emotionally charged. She even took a chance and held notes towards the fade out. She is not a balladeer so she took a risk trying this move, but it worked for her voice. She did a great job vocally.
# 4 – You Bring Me Joy
This pleasing song is the fourth single from the drama-filled album My Life. This song features a sample of Barry White’s “It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me.” The sample works for this midtempo song. It’s the perfect accompaniment for her voice. Blige wrote this song with the brother of her boyfriend at the time. This song has a hint of irony because she was going through everything but joy during the time of this song. The melody of the sample compliments the song and brings it home in the bridge. She sings in a lower key except for when she does her runs. Speaking of her runs, her voice did crack a little when she was trying to belt in the runs. Luckily it didn’t hurt the song even though it’s a little hard on the ear at first.
# 3 – I Can Love You ft. Lil’ Kim
The next song on our Top 10 Mary J. Blige Songs list is the incredible “I Can Love You” taken from the gorgeous album Share My World. This bumping song has a hip hop soul sound. This song is about loving a man better than another woman. This song can be interpreted in a couple of ways. She is the girlfriend in the song or she wants to be the girlfriend. This song is unique because there aren’t that many songs with this theme. This song has an uplifting beat and goes at a fast pace. Blige’s vocals are sultry and tight. Unfortunately, her voice does crack when she does runs. She does get credit for trying to show versatility. Lil’ Kim’s rhymes are definitely worth a listen. She raps in time with the music.
# 2 – Real Love
This joyful song is the second single from the classic What’s the 411? album. This cheery song has an r&b, hip hop soul and new jack swing sound. This magnificent jam is about her finding real love. This song is perfect for the club and will have you dancing until the end. The drums drive the beat. The song is a classic, but it remains timeless. The music doesn’t sound dated. Her vocals are soul meets hip hop. She vocalizes and holds notes throughout the song. She pours her heart out in the song and makes you believe that she wants to find her mister right. It’s hard to believe that this is one of her debut singles. She sounds like she has been singing for years.
# 1 – Not Gon’ Cry
The number one song on our Top 10 Mary J. Blige Songs list is the hugely anthemic “Not Gon’ Cry” from the female empowering Waiting to Exhale soundtrack and Blige’s Share My World album. This soulful ballad has an r&b sound. This song is about the break up of Bernadine’s marriage in the movie. This song isn’t just a single from the movie. It can be relatable to others in a similar relationship. In fact, writer Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds may as well have been in Mary J. Blige’s head when he wrote this song since she was going through a messy break up with her boyfriend K-Ci at the time. Mary J. Blige sings this song with soul and passion. Whitney Houston was the standout vocalist on the soundtrack, but Mary J. Blige had her chance to shine with this amazing song. She was able to hold her on against the fellow divas on the soundtrack. Babyface brought out the best in Mary J. Blige. This song is in her vocal range and there were no missteps throughout the track.
Feature Photo at top of page credit – Photo: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Rob Rubio., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons