After a lengthy break on the bench, ‘TGJ Replay’ is back!
Designed much like our ‘Retro Rewind’ and ‘From the Vault’ segments, ‘Replay’ is That Grape Juice‘s newest retrospective segment – a written quest to re-spin the gems and jams of yesterday.
Unlike its ‘Rewind’ and ‘Vault’ predecessors, ‘Replay’ looks to dust off and showcase entire albums (and eras) from a library of Pop and Urban Pop music hits. Today, in honor of her birthday (January 11), we fast backward to the quintessential entry in Queen of Hip Hop Soul Mary J. Blige‘s prized discography – her sophomore album ‘My Life.’
Meet us on the other side:
The triple platinum success of Mary J. Blige‘s 1992 debut album, ‘What’s the 411?’ (click here to read its TGJ Replay), not only put the young songstress on the map but also increased anticipation and performance expectations of its follow-up.
To answer the challenge, Blige – under the direction of ‘411’s executive producer Sean “Puffy” Combs – reportedly assembled the same team of writers and producers who took her inaugural efforts to its critical and commercial heights. But, when that team demanded higher compensation for their contributions, Combs sought a new artistic collective who could best reflect the messages the singer was looking to convey at that point in her career. The notoriety that came with (seemingly) overnight stardom drove Blige into a deep depression that was further fueled by drug and alcohol abuse as well as a rocky relationship with K-Ci Hailey of the R&B chart-topping group, Jodeci. Those challenges became the focal point for the content found aboard what would be her sophomore album.
With the new team in tow, 1994’s ‘My Life’ was crafted. Released on November 29, 1994, the album spawned six singles:
Hot 100 Chart Peak: #29
‘I’m Goin’ Down’
Hot 100 Chart Peak: #22
‘Mary Jane (All Night Long)’
Hot 100 Chart Peak: N/A
‘You Bring Me Joy’
Hot 100 Chart Peak: #57
‘I Love You’
Hot 100 Chart Peak: #57 (B-side to ‘You Bring Me Joy’)
Hot 100 Chart Peak: N/A
When the dust settled, ‘Life’ was scribbled in history books as one of the greatest R&B albums in history. Lauded for the then 23-year-old’s ability to emote a pain and wisdom many would assume was far beyond her years, the heavy subject matter that lined the tracks of the album – aligned with its Hip Hop-influenced samples of some of the genre’s top hits of preceding years – resonated with music lovers twofold. The masterful marriage of Hip Hop and Soul found aboard ‘Life’ would certify and cement Blige’s titling as the reigning monarch of the newfound genre.
As it relates to sales and chart performance, the project may not have spawned any top 10 singles on the Hot 100 like its predecessor, but – like ‘411’ – it enjoyed a top 10 debut on the Billboard 200. Going on to peak at #7 on that chart, ‘Life’ would eventually meet a commercial summit of 3x platinum in the U.S. (also like ‘411’). Yet, while its sustenance on the Billboard charts of 1994 and 1995 was commendable, its inclusion on other tallies is what makes this enduring classic so noteworthy. Featured in Rolling Stone, TIME magazine, VIBE, and Entertainment Weekly’s respective ‘Greatest Albums Ever’ lists, ‘My Life’s crowning glory comes from the critical acclaim it was, and continues to be, imparted.
While we get ready to bump our jam, ‘I’m Going Down,’ from this modern classic, look below and tell us: