So, Mary J. Blige has her Christmas album out, titled ‘A Mary Christmas,’ featuring 12 Christmas songs. I had no expectations when it came to this album.
So, Mary J. Blige has her Christmas album out, titled ‘A Mary Christmas,’ featuring 12 Christmas songs. I had no expectations when it came to this album. I honestly was slightly dubious of it, because I’m so used to Mary’s heart wrenching approach to her music, a trend which she has shared in all her previous albums.
An album of growth
When Mrs Blige sings, visuals quickly form in one’s mind as she pours her heart into the performance. The hurt, pain, betrayal or love that she is conveying is definitely felt, which is why she is so adored and loved as an artist. However, Christmas carols are known to be more cheerful than her usual forte, so it was difficult for me to digest how Mary would marinate and become one with these classic songs.
Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Mary’s interpretation of these Christmas carols, sung with gentleness and softness when needed on tracks such as Do you Hear What I Hear, a duet with pop star Jessie J, and When You Wish Upon a Star, another collaboration, sang with the legendary singer Barbra Streisand, accompanied by trumpeter Chris Botti.
But, regardless of outside help, she held her own in the solo performances with songs such as, Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, which continued in that serene setting that she was creating for us the listeners to become lost in.
A tremendous amount of growth, in my opinion, was shown throughout this album including displays of how versatile Blige can be as a performer. She flipped the script on those of us who may have expected a Christmas album with powerful vocals from the beginning to the end, but instead we were shown a gentler side to her voice.
Examples of her versatility are highlighted in her rendition of Petit Papa Noel which she sings completely in French, causing me to doubt my initial view of this release as I listened closely to her delightful delivery and rendition of this song.
Uncertain no longer
Mary’s versions of the songs Drummer Boy and My Favourite Things were very sweet, while her renditions of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and This Christmas were soulfully delivered.
Her choice to duet the song The First Noel with the famous American Gospel group The Clarke Sisters was just another A+ decision that Mary made, as their soulful Jazz-tinged harmonies bought life and excitement to this traditional number, working hand in hand with the vocal depth that Mary so easily delivers.
The album also has its upbeat and riveting moments as Mary sings songs such as Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer accompanied by Jazz beats and well put together orchestra arrangements provided by David Foster and William Ross, as Mary scats throughout the musical break.
Mary ends the album with the track Noche De Paz/Silent Night with singer Marc Anthony, sung beautifully in both English and Spanish. The albums orchestral accompaniment and musicianship enhances and compliments everything that Mary set out to deliver on this Christmas release.
Initially I approached this album with a feeling of uncertainty, but by the finale I was pleasantly surprised and happy to see an artist such as Mrs Blige continue to reinvent herself and be relevant, without betraying who she is and those who we have come to love her.
Regarding her journey as an artist, she was thrown into this business of music from her 411 album, and is still singing about real love right up to this moment, no matter what the challenge.
Hail the Queen of Hip Hop and R&B.
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