Reviews are a pain-free way of combining writing with what I love, in a way that generates interest. So I keep doing them loool.
Moments Within Themselves
The recent release of Mary J. Blige’s fifteenth studio album, ‘Good Morning Gorgeous’ coincided with her appearance at the 2022 Super Bowl LVI halftime show alongside rap artists Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, 50 Cent and Kendrick Lamar at the SoFi Stadium in California.
'Good Morning Gorgeous’ features guest appearances from Anderson.Paak, Dave East, DJ Khaled, Fivio Foreign and Usher.
Few of the songs on ‘Good Morning Gorgeous’ outstay their welcome. The standard edition’s thirteen tracks all feel like moments within themselves, and seldom sound overwrought.
Often referred to as “The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul”, Mary J. Blige broke onto the music scene with her debut album, ‘What's the 411?’ in 1992. Nowadays, 51-year old Mary J. Blige doesn’t have much to prove, and honestly, ‘Good Morning Gorgeous’ plays out in that spirit. Right across the project, there’s a lingering sense that there isn’t much more for Blige to do, because what she needs to do, she's already done on one of her previous fourteen studio albums.
As a result, ‘Good Morning Gorgeous’ doesn’t contain any new additions for the various Mary J. Blige Greatest Hits, or Deep Cuts online playlists. The record’s impactful title track does come close though.
Deeply Personal Sentiments
Overall, ‘Good Morning Gorgeous’ would’ve been improved if it contained lyrics as meaningful as those heard on its title track. The title track’s deeply personal sentiments cut through the LP’s many, surprisingly superficial-sounding, heartbroken relationship musings. They also trump the songs on ‘Good Morning Gorgeous’ which somewhat apathetically revisit musical territory that Blige has already conquered.
‘Good Morning Gorgeous’ doesn’t contain much dross, however a great deal of it is dispensable. To her credit though, Blige proves that she’s not afraid to try out new things, or new ways of presenting herself on the release.
The star switches up her vocal delivery for hip-hop tune ‘On Top’ and single ‘Rent Money'. Blige doesn’t make these two particular tracks any more essential by doing so, but it’s interesting to hear Blige venture out in this manner. More importantly, Blige’s artistic excursions break up the project’s complacency.
‘Good Morning Gorgeous’ also confirms that Blige’s vocal abilities are still very much in tact. Sadly, Blige’s genre-defining singing range isn't truly explored on ‘Good Morning Gorgeous’. Although it’s debatable whether it’s required for the LP’s compact tracklist of sultry, confessional and swaggering tunes.
Take No Prisoners
Turnt up hip-hop single ‘Amazing’ features New Orleans-born record producer DJ Khaled. ‘Amazing’ is propped up by both Khaled’s larger-than-life, upfront presence and Blige’s assured, cooled confidence. Production-wise, the cut’s rumbling baselines are gratifying and take no prisoners.
Still, as ‘Amazing’ plays out it becomes more and more evident that a handful of artists have already recorded and released ‘Amazing’, in one form or another - and the latest was at least five years ago. So within today’s constantly revolving hip-hop landscape, ‘Amazing’ sounds kind of dated. The track provides an effective adrenaline boost and packs momentary punch, but there’s no reason to meaningfully revisit it.
Performed alongside Harlem, New York Rapper Dave East, Blige laments giving everything to a lover for minimal returns on ‘Rent Money’. East fits easily into the track’s luxurious and classic sounding backdrop. However, the emcee can’t save ‘Rent Money’ from mediocrity on his own. At best, ‘Rent Money’ is sassy and appetising. At worst, it sounds like a discarded B-side for a bigger and better track.
“Why Did I Hate Myself?”
There are two songs on ‘Good Morning Gorgeous’ that deserve to be heard more than once. One of them is ‘Come See About Me’, the other is the album’s previously-mentioned title track.
The aura around ‘Come See About Me’ feels unruffled, it’s vocal production is totally ear-catching. The whole song is centred around an immersive, sensual bedroom aura and blanketed in a range of alluring melodies.
The same smooth, slow jam vibration that propels ‘Come See About Me’ can also be found on the track, ‘Good Morning Gorgeous’. Yet the difference between ‘Come See About Me’ and ‘Good Morning Gorgeous’ is the LP title track’s lyrical frankness - it’s more personal than anything else on the record.
Reflecting on her own inner tussles with self-doubt, self-neglect and self hatred, Blige can be heard singing, “Why did I hate myself? Why did I hate me? So intensely, Lord help me.”
“It seems like I'm always against me, seems like this is never ending. And I refuse to let it end me.” Blige ends the song ‘Good Morning Gorgeous’ by promising to affirm her own uniqueness, as soon as she wakes up everyday.
Disillusioned after a run of relationship lows, a perplexed Blige pines for the best parts of romance on ‘Love Without The Heartbreak’.‘Love Without The Heartbreak’ is a slow-footed R&B tune. It can occasionally sound disjointed and messy - it’s certainly not the album’s slickest moment.
The song’s bridge pushes boldly into a passage that further interrupts its flow. Hearing Blige deliver a string of discretionary swear words amongst the tune’s clutter only compounds its disarray.
Flaunting Blige’s Industry Weight
The braggadocious ‘On Top’ is an unexpected and hard-to-miss hip-hop cut, with drill leanings. It very successfully shakes the entire album up - it’s the ringing alarm call of ‘Good Morning Gorgeous’. Featuring New York emcee Fivio Foreign, ‘On Top’ is best thought of as the troublemaking little brother to the LP’s hip-hop single ‘Amazing’. The aim of ‘On Top’ is to flaunt Blige’s industry weight over the rest of the music world. Blige’s vocals are sometimes over-processed to the point where they don’t sound like her at all.
‘On Top’ stands out because its beats and baselines are completely ruthless sounding. While it’s true that there’s a range of hip-hop tunes out there that can do what ‘On Top’ does (and newer hip-hop heads will most likely choose any of them over ‘On Top’) it’s inexplicably satisfying to hear Blige flex her OG status alongside Foreign, over the cut’s brutal production.
Helmed by Atlanta, Georgia record producer and rapper London On Da Track, ’Falling In Love’ is a mid-tempo R&B number that glistens with organic, vintage sounding musical elements and instrumentation. The track basks in a lush live music vibe, which separates it from the polished, clinical hip-hop and R&B that drives the majority of ‘Good Morning Gorgeous’. It’s the most noteworthy thing about ‘Falling In Love’.
Conversely, Blige doesn’t sound as present or effective on ‘Falling In Love’ as she does elsewhere on ‘Good Morning Gorgeous’. Because of this, ‘Falling In Love’ becomes more and more throwaway the nearer it gets to its end.
Authentic Tension, Gripping Urgency
Mary J. Blige and fellow R&B performer Usher come together for the song ‘Need Love’. ‘Need Love’ unfurls over a thick backdrop of floaty synth pads that support the entire track. Even the tune’s contrasting and direct beatwork cannot overpower it.
‘Need Love’ isn’t the pinnacle of either artist’s extensive musical back catalogue. Still, it’s a very listenable mid-tempo jam. Moreover, Usher’s appearance is arguably the album’s most comfortable and seamless guest feature. Neither Blige’s or Usher’s colossal R&B status gets in the way of them gelling and communicating an authentic connection with each other on record.
Blige performs the track ‘Enough’ within an emotional whirlwind of distrust, disappointment and infidelity. It is textbook Mary J. Blige. ‘Enough’ has been performed and presented by Blige in numerous ways, over the years.
Despite that, ‘Enough’ contains an assortment of sweeping emotional arcs, which are mostly successful. Listeners could find themselves being pulled into Blige’s romantic predicament fairly easily. The singer croons, “the seven to five years of cheatin’, now my insides are bleedin’. ‘Cause there's so much deceivin’”
Over the years, tracks like ‘Enough’ have allowed Blige to make a name for herself, build up a loyal fanbase and influence generations of soul, R&B and hip-hop artists. Three decades after the release of her debut record, it’s admirable that Blige is able to channel authentic tension and gripping urgency, in an appealing way, as she does on ‘Enough’.