Album: Mary J Blige

No More Drama, MCA
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The Independent Culture

Mary J Blige's last album, Mary, was about sorting out her life and cleaning up the "debris left around me", according to the queen of hip hop soul herself, who characterises this follow-up as a "manifesto of determination" built on the emotional ground thus cleared. "No more pain, no more drama in my life," she claims on the title track, as if that were (a) possible or (b) desirable – pain and drama surely being the bricks and mortar of soul music. The immediate effect of her new-found orderliness is to transform this once-distinctive artist into just another soul diva trotting out clichés of bogus assertiveness, albeit with slightly more style than most: "No longer concerned with your opinion/ Over my life I have dominion," she sings on "Destiny"; while the street-life vignette "Where I've Been" makes the gender split explicit by advising: "Black women, hold it down, keep your feet on the ground/ Black men, keep searching and you'll be found." Which hardly seems a fair deal, in all honesty. You don't have to be Doris Lessing to recognise the damage done to black America by such divisive abandonment, and the disparaging assumptions of a track such as "PMS" help only in furthering Mary's desire to "talk to all the ladies here tonight", rather than a wider constituency. Even sadder is the suggestion that the only alternative to a life of "continuous connive-thrive-drive" is God. Couldn't see that coming, eh?