Congratulations to Mary J. Blige, who debuts at No. 1 on this week’s Billboard album chart by moving a whopping 727,000 copies of her latest, The Breakthrough (fueled by the gorgeous single “Be Without You”). In honor of her achievement, I thought it’d be fun to list my five favorite tracks from the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, and ask all of you to do the same. Be warned, PopWatchers: This is no easy task. Mary’s got so many hot numbers, somehow “Real Love” and “Let No Man Put Asunder” got pushed down to No. 6 and 7 on my countdown!
5. “PMS” (No More Drama, 2001) Yes, she’s singing about a bout with premenstrual syndrome — right down to an aching lower back and clothes that won’t fit. But whether or not you can personally relate, it’s impossible not to feel Mary’s pain by the time this old-school blues number draws to a close.
4. “Love No Limit” (What’s the 411?, 1992) On a debut disc chock full o’ hits, this understated mid-tempo jam tapped into the softer side of Mary — without sacrificing an ounce of her realness.
3. “Family Affair” (No More Drama, 2001) Doesn’t matter if you’re white or black/You’d hafta be comatose not to love this track!
2. “Your Child” (Mary, 1999) There’s no better Mary than a Mary done wrong. And this five-minute soap opera — in which our heroine discovers her man has fathered a child with an undercover lover — is proof positive. True, the lyrics (“How could you deny/Your own flesh and blood?”) are melodramatic, but that doesn’t make them any less devastating.
1. “No More Drama” (No More Drama, 2001) Building an R&B smash on a piano riff from The Young and the Restless theme was pure genius, but it’s the way Mary injects a lifetime’s worth of pain and struggle into her vocal performance that makes this song the highlight of her career. Not to mention, the lyrics are actually great words to live by.
Okay, Mary fans, now it’s your turn to list your personal top five from MJB. Have at it!