Mary J. Blige just dropped her tenth album, My Life II… The Journey Continues (Act 1), at the end of 2011. Grooving to it got us the thinking of her many classics—so much so that bam, a top 10 list had to be whipped up. Where do we begin (or end)? Since the early ‘90s MJB’s been spewing out soulful, yet hardcore tales of hate, infidelity, abuse, and more recently, true love.
Check out our list of the top 10 Mary J. Blige songs below and sound off on whether you agree or not in the comments section.
10. All That I Can Say
Lauryn Hill injected some mellow into Blige’s usually frantic delivery, penning the lyrics for Mary’s first single. This one finds Mary blissful, hopping from one cloud to the next while tossing compliments to some lucky guy.
9. Just Fine
“I like what I see when I’m looking at me when I’m walking past the mirror,” Mary sings joyfully. What? Yeah, this is the same lady that spent the first decade of her musical career howling at the demons in her closet. By the time this, the lead single from her eighth album Growing Pains dropped, Blige’s life apparently was just fine. She was a few years into her seemingly blissful marriage with husband and manager Kendu Isaacs. This is what happiness gave Mary, a bouncing dance smash. Surprisingly, Mary wears cheer well.
Mary falls deep into a flowery pit of love on this Stylistics-sampling single. She was years away from finding her future husband, but effortlessly sings of her everything here.
7. Enough Cryin’
Grown and needing a lot more than promises to please her, Mary’s fed up with the lies of a man afraid to put a ring on it. And instead of staying and arguing, she’s packing up and bouncing out of his life to producer Rodney Jerkins’ booming bass and strings. Her rapping alter ego, Brook Lynn, also makes a solid lyrical appearance—shouting out a pair of designer shoes and telling the chump where to find her when he comes to his senses.
6. Family Affair
This early oughts jam marked the start of Mary pushing negativity to the side in favor of club-ready bangers. Fittingly, it came from her fifth album entitled No More Drama. The Dr. Dre-produced single topped Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, as well as their Pop and R&B charts.
5. I’m Goin’ Down
Mary’s cover of the Rose Royce Carwash ballad is so marvelous that when others sing it today, most think hers is the original. “Down” is from her sophomore set My Life, an album mostly about being in the dumps when it comes to love. Here, along with the next cut on this list, is where you hear her heart ache the loudest.
4. My Life
The title track from her sophomore album is arguably the most hopeful and gloomy on the set. As she’s confessed since, My Life was recorded during the roughest period of her life. She was adjusting to fame, in an abusive relationship with K-Ci of K-Ci and JoJo, and on drugs. Still, she looked to a higher power and sung of better days ahead.
3. Not Gon’ Cry
Mary plays the character of a scorned wife here. And though she wasn’t actually married in real life, she sure did wail on the Waiting to Exhale single like a hubby of 11 years did her wrong and stepped out on her. But instead of just wallowing in self-pity, she keeps a stiff upper lip. “Should’ve left your ass [a] long time ago,” she sings walking away from the man she once stood by proudly. “You’re not worth my tears.” This is the Mary—showing strength even during periods of turmoil—we’d love for years to come.
2. Be Without You
Usually Mary’s on the brink of a failed relationship, which soon tanks. On the first single from The Breakthrough she powers through all rough patches with the kind of muscle only love can provide. “We’ve been too strong for to long,” Blige reminds her man on the hook. There’s no quit in her anymore.
1. Real Love
Sampling Audio Two’s “Top Billing,” the second single from Blige’s classic debut, What’s the 411, found the rookie singer searching for the kind of affection that would elude her for years to come. It also birthed the sound she’d become the reigning queen of: Hip-Hop Soul.