Review: 'Mary J. Blige's My Life' Profiles a Classic

by JC Alvarez

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday June 29, 2021

'Mary J. Blige's My Life'
'Mary J. Blige's My Life'  (Source:Amazon Prime Video)

In order to to find her voice...

...R&B icon Mary J. Blige had to lay it all out there. The Amazon Prime documentary "Mary J. Blige's My Life" examines the early career of the songstress, who singlehandedly changed the way the pop world regarded hip-hop and the female artists that were carving their own niche, but Blige was unique onto herself. The 1994 album "My Life" was the artist's confessional; her fans hardly knew how intimate the lyrics were, but found that with each track they had found a kindred spirit.

When Mary J. Blige arrived on the scene, she had made a significant impact on music, with her impressive debut release "What's the 411?" In a landscape that had traditionally been dominated by male artists and boy band R&B acts, she came on gangbusters. Her unique style of vocal arrangement and soulful approach was distinct and unlike anyone in music. Mary J. Blige immediately caught the attention of the industry as her fans flocked to worship at her altar. When the time arrived to craft her sophomore effort, Mary would change the game forever!

Blige approached the project with a new perspective and a need to explore the depths of who she was and where she came from. "My Life," released in 1994, was unlike anything the hip-hop/R&B genre had ever explored. Mary J. Blige took from her own life experiences — her own inner conflicts and unresolved issues of abuse, addiction, and deep depression — to deliver one of the most personal albums ever conceived.

Even those closest to her feared that the revelations, all deeply profound and personal, would not blend with the musical medium, but fans immediately connected to Mary's struggles and "My Life" became a therapeutic experience that everyone could relate to. Suddenly, Mary J. Blige baring her soul elevated the artist's profile and turned her into an icon. In the documentary, Blige celebrates the 25th anniversary of "My Life" and permits Oscar-winning filmmaker Vanessa Roth to get inside as we all rediscover the music and connect to the artist in a unique retrospective.

Focused on the trajectory that Blige set for herself as an emerging artist, coming out of the plight of New York's housing projects growing up in Yonkers, and arriving as an international star, "Mary J. Blige's My Life" is carefully crafted and doesn't pull punches, peeling back the layers of a deeply private personality — Blige admits she is still extremely guarded and keeps things close — but allowing her fans into her sanctum where we can all look at our scars and realize that we're not alone. There is always room for growth, always room to improve and, especially, to cherish.

Mary J. Blige doesn't take anything for granted, and it is evident in this docu-film that she still hasn't figured it all out, but she is humbled to have the opportunity to share her story and finds strength in how her audience identifies with the struggle and takes great comfort in sharing her story. This is her life, and now Mary is a part of yours as well.

"Mary J. Blige's My Life" premieres June 25 on Amazon Prime.

Native New Yorker JC Alvarez is a pop-culture enthusiast and the nightlife chronicler of the club scene and its celebrity denizens from coast-to-coast. He is the on-air host of the nationally syndicated radio show "Out Loud & Live!" and is also on the panel of the local-access talk show "Talking About".