Mary J. Blige is Harder, Better and ‘Stronger’ on New Album
Mary J. Blige has always drawn in fans with an irresistible combination of raw emotion and singing talent, but she has crafted an even more personal offering in her new album 'Stronger With Each Tear.'
"I would have never been able to have a title like that three years ago," she tells the BoomBox via telephone from the Beverly Hills Hotel. "It's a progression based on how I've learned how to, in trial, accept the lesson that comes out of it. When you're in a trial, you hurt. Certain trials feel like they're gonna cripple you, and you feel so helpless. You cry, you hurt. But you get the strength to come out of it -- while you're in it, you cry -- and when you come out of it, you're stronger."
Blige's last few albums have been markedly more buoyant and positive than her beginnings, but she says now not to let the smile and happy beats deceive.
"People look at celebrities and think, she's doing great, she said, 'No more drama!" she laughs. "I can't live in a fairytale world where people think I have nothing going on. There's always a lot of stuff going on! But it's how I handle it and deal with it that makes people think that I don't have any [drama] at all."
Blige's ninth album features appearances from T.I., Trey Songz, and Drake and production from hitmakers The Runners, Raphael Saadiq, Polow Da Don, Bryan Michael Cox, Tricky Stewart and The-Dream, Stargate, Darkchild, and Ne-Yo. Blige says she prefers working with a lot of collaborators to bring out different styles and flavors, which gives 'Stronger With Each Tear' a sonically eclectic feel that flirts with hip-hop, pop, and soul notions, yet is arranged into a cohesive whole. And while her previous eight studio efforts have provided their share of glimpses into Blige's narrative, she points out that the content of the songs haven't always been entirely about her.
"What people mistake is that my albums are not just about me, they're about my environment, the world that I live in," she clarifies. "I had to be more revealing at this time because we're at a heavy time. People are suffering really, really hard and they need to know that I relate. They need to know that I know that they're crying. They need to know that I'm crying with them. They need to know that I'm in touch with what the universe is, you know? My job is to never shy away from what it really is."
Now that 'Stronger With Each Tear' has been released, Blige can start brainstorming about her next musical project: Her tenth album, a landmark number in the recording industry. While she hasn't yet visualized its direction, she does know that the one element to be expected will be the unexpected.
"It probably won't be what I'm doing for years," she predicts. "It'll probably be a surprise to people, like, wow, what's this? But don't ask me what that is because I don't know yet!"