Strength of a Woman, a new album by Mary J. Blige addresses issues of her divorce, relationships and women’s right.
Mary J. Blige’s life has always been topsy-turvy. It all began from a very young age. She had a rough childhood and suffered abuse. But things did not fare better even as she grew older. Just recently, her 13-year-old marriage to Kendu Isaacs came down crashing.
In spite of all the obstacles she has had to contend with, Blige has remained strong. That strength is communicated in her new album aptly titled Strength of a Woman. The album is like a call to all women to be strong in the face all adversities. One of the tracks in the album is called Thick Of It.
Originally written to address the turbulence in her marriage, the lyrics of Thick of it show Blige’s determination to save her marriage from collapse. They explicate the struggle to hold on even as love plunged into the abyss. For her “We just don’t give up when we’re in the thick of it.” Sadly, that optimism was not enough to save her marriage. After more than 13 years, the marriage is ending in an ugly divorce.
In addition to issues of the heart, Mary J. Blige has also had to contend with the music industry. The fact that she has struggled in the last three years has given rise to doubts about her future. The music industry is rife with news that she may never be able to regain her stand as the leading female voice in the music industry. Some in the industry have even given up on her.
Instead of becoming demoralized by all the news from the music industry, Mary J. Blige has taken it in strides, becoming even more determined to excel. Although she understands the situation and that music is business, Blige still doesn’t understand why they have to give up on you when you are not doing well. ‘They just count you out,’ she says.
Survivor, one of the tracks in the album seems to answer those who have already counted her out. A verse notes: They keep telling me Mary it’s over. Had your run but girl, look at the numbers.’ But Mary J. Blige is not the kind of woman to be counted out easily. She is strong, determined and cannot be broken. ‘I am not going to be broken,’ she says.
Mary J. Blige got her strength from her indefatigable mom. She grew up in a single-parent home. Her father was not there and the entire burden fell on mom. Despite the herculean task of motherhood, mom was unrelenting in the effort to give her children a good life.
In the face of all odds, Blige’s mom carried herself with dignity. Even when situations were dire, she showed pride. The only way the children knew things were not perfect was through the songs their mother played. Tracks like Victim by Candi Station were clear indication that all was not well at home. ‘But mom never cried,’ Mary J. Blige says.
Strength of a Woman is Mary J. Blige’s first album in nearly three years. It is a follow-up to 2014’s The London Sessions. Last year, Blige released Sullivan-penned single Thick Of It, a track inspired by her divorce from her husband Kendu Isaacs. This was followed by U + Me (Love Lesson), another reflection on the end of her relationship. These two tracks are on her new album. On the cover of the album is a photo of Mary J. Blige seated on a golden throne with a penetrating gaze. The photograph exudes power and pride.
Blige’s first album was released 25 years ago. That album continues to be epochal in its creative blend of hip-hop and R&B. Before that album was released, people thought hip-hop and R&B were separate genres and could not be blended. Mary J. Blige proved them wrong.
Reminiscing on the 25th anniversary of the album, Mary J. Blige explains that that first album continues to be a source of inspiration for her. She also listens to it during workouts. It is expected that Strength of a Woman will reinforce her place in the music industry.
Strength of a Woman includes contributions from Hit-Boy, DJ Camper, Jazmine Sullivan, and Kanye West, who appears on Love Yourself.