My Life is a classic album. Released in 1994, fans remember it as an iconic chapter in R&B/hip hop soul history. This follow up some 17 years later, is much anticipated and does not disappoint. From the outset Blige and former mentor Diddy (whom she also pays homage to in a funky remix of his band Diddy Dirty Money’s track Someone to Love Me, on Someone To Love Me (Naked) feat. Diddy and Lil Wayne), allude to the legacy of the record speaking of the pain to be encountered on life’s marathon. Bilge completes this race in just over an hour, and it is no endurance test for the listener to navigate; instead it is the perfect pain killer for old fans and new who seek authenticity and integrity in their music. Blige has grown from the self-confessed hurt young lady she was when the prequel came out; the sequel witnesses the same vulnerabilities that make her music so relatable.

On her tenth studio album, multi Grammy winning Blige remains the distinct voice for voiceless women and sings about relationship angst and antics. As duets go, one of the most talked about songs of the album is the ballad Love a Woman feat. Beyonce. Blige has often created memorable duets with divas but she is equally renown for her duets with rap cons such as the late Notorious B.I.G. Feel Inside feat. Nas excites with intensity and invades your body to rid it of any inertia. There are several rap co-stars on the album including Busta Rhymes on Next Level, Drake on the sombre Mr Wrong, Rick Ross on Why, and Brook Lynn – Blige’s alter ego, on the edgy Midnight Drive. Using a refrain of Blige’s classic What You Gonna Do Without My Love, this track exposes another tone to her range.

The latest album is a departure from the experimental route her last album, which featured a cover of the rock classic Stair Way to Heaven, represented. This time the cover is a little more obvious in the shape of her childhood idol, with whom she toured in 2004, Chaka Khan’s Ain’t Nobody, which Blige delivers a worthy rendition of, with a fresh take by Rodney Jerkins on production. The prequel My life saw Blige cover Aretha Franklin’s You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman.

You can always rely on Blige to fulfil her role as part of you healthy musical diet. With help from producers including Danja, Stargate, Swizz Beatz and The Underdogs, she provides the staple nutrients needed for balance. The throwbacks to the old school (25/8 – the lead single), the mid tempo numbers (Don’t Mind), tropical inspired rhythms (No Condition), heartfelt lyrics (Empty Prayers), inspiring testimony (The Living Proof – the lead song from the film The Help), up tempo floor fillers (This Love Is For You and One Life). With its retro feel yet progressive direction, use of live instrumentation and soul samples (You Want This), the album embodies Blige’s growth and her journey. Her fans can trust that this bridge to next year’s My Life: Act 2 is a sturdy foundation.

For more information please visit http://www.maryjblige.com/splash/.

My Life II The Journey Continues (Act 1) by Mary J Blige is out now on Matriarch/Geffen.

The UK Corner covers urban entertainment from a British perspective and is written by Fiona McKinson ©. She is a freelance journalist and creative writer based in London. Contact her. Visit her blog for more photos: http://thetalentshow.co.uk/theukcorner/