Share My World

Mary J. Blige

MCA Records, 1997



The First Lady of Soul needs less First Lady and more Soul.

From the soundclips of Mary J. Blige being announced the winner for various music awards to the prominent "F---I" logo on the shades she wears on her cover, Share My World has a lot of posturing but a deficit of substance. The producers are the best in the pop hip-hop business: Flyte Time, Trackmasters, Rodney Jerkins and Babyface. There's name-dropping and trademark grooves, Blige's multi-layered vocal choruses and thumping machine bass, but hooky songs like "Love Is All We Need" don't give way to more soulful tracks that live up to Blige's reputation.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"I Can Love You", "Round And Round", "Keep Your Head" and "Get To Know You Better" are all more or less generic R&B songs with statements of cool, flawless love and sensuality, with aforementioned "soulful" choruses and dime-a-dozen lyrics. Title track "Share My World" starts out beautifully, but soon eats itself by pointless repetition of samples and an over-languid Blige. "It's On" produced by R. Kelly and "Missing You" by Babyface have got to be the blandest pieces either songwriter-producers must've come up with. Both artists have proven inconsistent in the past, and these are among their lesser forays.

The machine bass in "Can't Get You Off My Mind" needs major toning down. The incessant thumping in an otherwise sparse arrangement may sound terrific in a club but it's migraine-inducing on home speakers. On the other hand, "(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman" needs a little more arrangement and a little less speed (and isn't it supposed to be "I used to feel *un*inspired"?).

Some hints of soul are glimpsed in the (very) short interlude "Thank You Lord", which would've been better as an entire song, and a terrific retro-pop track "Our Love" that's gotta sound good on LP, with dust static. It's a damn shame Blige is too secure in the knowledge of what she can do, she just doesn't go out and do it.

There's one real saver in the bunch and that's "Not Gon' Cry". It does what hip-hop is followed for; combines a tight beat with organic soul, tells a story and invites the listener in. But you'd be better off getting it on the Waiting To Exhale soundtrack.

Blige needs to lose herself in order to find her soul. The hip-hop R&B market is already deluged with this stuff; Blige, however, doesn't try to set any standards with this one, but she doesn't succeed in living up to her media-given title, either.

Rating: D

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