How Mary J. Blige’s trauma helped a generation heal

We go through Mary J. Blige’s record, looking at how her openness to share her personal experiences helped her followers recover as well.

Mary J. Blige has been producing music for three decades that isn’t hesitant to talk frankly about pain, healing, and hope. And her followers have been right there with her for three decades, caught up in her vulnerability and tremendous brilliance.

Mary J. Blige, in concert at Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall in New Jersey on Oct. 29. (Photo by Donald Kravitz/Getty Images)
With 13 albums to sift through, let’s take a look at what fans may take away from the music she released while dealing with her personal issues. We could obviously cover many pages with her incredible skill, but we’ve chosen a few lines for each album.
‘What’s the 411?’ is Mary J. Blige’s first single.

Blige shown early on that she was not afraid to be frank and honest. She swiftly climbed to prominence after releasing her genre-defining combination of R&B and hip hop on her first album in 1992. Throughout this time, she was in a tumultuous relationship with K-Ci, whose duet with her on “I Don’t Want to Do Anything” blew fans away.

Outstanding lyrics
“Why can’t you just tell me why we couldn’t be together?” “Changes I’ve Been Going Through”

“I do everything for you/but in your smile/I still can’t find” “I Don’t Want to Do Anything”

“So I gradually came to see all of the things you were made of/And now I hope my dreams and inspiration lead me to a true love” – “Real Love”

Mary J. Blige

‘My Life’ establishes the vocalist and her sensitivity.
When Mary J. Blige released her second album in 1994, she was emerging from the haze of an abusive relationship and dealing with despair and drugs. She poured what she was going through into words, and the result was a career-defining record that allowed her fans to realize to themselves that they, too, deserved more.

Blige said in the 2021 “My Life” documentary on the album’s release that it was “a cry for help.” Fans saw the cry for what it was and recognized it in themselves.
Outstanding lyrics

“Oh, please forgive me, baby/I’m so sorry, so sorry, so sorry, so sorry/What did I do wrong?” “I’m Goin’ Down”

“Now that I’m on my own, I know I’ll find someone new/(Who will treat me better than you)” – “I Truly Love You”

“How can I love another if I can’t love myself enough to know when it’s time to let go?” – “Be Happy”

“I gave my heart to you/What more can I do/To show you how much I care?” – “I’m the One and Only Woman”

‘Share My World’ assists us in getting back on our feet.
Whereas “My Life” was an album full of vulnerability and optimism, “Share My World” was Blige’s way of telling audiences that happiness was worth the effort they were putting in to get it. She guided listeners on her road to recovery with a little time and space from the pain that inspired “My Life” and the love of her followers that came with success.

Outstanding lyrics
“Sitting here, wondering why you don’t love me/The way that I love you” – “I Can Love You”

“When you’re lovin’ me, put your lovin’ arms around me/When you’re lovin’ me, said I feel so safe, I find security/When you’re lovin’ me, said I feel so safe, I find security/When you’re lovin’ me, forever I want you to hold me” – “Everything”

“I’m not going to cry, it’s not the time/Because you’re not worth my tears (Can’t do it)” – “Not Gon’ Cry”

‘Mary’ raises the bar for optimism.
Building on Blige’s shift toward healing in “Share My World,” “Mary” marks a watershed moment in the artist’s career. The 1999 album opened at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, proving her naysayers wrong and supporting the record’s thesis: she wasn’t going to remain down. Her audience were drawn to her appeal to strength and passion.
Outstanding lyrics

Mary J. Blige

“For one thing, I’m not as frail/”I’ll always be on my own/But my heart isn’t made of stone/So I’ll keep going” – “Sincerity”

“What’s the point of love if you don’t trust?/What’s the point of staying if you’ve seen enough?”What’s the purpose of giving him something he doesn’t deserve?” “Don’t Waste Your Time”

“Seraphim, genuine/Sweeter than cinnamon/”God-given gentleman/Synonyms for loving him” “All That I Can Say”

The song ‘No More Drama’ makes a message.
When Mary J. Blige chose the title for her upcoming album, she meant it. In a Rolling Stone interview, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the album’s producers, characterized “No More Drama” as Blige “putting her foot down,” and audiences clearly understood the message. This was the stage of defiance in the healing process.

Outstanding lyrics
“Ooh, it feels so good/When you let go/Of all the drama in your life” – “No More Drama”

“Because we don’t need any more drama in our lives/With a Dre track pumpin’, everybody’s jumping” – “Family Affair”

“It’s simply those rainy days/Spend a lifetime trying to wash them away (Tryna wash ’em away)/Until the sun comes out and shines again (Tryna shine)/Smile for me (smile, smile, smile)” – From “Rainy Dayz”

In ‘Love & Life,’ Mary J. Blige provides encouragement.
When “Love & Life” was released in 2003, Rolling Stone characterized Blige as having the heart of “an old-fashioned blues singer” who understands the power of “joy pulled from the jaws of despair.” This CD showcased that mindset and showed everybody who listened that mending can be an act of dedication and courage.

Outstanding lyrics

mary j Blige
“Why can’t you grow up and be a man someday?” -“Not today”

“And I never knew that I/Could fall in love on the very first night” – “Love @ First Sight”

“It’s hard, it’s just so hard but/I just gotta think about myself” – “Happy Endings”
The Breakthrough’ tells us we can get through anything

As Blige taught a generation to let go of drama and find joy, her next album, “The Breakthrough,” focused on introspection and on controlling what is controllable. She admitted to Essence that she had used her music to face her own demons, including being molested as a child.

“I want other women to know that something like that can happen to you, and you can still grow to be happy and you can still break through to the other side,” she said.

And her fans absolutely picked up on that message. “The Breakthrough,” released in 2005, is about freedom and hope as much as it is about facing what happened, and her listeners loved every second.

Outstanding lyrics
“We’ve been too strong for too long/And I can’t be without you, baby” – “Be Without You”

“I got to be out my mind to think I need someone to carry me” – “Enough Cryin’”

“Have you come here for forgiveness?/Have you come to raise the dead?/Have you come here to play Jesus/To the lepers in your head?” – “One”

‘Growing Pains’ is made for us
By the time Blige released “Growing Pains,” she knew that she had found success and knew that her albums were connecting with people. And so, she told Target before the 2007 release of “Growing Pains,” she wanted to put something out “for the love of my fans.” Considering how much of healing can be about finding community, that message seemed to build on everything else she taught her listeners on top of being a gift for them.
Outstanding lyrics

65th GRAMMY Awards - Show

“And no time for negative vibes, ’cause I’m winning” – “Just Fine”

“Wanna hold your head high ’cause you’re a pretty woman/Get your runway stride on and keep going” – “Work That”

“I love my man/And I know my place, I know my worth/And I just can’t stand/To see myself as I hurt” – “Roses”

Reminding us what she’s been through with ‘Stronger with Each Tear’
With “Stronger with Each Tear,” Blige showcased the depths of her talent. The 2009 album was as diverse as her life experience, allowing fans to come with her on a journey of introspection and confidence. Once again, she reminded her listeners that strength comes from not letting anyone keep you down.

Outstanding lyrics
“Lemme break it down if you don’t get it/Quality, I’m custom fitted/I’mma say it again, they ain’t got/Nothin’ on me! Nothin’ on me!” – “The One”

“There is no need to go lookin’ for nothing more/’Cause I’ve got everything you’ll ever need right here” – “I Am”

“It took a long time to get to this place/And now that I’m here no one could ever erase/The joy that I feel way down deep beside/The love that I have for me will never, never die” – “Color”

Blige offers a sequel with ‘My Life II… The Journey Continues (Act 1)’
In 2011, seventeen years after “My Life” came out, Blige put out her tenth album and made it, in her words, a “sequel” and “extension” of that career-defining sophomore album. It was her way of telling her fans that, yes, heartbreak and hardship happen; but after all these years, she and her listeners had been on a journey that told them they could handle whatever comes.
Stand-out lyrics

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“I’m strong but I can break/I be prayin so hard to get thru the day” – “Someone to Love Me (Naked)”

“A woman, she needs more than material things/And a woman needs so much more than what a man can say” – “Love a Woman”

“See, I’m to the point where I don’t know what I believe in” – “Feel Inside”

Changing things up with ‘The London Sessions’
If you thought you knew what to expect from a new Mary J. Blige album when “The London Sessions” came out in 2014, you were in for a pleasant surprise. And yet, even while she was experimenting with new sounds and styles, one thing remained the same: she felt real in a way that anyone listening could feel in their bones in each song.

Stand-out lyrics
“Now you’re looking at a leader/Now you’re staring at a queen/You’d said I’d never be someone/But now I’m pulling those strings” – “Doubt”

“See winter took most of my heart/And Spring punched me right in the stomach/Summer came looking for blood/And by Autumn, I was left with nothing” – “Whole Damn Year”

“Why would I spend the rest of my days unhappy?/Why would I spend the rest of this year alone?/When I can go therapy, when I can go therapy/When I can go therapy, two times a day” – “Therapy”

‘Strength of a Woman’ draws from new trauma
After 13 years, Blige saw her marriage falling apart, even as she came up on 25 years of her music career. The trauma that came from losing something precious that had helped her through previous pain was raw and present throughout the 2017 album she put out at the time, “Strength of a Woman.” And as she told NPR, “I’m not going to be broken,” giving her fans another rallying cry for their own battles.

Stand-out lyrics
“Truth can be the sweetest pain/It can mess up everything” – “Love Yourself”

“From really feeling like I’m gonna lose it/Now I’m helping somebody get through it/Yeah, I feel pain but I use it” – “Survivor”

“‘Cause every time I think of the lies you told to me/Make it easy for me to leave” – “U + Me”
Good Morning Gorgeous’ sees Blige rise above it all

In Blige’s first album after her messy divorce, fans were blessed with not only the hope and healing that she had been delivering for a while but also the raw emotion that allowed her listeners to connect with her so deeply each time she went through it. Last year’s release, “Good Morning Gorgeous,” is, as Mic put it, “heartbreak medicine.”

Stand-out lyrics

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“All the times that I hated myself (Yeah)/All the times that I wanted to be someone else (Yeah)/All the times that I should’ve been gentle with me/All the times that I should’ve been careful with me” – “Good Morning Gorgeous”

“Phone out, she recording just so she can get the proof/It was all good when we was in the mood but I scratched that” – “Rent Money”

“You can’t see what you got at home/You’re dead wrong not to fight for it” – “Enough”

The thing about Mary J. Blige is that she’s so talented and so consistently good that we can’t possibly have hit every favorite moment or moving lyric. But, hey, if this little look back gives you an excuse to remind yourself of your own favorites, go on. Enjoy the journey.

The post How Mary J. Blige’s trauma helped a generation heal appeared first on TheGrio.

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