Mary J. Blige’s My Life is a personal choice for me. For my money, her 1994 album is one of the best albums ever made, seemingly for all of the wrong reasons. Mary was clearly going through it. Every single song on this album speaks to that in both sound and tone. Even one of my favorite records of hers, “Be Happy,” is more of a plea than it is a mantra.
Anyway, I chose this album cover specifically because this is literally, to me, the definition of looking like what you’re going through. Now of course, Mary looks amazing. That blond braid is giving so much attitude and work. The big ass earrings that are a few years removed from gaudy late 80s early 90s doorknockers are the perfect accoutrement. She has on the leather hat and jacket. It’s very Donny Hathaway in it’s set up. But it’s the eyes, man. Her eyes are telling tales. She’s looking at us all asking us to hear her out—asking us to listen. The album’s title couldn’t have been more perfect. This album cover is basically asking for us all to take a look at her life. For my money, the trilogy of What’s the 411?, My Life and Share My World is one of the great three album runs in R&B. I’m not saying it’s the best—I think Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814, Janet and The Velvet Rope indisputably holds that distinction; if you want to just show out, you can throw Control in there—but it’s up there.
If I had never heard of Mary and was in a record store in the early 90s looking through CD covers in those old school, big ass box joints, I’d stop on this album and just look at her. I’d wonder what it was she was trying to communicate to me with her eyes. And because of that I’d pick up this album, go home, listen and be amazed at what I was listening to.
Shouts out to Queen Mary.