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Real Love, No Drama: The Music of Mary J. Blige

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Mary J. Blige is an icon who represents the political consciousness of hip hop and the historical promise of soul. She is an everywoman, celebrated by Oprah Winfrey and beloved by pop music fans of all ages and races. Blige has sold over fifty million albums, won numerous Grammys, and even played at multiple White House events, as well as the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize ceremon Mary J. Blige is an icon who represents the political consciousness of hip hop and the historical promise of soul. She is an everywoman, celebrated by Oprah Winfrey and beloved by pop music fans of all ages and races. Blige has sold over fifty million albums, won numerous Grammys, and even played at multiple White House events, as well as the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. Displaying astonishing range and versatility, she has recorded everything from Broadway standards to Led Zeppelin anthems and worked with some of popular music’s greatest artists—Aretha Franklin, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Whitney Houston, Sting, U2, and Beyoncé, among them. Real Love, No Drama: The Music of Mary J. Blige tells the story of one of the most important artists in pop music history. Danny Alexander follows the whole arc of Blige’s career, from her first album, which heralded the birth of “hip hop soul,” to her critically praised 2014 album, The London Sessions. He highlights the fact that Blige was part of the historically unprecedented movement of black women onto pop radio and explores how she and other women took control of their careers and used their music to give voice to women’s (and men’s) everyday struggles and dreams. This book adds immensely to the story of both black women artists and artists rooted in hip hop and pays tribute to a musician who, by expanding her reach and asking tough questions about how music can and should evolve, has proven herself an artistic visionary.


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Mary J. Blige is an icon who represents the political consciousness of hip hop and the historical promise of soul. She is an everywoman, celebrated by Oprah Winfrey and beloved by pop music fans of all ages and races. Blige has sold over fifty million albums, won numerous Grammys, and even played at multiple White House events, as well as the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize ceremon Mary J. Blige is an icon who represents the political consciousness of hip hop and the historical promise of soul. She is an everywoman, celebrated by Oprah Winfrey and beloved by pop music fans of all ages and races. Blige has sold over fifty million albums, won numerous Grammys, and even played at multiple White House events, as well as the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. Displaying astonishing range and versatility, she has recorded everything from Broadway standards to Led Zeppelin anthems and worked with some of popular music’s greatest artists—Aretha Franklin, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Whitney Houston, Sting, U2, and Beyoncé, among them. Real Love, No Drama: The Music of Mary J. Blige tells the story of one of the most important artists in pop music history. Danny Alexander follows the whole arc of Blige’s career, from her first album, which heralded the birth of “hip hop soul,” to her critically praised 2014 album, The London Sessions. He highlights the fact that Blige was part of the historically unprecedented movement of black women onto pop radio and explores how she and other women took control of their careers and used their music to give voice to women’s (and men’s) everyday struggles and dreams. This book adds immensely to the story of both black women artists and artists rooted in hip hop and pays tribute to a musician who, by expanding her reach and asking tough questions about how music can and should evolve, has proven herself an artistic visionary.

44 review for Real Love, No Drama: The Music of Mary J. Blige

  1. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    I'm starting my review off with my top 5 Mary Albums & top 10 Mary songs. Top 5 Albums 1. My Life 2.Share My World 3.My Life 2 4.Mary 5.The London Sessions (Honorable Mention: A Mary Christmas) Top 10 Songs 1.Real Love 2.Not Gon' Cry 3. Missing You 4. I Can Love You 5.Mr. Wrong 6. Empty Prayers 7.Need Someone 8.Be Happy 9.Seven Days 10.Love No Limit ( Honorable Mention: I'll Be There For You/You're All I Need To Get By) Real Love No Drama isn't a biography of Mary J. Blige's life its a journey through her mus I'm starting my review off with my top 5 Mary Albums & top 10 Mary songs. Top 5 Albums 1. My Life 2.Share My World 3.My Life 2 4.Mary 5.The London Sessions (Honorable Mention: A Mary Christmas) Top 10 Songs 1.Real Love 2.Not Gon' Cry 3. Missing You 4. I Can Love You 5.Mr. Wrong 6. Empty Prayers 7.Need Someone 8.Be Happy 9.Seven Days 10.Love No Limit ( Honorable Mention: I'll Be There For You/You're All I Need To Get By) Real Love No Drama isn't a biography of Mary J. Blige's life its a journey through her music and its cultural impact. Mary J. Blige is what I play when I'm going through some shit. My favorite Mary is heartbroken Mary, nobody sings heartbreak like Mary. Mary is mood music. Mary is more than a singer to me, I feel like I know her personally. Danny Alexander is a Mary fan and he writes like one. He's not judgemental of Mary's diva behavior or her battles with drugs and alcohol, because he like all of us Mary fans knows that makes Mary who she is. Mary J. Blige is one of the most important artist of the last 20 years and Danny Alexander treats her as such. Mary paved the way for Beyonce, Rhianna, and even Lauryn Hill. She is the bridge between Hip Hop and R&B. Mary J. Blige is probably your favorite Rappers' favorite singer. Recommended to fans of all music but especially R&B fans. Around The Year In 52 Books: A Book connected to a word born in your birth year.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David

    Real Love, No Drama is not a Mary J. Blige biography but something more valuable. Call what Danny Alexander does here a deep dive into the Blige catalogue, or a critical monograph, or an extended essay with fan notes. Or, better yet, call it a long form example of close listening—one that routinely discovers themes and artistic subtleties in music widely presumed to have none. Alexander makes a series of arguments…Given the music crit’ biases that dominated across her career, Mary J. Blige has, Real Love, No Drama is not a Mary J. Blige biography but something more valuable. Call what Danny Alexander does here a deep dive into the Blige catalogue, or a critical monograph, or an extended essay with fan notes. Or, better yet, call it a long form example of close listening—one that routinely discovers themes and artistic subtleties in music widely presumed to have none. Alexander makes a series of arguments…Given the music crit’ biases that dominated across her career, Mary J. Blige has, as a black and working-class woman, never received the credit she deserved even as she spearheaded a black-woman-dominant transformation of American popular music…Blige is a great singles artist but one we can’t fully understand unless we also hear her as a great album artist…Blige is a great album artist but one we can’t really understand unless we hear the ways in which she’s also a great live performer--as devoted to her largely black, working class and female audience as it is to her…Her great themes are love, its difficulty and its necessity and then the hard work and honesty that bridge divides across the room and across racial lines and across genres too…Her “aesthetic credo—‘give it love or give it up’”—has expanded across her career to see “the search for love in terms of a search for social justice”…And, finally, by combining hip hop and R&B, Blige is “the most important musical artist to emerge in the last quarter century.” Seriously, there’s never been a pop music book quite like Real Love, No Drama, or a writer who hears the music track to track, to life then back, the way Danny Alexander does. If you care about pop music, you need to read it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    CJ Janovy

    Danny Alexander is a music writer who listens from somewhere out in the crowd, shoulder to shoulder in communion with his sisters and brothers, all of them on their feet and swaying to the music. As a result, Real Love, No Drama puts Mary J. Blige’s music in the heart of what’s happening in real people’s lives, where the love and drama are inherent, and where Blige so often has provided inspiration, guidance, and sustenance for the journey. Through his own listening and watching, through intervie Danny Alexander is a music writer who listens from somewhere out in the crowd, shoulder to shoulder in communion with his sisters and brothers, all of them on their feet and swaying to the music. As a result, Real Love, No Drama puts Mary J. Blige’s music in the heart of what’s happening in real people’s lives, where the love and drama are inherent, and where Blige so often has provided inspiration, guidance, and sustenance for the journey. Through his own listening and watching, through interviews with Blige’s relatives on a visit to the land of her roots in Georgia (where he ends up at the First African Baptist Church of Savannah, established in 1777 – the oldest black church in North America), through unflinching engagement with Blige’s previously documented telling of her life in the Yonkers projects, Alexander shows how and why she reached generations of people who were like her – as well as the Oklahoma white boy who wrote the book. Alexander’s critical biography places Blige’s music in the broad cultural context it deserves, reaching back to her birth at a time of “one of the most vital moments of politically charged black music,” when Edwin Starr, the Temptations, Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye were protesting and interpreting what was, in fact, going on. That cultural context continues throughout Blige’s career, perhaps no better captured than in the most moving chapter of the book, which deconstructs her performance of “One” with Bono for a Hurricane Katrina benefit. Alexander recognizes he’s not the only one who understands the power of that performance, quoting a Princeton professor who described it as “perhaps the most insurgent political work of a black female pop singer since Nina Simone’s ‘Four Women’ and Mississippi Goddamn.’” Throughout Real Love No Drama, these striking moments reward even readers who aren’t close listeners or devoted fans of Blige. There’s another such moment late in the book when Alexander describes what happened after Blige finished her gospel “The Living Proof” during another relief benefit, this one for Hurricane Sandy. Alexander watches as the television camera “pulled back to show emcees Brian Williams and Jon Stewart looking deferential and moved. Blige hugged them both, long and real.” That is the effect of Alexander’s book, too.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Pam Mooney

    So inspiring! I love Mary J. Blige story and her style! Alexander really captured her spirit as well as the essence of her music. I felt like this was more than a tribute to one artist but the telling of an era where women, women of color in particular, found their voice in America. I fell in love Mary Blige through this biography as it is a struggle to keep going in the face of so many barriers being thrown in front of you and she overcame. A loving tribute and a good read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    kara joy

  6. 5 out of 5

    Colleen Shaw

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nekquai

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sophia Brown

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Green

  10. 4 out of 5

    Camille

  11. 5 out of 5

    Leah Evans

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ando

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sean Barker

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dorthy

  15. 4 out of 5

    Cherie Habersham

  16. 5 out of 5

    Demarcus Caston

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tanya

  18. 5 out of 5

    ChampLeads

  19. 5 out of 5

    Joe

  20. 4 out of 5

    Craig Werner

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alexander

  22. 5 out of 5

    Aly

  23. 4 out of 5

    University of Texas Press

  24. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Varanka

  25. 4 out of 5

    Michael Zukosky

  26. 5 out of 5

    Micielle

  27. 4 out of 5

    Emma

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    Frederick Rotzien

  29. 5 out of 5

    Julia Conway

  30. 4 out of 5

    Nicola Fantom

  31. 5 out of 5

    Betty

  32. 5 out of 5

    SALLY WHITE

  33. 4 out of 5

    Claire

  34. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

  35. 5 out of 5

    Carol McFarlane

  36. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Reader

  37. 4 out of 5

    Joy Yerkie

  38. 4 out of 5

    Stacia Chappell

  39. 5 out of 5

    Joanne

  40. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Obrien

  41. 4 out of 5

    Manuel

  42. 4 out of 5

    Ann Ellis

  43. 5 out of 5

    Kathy Heare Watts

  44. 5 out of 5

    Shana M. Essig

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