Last month I was able to parlay a 3-day work trip into a 3 week work/family holiday extravaganza. [Sidenote: My job’s main office is in LA and, for some bizarre reason my mom and brothers have all moved to CA. So, when I go out for meetings I try to tack on a couple of days (this time 2 weeks) to hang out with them and save the $500+ ticket for a separate trip. The perks to having a grown-up job] So, as I prepared to exit stage left, I had to come to the terms that the music on my IPod would stay there without being updated until I got back – I was taking my work laptop and we all know IPods don’t like to cheat with other computers. After much trepidation, I updated my playlists, added some albums I haven’t listened to and threw all caution to the wind.
Being stuck on a plane with no seat-back televisions (like Jetblue or Virgin Airlines) for 6 hours as you head across the country, you can do one of three things – sleep while listening to music, play solitaire while listen to music, or read while listening to music. I tend to sleep (I actually slept from DC until we were over Alaska on our way to Seoul one year – a coworker had to wake me up to see the Bering Sea and wave to all my Deadliest Catch faves – yes, I’m weird). The cool thing about being awake and listening to the music is that I tend to use the All Songs option, hit Random/Repeat, and hide my IPod (I have Bluetooth cordless headphones). Doing this forces me to listen to whatever comes on and not go looking for a favorite song. Ultimately, it also reminds me that I have some choice albums I haven’t thought about in years.
This trip, in between jamming to Alice Smith (She), Michael Franti & Spearhead (All People) and Res (Refried Mac), I would hit “All Songs” and just let whatever comes on just play. Actually, there was a funny moment when my brother walked into my hideaway to hear me jamming to some VERY old Whitney Houston as I was folding laundry – I’m telling you, All Songs brings everything to the surface. The major reintroduction I got during my vacation was to Mary J. Blige.
I’m about to age myself, but I remember when Uptown Records was just beginning and Jodeci, Mary J Blige, Soul 4 Real, Heavy D and Al B. Sure were coming on the scene with purpose. Old Heads – remember that MTV Unplugged episode with the whole Uptown Records crew? I still have the freakin’ album!!
1992 was THE year of the cut-out baseball hat and pony tail – and we owe it all to Mary’s “What’s the 411” and specifically, Real Love
Unfortunately, my hair was too thick, and my head way too big, to look cute in a baseball hat with a cut-out. But, I tried – hard. (No, I thankfully don’t have any pictures of me pretending to be a chubby background dancer for Mary. I may have partied hard at UMass, but I wasn’t stupid)
I have to admit though, it was her 2nd album, My Life, which was released in 1994, that – in my humble opinion – is her greatest. Sad part, I have totally forgotten about Ol’ Skool Mary over the years. I have most of her albums, but none of them rocked me like her first 4, especially My Life.
I don’t know why…but it just hits the right spot – a respectful nod to that classic Mary Jane Girls in “All Night Long,” the *thump thump thump* in “You Bring Me Joy,” and the heart wrenching “I’m Going Down” (She sang the HELL out of that song). All I can say is “My Life” is genius – and the fact that you could throw it on almost 20 years after its release and still nod your head says something.
It’s albums like this one that makes me so happy that I was coming of age during this time in music – I still had older relatives to make sure I appreciated Motown and Funk, but I had the opportunity to explore the hybrid of this – New Jack Swing – during its infancy and appreciate what artists like Mary, Teddy Riley and Jodeci were giving us.
Well, it’s time for me to start diggin’ deeper into the crates and find another album I’ve forgotten about.
See ya soon — KJStJ