The Best Mary J. Blige Albums

It’s hard to believe that Mary J. Blige has been a constant force in R&B for more than two decades now.

Well, maybe it’s not that hard. During that time, she’s been the voice behind some of the greatest anthems in R&B history.

Today, we’re looking back at Mary’s entire discography, ranking her catalog from worst to best. By the way, we’re strictly sticking to Mary’s studio albums, excluding her compilations, live albums and Christmas album.

She’s earned her crown as Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. These are the songs that defined her kingdom.

12. Love & Life (2003)

Soul In Stereo rating: 3 stars out of 5

Edd said: Well, all great artists have that one album that sticks out like a sore thumb. This was promoted as Mary’s reunion with former producer Puffy but it proved you can’t always go home again. There were a few decent songs here, they were just lost in a sea of endless interludes and mostly bland singles.

Forgotten treasures: “It’s A Wrap”

11. Stronger With Each Tear (2009)

Soul In Stereo rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: MJB’s albums often read like a self-help book on wax, and her 2009 effort was no different. It was an all-around solid effort but lacked her trademark standout cuts. And I’m still kinda tripping over  “Kitchen,” where Mary warned ladies not to let other women rummage through your cabinets. Yes, I know it’s a metaphor but it’s still ridiculous.

Forgotten treasures: “Good Love,” “I Love U (Yes I Du),” “Said and Done”

10. Think Like A Man Too soundtrack (2014) 

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5 (read our review here)

Edd said: Now this was a pleasant surprise. The recent Think Like A Man Too soundtrack was essentially a new Mary album in disguise – she handled all the tracks. They’re all very strong too, encompassing not only the scope of the movie but relationships in general.

Forgotten treasures: “All Fun and Game,” “Kiss and Make Up,” “See That Boy Again”

9. Growing Pains (2007)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: This album gets lost in the shuffle among Mary’s more prominent works, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a banger in its own right. Sure, singles like “Just Fine” get deserved love, but the album cuts are even stronger. The extremely bitter “Roses” is one of Mary’s most meaningful songs, bar none.

Forgotten treasures: “Roses,” “Shake Down,” “If You Love Me?”

london session

8. The London Sessions (2014)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Another underrated entry in MJB’s vast catalog, The London Sessions sees Mary traveling across the pond to embrace British soul. And man, the transition is seamless. Fans of Mary’s more hip-hop inspired work might not be moved, but the album’s understated yet passionate themes are a big win.

Forgotten treasures: “Whole Damn Year,” “Doubt,” “When You’re Gone”

7. No More Drama (2002)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: For the sake of argument, I’m going with the superior 2002 re-release over the 2001 original (but let’s just forget the “Waterfalls” knockoff “Rainy Dayz” never existed, OK?). This album marked a turning point for Mary, who symbolically left behind the heartbreak and misery that defined her early career to transition into a voice for progress and growth. This is when Mary went from victim to controlling her own destiny.

Forgotten treasures: “Steal Away,” “He Think I Don’t Know,” “Dance for Me”

6. My Life II … The Journey Continues (Act 1) (2011)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5 (read our review here)

Edd said: Sequel albums usually tend to suck, but not this time. Taking a cue from the heartbroken girl portrayed in her classic My Life album, My Life II conjured memories of that bygone era but reworked the themes. These songs are just as angry but come from a place of maturity. It’s a perfect picture of growth.

Forgotten treasures: “No Condition,” “Love A Woman,” “Don’t Mind”

5. Mary (1999)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: In 1999, Mary backed away from the hip-hop samples that made her career to embrace a more traditional R&B sound. The result was Mary, her most soulful and stirring album to date. It was a very bold move to step away from the hard-hitting sound that defined her career but the risk paid off. In my eyes, this is the album that solidified Mary as the true Queen of Hip-Hop Soul.

Forgotten treasures: “No Happy Holiday,” “Sexy,” “Give Me You”

4. The Breakthrough (2005)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4 stars out of 5

Edd said: Don’t call it a comeback – unless you want to. I won’t be mad. After Love & Life failed, Mary’s star started to dim and her career began to sputter. Never doubt the queen. The Breakthrough was an aptly named album, reestablishing Mary as one of R&B’s preeminent voices while recapturing the magic of her earlier works, which Love & Life failed to do. Nearly 15 years into her career, MJB was still capable of captivating audiences. Impressive.

Forgotten treasures: “Can’t Hide From Luv,” MJB da MVP,” “Alone”

3. What’s the 411? (1992)

Soul In Stereo rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Edd said: The one that started it all. MJB’s mix of hip-hop and R&B was a game changer for the industry. Her songs were rugged and gritty – fellas weren’t afraid to rock to them – yet the lyrics and themes spoke to a generation of girls. It was the start of a legendary career.

Forgotten treasures: “Slow Down,” “Changes I’ve Been Going Through,” “I Don’t Want To Do Anything”

2. Share My World (1997)

Soul In Stereo rating: 5 stars out of 5

Edd said: I contend that this is MJB’s most complete work. From top to bottom, it’s an air-tight collection of R&B. Mary was truly in her prime here, crafting ballads that were just as strong as radio-friendly singles. The only reason it’s not No. 1 is because it doesn’t have the legendary impact of its predecessor.

Forgotten treasures: “Share My World,” “It’s On,” “Can’t Get You Off My Mind”

1. My Life (1994)

Soul In Stereo rating: 5 stars out of 5

Edd said: Yep, I’m sure you weren’t shocked by No. 1, and who can blame you? My Life is one of the most iconic albums in R&B history, arguably THE signature album of R&B’s glory days in the 1990s. A generation of women felt Mary’s pain and lived vicariously through her vocals. Twenty years later, it’s still hard to top.

Forgotten treasures: “You Gotta Believe,” “I Never Wanna Live Without You,” “Be With You,” “Don’t Go”

How would you rank Mary’s catalog? Speak out in the comments

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3 Comments

  1. Love this post! My ranking of her albums is:

    MY LIFE, MARY, SHARE MY WORLD (all 5/5, flawless albums IMO)
    THE BREAKTHROUGH (4.5/5)
    WHAT’S THE 411, GROWING PAINS, MY LIFE II, LOVE & LIFE (4/5)
    NO MORE DRAMA, ’02 version (3.5/5)

    *I haven’t listened to STRONGER WITH EACH TEAR or THINK LIKE A MAN soundtrack yet

  2. I TOTALLY agree with this post! My Life literally is one of those albums that exemplifies what true R&B/Soul music is. Definitely of of my favorite of all time!

  3. I agree fully my ranking would be

    My Life
    Share My World
    What’s The 411
    Mary
    The Breakthrough

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