Mary J. Blige: Dance for Me

Jason MacNeil

Mary J. Blige

Dance for Me

Label: MCA
US Release Date: 2002-08-13
UK Release Date: Available as import

After the success of her last album, No More Drama, Mary J. Blige has become more of a crossover urban pop star than an R&B icon. But like all pop musicians, the obligatory b-sides and singles result in a plethora of unnecessary dance remixes. The nine songs from this album, six of which are from the latest album, are not as horrid as some may suspect, but to be compared to the original versions would be a foolhardy idea. Although there are touches of Latin, samba and hip-hop beats on the record, there isn't a large musical thread running through the album.

Starting off with "No More Drama (Thunderpuss Remix)", the initial opening is promising, a percussion heavy Latin and African flavoring that should lead to a danceable and infectious track. But this is shelved two minutes in for a rather mundane and routine remix. The percussion and beats are a bit more predominant, but only in certain instances is there any hint of creativity. The bridge portion is beefed up considerable and some tension is created in Blige's being echoed into dance-house feeling. It has an aerobic-workout beat to it while hitting all of the notes of a Ricky Martin remix. The conclusion seems worthy of praise, but it fades for far too long.

The Spanish Fly remix of "Family Affair" has a nice groove in it, similar to a New Order or Depeche Mode '80s-era track. It evolves (devolves?) into a '70s-style disco floor beat as Blige begins to be heard. The funk of the original is replaced by a rather watered-down bass line and, as a result, loses some of the song's original assets. It picks up slightly when the chorus is added to the mix, but the sound is far too cliched to be credible. "Everything" has the team of Curtis & Moore remixing this song and they have far greater success than the previous tracks. Leaving most of the melody and song in tact for the introductory, the remix only accentuates some of the percussion and adds a slightly orchestral tone to it. It's also the first of the three tracks not from No More Drama.

"Rainy Dayz" begins with a horrid pace and structure, but thankfully moves into a much better vibe as some dense layering and keyboards gives it a decent tune. Remixed again by Thunderpuss, which is actually Barry Harris and Carl Cox, the track eclipsed seven minutes with a Latin rhythm that is lost in the middle section for some unknown reason. "He Think I Don't Know (hq2 Club Remix)" is the weakest of the remixes here, trying to be too ambient for its own good despite having a great vocal by Blige. Often her vocals are not the centerpiece of the song, instead relying on an ambient and Eno-esque feeling that doesn't work. One of the remixes that stays truer to the feel of most of Blige's material is "Never Been", which is a great track because it doesn't succumb to the typical dance beats, allowing it to evolve gradually. Done by Al B. Rich (Albert Castillo and Rich Pangilinan}, it's a sensual and very smooth interpretation of the original. The title track, which is dubbed the "G-Club Remix" has a Prince funk sense about it but also has a tinge of British house music to it. The bass line and horn section is far more pronounced here, much to the tune's benefit. A similar comparison to its sound is Dee-Lite's "Groove is in the Heart".

One of the warmer sounding songs here is "Give Me You (Extended Nino Radio Mix)", an upbeat song that stays away from the too often formulaic dance sound. It sounds more like a track that wouldn't seem out of place on an official album, especially given the tempo and backing vocals. Rounding out with "Let No Man Put Asunder", the track has all the feeling of a '70s Commodores track in its guitar and tone. The Pointer Sisters would be another fair comparison. On the whole the remixes are for the diehard fans of the dynamic singer, but there are some worth checking out.

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