Earlier this year, Mary J. Blige hitched up with two of the UK’s brightest musical talents in Sam Smith and Disclosure. The R&B singer appeared on updated versions of Smith’s evocative “Stay With Me” and Disclosure’s funky “F For You”, in addition to joining the brothers Lawrence on stage in both New York and again at Coachella (where Smith also popped up).
Now, Blige has teamed with the wunderkinds once more for her latest album, The London Sessions. According to The Observer, Disclosure co-produced the entire record and also appear on at least one song, while Smith wrote a handful of album tracks and joins Blige on a “doo-wop” duet.
In describing what drew her to the music of the UK, Blige had this to say:
The sound in London at the moment is house music. That is what the majority of people are producing their songs like. But the ones that get truly successful are the ones using proper songwriting. Rudimental for example – they write proper songs and then produce them like dance music. And that is exactly what we’re trying to do, along with a few other people. But that applies to any genre, not just dance music. You could take the songs off Sam Smith’s album, produce them in a completely different way and they would still be a huge success – you could produce them like acid jazz and I still feel like they’d get somewhere.
As our first taste, Blige has unveiled the Disclosure-produced, Smith-penned ballad “Right Now”. If nothing else, Blige is enacting her whole idea of placing songwriting above any populous genre/aesthetic: under the layers of twinkling synths and skittish drum beats is an achy and forlorn R&B number dripping with primal pain. But what’s most impressive is how Blige, Smith, and Disclosure interact. Disclosure’s production feels more minimalist than other fare, putting the real emphasis on Blige’s lush croon. Interrelatedly, Blige’s voice has the perfect mix of torment and lustiness to accurately convey Smith’s lovesick tale.
Listen in below.
The London Sessions is due out later this fall. In addition to Smith and Disclosure, the album will feature contributions from other UK talents, most notably Emeli Sandé, Naughty Boy, Sam Romans, and Jimmy Napes. Blige’s longtime collaborator, Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, will also co-produce the LP alongside Disclosure.