The release date of Mary J. Blige's seventh studio album has had as much drama as one of her songs.
The Breakthrough was originally scheduled to come out this month (see "Mary J. Blige Gets Over Herself With The Breakthrough"). Then she bumped it to 2006 and announced that she'd be dropping Reminisce, a greatest-hits LP containing four new songs, on November 22. Then the Reminisce release date was moved to December 6.
Now, plans for the greatest-hits set have been put on hold, and The Breakthrough is slated for release on December 20. A label source said the new LP was turning out so well that all parties agreed to get it in stores as soon as possible, and on Tuesday in Los Angeles, Mary said, "I'm glad [The Breakthrough] is coming out and the other album is coming later."
MJB is still carrying on with plans to shoot a video for "Be Without You" in Los Angeles Tuesday (November 8), the plot of which she said centers around a woman learning to love herself.
The song was slated to be the first single from Reminisce and has been moved over to The Breakthrough, along with the other three new tracks, "Can't Hide From Love," "MJB Da MVP" (which features Mary's vocal over the Game's "Hate It or Love It") and a duet with Bono on U2's "One."
"The Breakthrough is coming in February or March," Mary said in New York late last month. "We're getting The Breakthrough to the point where it's unbreakable and it's bulletproof. It's almost there but we want it to be perfect."
Apparently, perfection was attained sooner than expected. The 14-track album features songs produced by Brian Michael Cox, Rodney Jerkins, the Black Eyed Peas' Will I Am, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Dre & Vidal, Johnta Austin, Raphael Saadiq and others, and like most of her albums, it has a unifying theme.
"The Breakthrough is about getting to or going to a place where we fear the most," she explained. "Going to a place where people are gonna talk about us. As a human being, no matter how cool you are, you still are goofy sometimes, you still are corny sometimes and don't care what people say about it. People are always gonna have something to say. Just be who you are.
"This album is basically Mary J. Blige not being what everybody else wanted her to be," she continued. "You either like this or you don't. This is about making a choice to survive."
On that note, Mary said the main pitfall of her last LP, 2003's Love & Life, was that she didn't stay true to herself or the fans.
"When we put the Love & Life album out, it was a dessert, because I don't believe I was being as honest with my fans as I normally am," the Queen said. "I wasn't being honest because I had record company people in my life saying, 'No, don't sing with that much emotion. Don't do this, don't do that.' I'm thinking, 'Oh, OK. Don't do that? OK.' Turns out, that little feeling you get inside of you saying, 'Don't do it' — I didn't listen to it. The people are not stupid. They know when I'm for real and they know when I'm being pushed for something else."
Mary is hoping some of her fans will be able to follow her evolution on the new single.
" 'Be Without You' is a ballad that was produced by Johnta [Austin] and Brian Michael Cox," the singer said. "It's a love song. It's like that relationship that everybody wishes they could have — it's a perfect relationship. But nothing's perfect. Everything takes work. So what makes the song so powerful, people are thinking, 'God, I wish I had that.'
"It's a change," she added. "I've always done love songs but my biggest records were me being miserable. And there's a lot of women who have grown up with me and a lot who have not grown and are still stuck in misery. The ones still stuck in misery, I want to let them understand everything is work and let's go work for it. In order to get the right man, we gotta become the right woman to ourselves. That's what this record is: It's a blossoming flower to all the women that suffer. You deserve a man who's gonna treat you right and you need to start looking for that."