December 13, 2005

December surprise: Mary and Bono together



As I am compiling my various Best Of lists for the year (isn't every blogger?), a song has galloped into the final stretch. Mary J. Blige's new release, her duet with Bono on One, is MASSIVE. I am obsessed with it. Her voice pushes a great song into new levels of emotion.

On the original, which is a favorite of mine, I tended to focus on the more "globalized" chorus that seems to be mostly about unity, though the line "we are one, but we're not the same" has always leapt out. On the new version, it's the more intimate verses that carry the power - Mary really focuses on the dysfunctional relationship aspect of the song:

Did I disappoint you
Or leave a bad taste in your mouth?
You act like you never had love
And you want me to go without

Strong lyrics, aren't they? Be sure to listen for the way she sings the line, "You gave me nothing / Now it's all I got." There's blues in those notes!

I was afraid the studio version of this song would end up being soul-ified in a smarmy Sting-like way (I love Sting, but he panders). Mary does none of that - she brings it, on her own album, as a rock song. Her vocals are mellisma-free; there are very few moments where she crams to many syllables into a word. Bono is smart enough to just let her go in the last half. Remember when he was the diva in a duet (like In A Lifetime by Clannad). He seems comfortable being the straight man on this song.

Since last night I must have played this song 20 times. It's just so amazing. Her album The Breakthrough is released in the UK now and you can buy the single track on 7 Digital. Next week it should hit the US on iTunes. By the way, I love Mary's new Swiss girl look, so more on that soon!

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