Now while I’m definitely not the most religious guy around, I still enjoy some Gospel/Christian music every now and again. No matter how on track or terribly askew my walk has been, I’ve been rockin’ with Mary Mary since their debut album Thankful back in 2000. Even then, the groups ability to flip between contemporary R&B, traditional Gospel, and upbeat dance songs was something that the public seemed to be clamoring for. They rewarded the duo with a platinum album on that very album. From there they have 2 more gold albums in Incredible and Mary Mary. Ironically, the most successful debut album, The Sound has yet to match that success. Has the growing rumble against club friendly rhythms with holy lyrics caused their album sales to falter? Even more, will that sort of perception coerce the group into changing up their style with this latest album? Let’s take a look at the 2011 release, Something Big.
Staying true to form, this album isn’t short for dance songs by any means. It kicks off with the high energy title track, Something Big. This one is a rocked out praise and testimony track, If you’ve been to one of the bigger non denominational churches, this sounds like the music you’d hear there. I gotta say I’m not a huge fan of the way this song sounds, but the message, as with most Gospel albums, is the star of this song. Never Wave My Flag is another song sounds made for the club. The message of not surrendering backed by the high energy house tempo is pretty infectious. I’m surprised this wasn’t selected as the lead single. It’s a pretty dope song. There is another son that seems to be the cousin to this one, but I don’t like it nearly as much. Something Bigger feels like it was handled by Will.i.Am and was made in the euro mold that dominates the radio. I think the other thing I don’t really about this song is the fact that they sound as if they are rapping.
It’s not all dance inspired music though, we get some good contemporary R&B , Soul, and Hip Hop inspired tracks as well. Blind has a bit of a R&B or Hip POP inspired track behind it. It still features synthed out keys but that’s backed by a pretty strong bass drum . Lyrically, the song talks about how God’s unconditional love see’s past our flaws and embraces us. I think the most soulful song on the album is Survive. It has thoroughly engrossing R&B sound to it and what appears to be live instrumentation that really makes this song stand out from the rest of the album. As the title says, this song is about surviving through trying times.
There are two truly perplexing things about this album for me. The first thing that baffles me is what I perceive to be a pretty sharp line in philosophy between the front and back halves of the album. Where the front portion of this album features heavy keyboard and machine inspired tracks, the second half is much more lush and sounds like live instruments in the studio. The other perplexing issue on the album is the use of autotune on It Is Well. The song itself has traditional inspiration and acapella roots, but it’s backed by some autotuned singing that serves as the “music.”
For the most part, this is pretty much what you’d expect to hear from a Mary Mary album. It features an abundance of high energy songs and some other traditional sounds as well. So as far as my question about changing up the format, that definitely didn’t happen this time around which I think is a good thing. I think Mary Mary fans will enjoy this album as there isn’t any departure from what works for them, but at the same time, there isn’t anything here that blows you out of the water either. I guess in that way, the album feels a bit restrained since there are very few moments that really warrant that sort of deep movement either in your spirit or in their own voices. Folks new to the group will find something on this album that they can enjoy, almost no matter what style of music they enjoy. Hopefully, with the inclusion of the euro dance sound, this album does prove to be Something Big for the duo.
Soulections: “Never Wave My Flag”, “Catch Me”, “Survive”, “Blind”