Mary J. Blige has been talking this week about the forthcoming sequel to her anguished, neo-soul classic that was 1994’s ‘My Life’, and the whole concept strikes us as a little odd.
The brilliance of her second album was the dark heart that lay beneath the slinky beats and the lyrics which dealt with her addictions, depression and toxic relationship. The idea that the now happily married Blige could re-create that moment in time – with the mooted ‘My Life 2: The Journey Continues’ – is questionable indeed. Even if it does supposedly feature Busta Rhymes, Diddy and Lil Wayne.
And this seems to be one of the problems with sequel albums. Attempting to go back to a specific musical moment in time is, at best, nostalgia being used to create something new and at worst it’s musically regressive and tantamount to waving the white flag and saying “I give up” to any newer, more contemporary musical paths.
The “re-creatation of a winning formula” mantra is inherently false and the opposite to the alchemy that happens when an album comes together organically. Mike Oldfield’s ‘Tubular Bells’ sequels and Neil Young’s ‘Harvest Moon’ are cases in point. Successfully emulating the atmosphere of the original is very different from getting back their spark and newness. They feel synthetic in comparison.
Meatloaf famously did two sequels to ‘Bat Out Of Hell’, each with diminishing returns. By the third album he was doing covers of Celine Dion tracks.
And while Jay-Z’s first sequel to ‘The Blueprint’ wasn’t as good as the original, it attempted to compensate for this fact by outstaying its welcome.
So do you think album sequels are ever a good idea?