Cat Cohen's Anatomy of a Hit a Hit in 2006

Be Without You by Mary J Blige

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Mary J Blige sings her heart and soul out on this R&B classic song about staying with her man.

Song: Be Without You
Artist: Mary J Blige
Album: The Breakthrough
Songwriter: Mary J. Blige, Johnta Austin, Bryan Michael Cox, Jason Perry
Producer: Bryan Michael Cox
B000BNTM32

Concept
A song about the staying power of the singer’s love and devotion through her relationship’s ups and downs.

Lyric
Blige lets us know in no uncertain terms that she hasn’t any doubts that this love relationship will stay together. Chemistry was crazy from the getgo, neither one of us knew why We didn’t build nothing overnight cause a love like this takes some time People swore it off as a phase, said we can’t see that Now from top to bottom they see that we did that It’s so true that we’ve been through it We got real sh**.see baby we been Too strong for too long (and I can’t be without you baby) And I’ll be waiting until you get home, (cause I can’t sleep without you baby) Anybody who’s ever loved, you know just what I feel Too hard to fake it, nothing can replace it Call the radio if you just can’t be without your baby

Groove
A slow and steady 16th groove with a strong backbeat gives Blige the foundation to phrase spontaneously in hip overlaid 32nd rhythms.

Melody
A string of riffy conversational phrases with strong hooky vocal backups in the chorus.

Harmony
A four-chord loop of triads and 7ths alternates with a capella (no chords) sections until this breaks away at the bridge. I bVImaj7 bVII V7 (loop) (a capella) iv7 v7 bVImaj7 v7 iv7 v7 bVImaj7 V7 iv7 (more a capella)

Structure
sig A B C A’ B’ C D D’ C tag Signature verse pre-chorus chorus verse (var) pre-chorus (var) chorus bridge (bridge extension) chorus tag

Signature
The background singers riff over the four chord looped intro.

Production
Simple and transparent on one hand, yet sophisticated subtle textures in the arrangement and an excellent mix effectively color the vocal’s expressivity.

Performance
One of Blige’s best vocals as she makes a transition in her performing life from victim to strength. Her testimony to her love and her plea to all women to find their strength as well is expressed with undeniable conviction and feeling.

Predicted Longevity
One of the year’s biggest hits, this should remain a classic within its R&B niche for a long time, although the lack of memorable melody may limit this recording to its intended audience.

Album Cover: The Breakthrough

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