“Perhaps the single finest moment in Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs’ musical career has been the production on this, Mary J. Blige’s second proper album” (Tyrangiel/ Light). “Combs probably didn't twist too many dials, but he knew that he wanted to reinvent R&B, and by blending the wah-wah pedals and strings that signified romance to his parents’ generation with the heavy breathing and beats that did it for the kids, Combs helped do just that” (Tyrangiel/ Light).
Regardless of what hand Combs played, “the production is not exactly original, and there is evidence here of him borrowing wholesale from other songs” (Swihart). Indeed, “purists complain that too many of these songs skate by on the familiarity of the R&B classics they sample. They have a point, but they also overlook the element that makes My Life both original and indelible: Blige's voice. It’s never, ever perfect; sometimes Blige can barely stay on key such is the excess of feeling. Yet that careening-out-of-control sound gives My Life an instant intimacy that cleaner singers never approach” (Tyrangiel/ Light).
Blige took a huge leap in artistry by penning almost everything herself (the major exception being Norman Whitfield’s I’m Going Down) in collaboration with co-producers Combs and multi-instrumentalist Chucky Thompson, and everything seems to leap directly from her gut” (Swihart).
In addition, “the melodic sources this time around…are so expertly incorporated into the music that they never seem to be intrusions, instead playing like inspired dialogues with soulsters from the past, connecting past legacies with a new one” (Swihart).
“Blige’s strain is sleekly modern and urban, and the grit in it comes from being streetwise and thoroughly realistic about the travails of life” (Swihart). Despite its modernity, this album does back “away to a certain extent from the hip-hop/soul consolidation that Blige introduced on her debut album” (Swihart). If that album “cast Blige as hip-hop diva par excellence, her sophomore set proved her worth beyond the dance floor” (Blender) as “the hip-hop part of the combination takes a few steps into the background, allowing Blige’s tortured soul to carry the album completely, and it does so with heartwrenching authority” (Swihart).
This album “is, from beginning to end, a brilliant, wistful individual plea of desire” (Swihart). It “emanates from some deep, dark place where both sadness and happiness cohabitate and turn into one single, beautiful sorrow” (Swihart). As just one example, “her singing on You Bring Me Joy was personal, emotional and life-affirming” (Blender). “This certainly isn’t your parents’ (or grandparents’) soul. But it is some of the finest modern soul of the '90s” (Swihart).