Sisters Tina and Erica Campbell, now on their sixth disc as the superduo Mary Mary, make contemporary religious music set to a secular beat. The sisters love R&B — not vintage, Aretha-style R&B, but the sort of late ’80s/early ’90s New Jack Swing-style R&B once beloved by artists like Salt-N-Pepa.
Their latest, “Something Big,” mixes those old grooves with new-ish electro-dance ones. Dated, endearing and awkward, “Something Big” sounds like it was made by energetic soccer moms with a fondness for Teddy Riley and Jesus, though not necessarily in that order.
The album is divided into two types of tracks: the overtly devotional (such as the stomping, call-and-response title track and the clattering marching band anthem “Something Bigger”) and the sassy, the latter a grouping of Oprah-esque, generically life-affirming songs about staying positive (such as “Survive,” a cheery piano ballad).
“Something Big” is filled with throwbacks that don’t seem to know they’re throwbacks, such as the first single “Walking,” an irresistible self-help seminar wrapped in what might as well be a Jodeci song. Mary Mary also dips a toe into modern day R&B with “Never Wave My Flag,” which kicks off with a grand, Kanye-like electro-operatic fussiness before morphing into a familiar up-tempo pop song about overcoming adversity (“Seems like I should run away / Because life is hitting me in the face / Not today”) — precisely the sort of thing the sisters do best.
“Walking,” “Never Wave My Flag”