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    Mary J. Blige – “Christmas in the City”

    The 1987 album A Very Special Christmas benefitted the Special Olympics and gave the world Run-D.M.C.’s “Christmas in Hollis,” the standard against which all rap songs about Christmas must be judged. Now spanning eight volumes, the A Very Special Christmas series hasn’t contributed much more of musical value; it’s generally just been a place for celebrities to put out a Christmas song as a charitable gesture. But Mary J. Blige’s contribution to the 1997 album A Very Special Christmas 3 was a noteworthy exception. From the outset, Blige states, “I ain’t tryin’ to be on tour on Christmas this time, I’m trying to be in the city” and guest rapper Angie Martinez backs this up by referencing “Christmas jams at the Tunnel.” Over a deceptively simple R&B groove that sounded completely at home on rap and R&B radio at the time, Blige paints a seductive portrait of spending Christmas not with family or Santa, but just in her hometown. She sings, “Out of all the places I could be I’d rather be in New York, chilly.”

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