- Horace J. Maxile
Gospel vocal duo. The group members are Erica Atkins-Campbell (b Inglewood, CA, 29 April 1972) and her sister Tina Atkins-Campbell (b Inglewood, CA, 1 May 1974). Taking their professional name from biblical subjects—Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene—the duo stands among the more innovative voices in urban contemporary gospel. These sisters were nurtured by parents and siblings who were all gospel singers. Aspirations to become professional singers led to jobs as backup singers for notable R&B performers, but discomfort with some secular themes prompted their turn from that style and toward an edgy sacred sound. Mary Mary’s first two albums, Thankful (2000) and Incredible (2002), produced singles with major crossover appeal and introduced audiences to their decidedly contemporary stylishness. This style is noted in their flashy dress and modern hairstyles as well as in their tightly produced grooves that receive airplay in both gospel and R&B radio markets. Elements of their highly modern, and sometimes controversial, approach include influences of house music, hip hop, jazz, and R&B. While songs like “Shackles,” “Heaven,” and “In the Morning” represent the more successful contemporary songs that appeal to younger generations, the duo has roots firmly planted in the traditional sounds of gospel music as represented in “Can’t Give Up Now” and “Yesterday.” In complement to their accomplishments as singers are their credits as songwriters and producers; they wrote one of the charting singles on Yolanda Adams’ ...