By Eliza Berman
November 19, 2014

Mary J. Blige and Sam Smith have got a good thing going on. She joined him for an emotional duet of his hit single “Stay With Me” back in June, and he co-wrote a handful of the songs on her forthcoming album, The London Sessions, including the latest track, “Not Loving You.”

The song is stripped-down, with Blige accompanied only by piano for the first verse and chorus before adding percussion to the mix. The lyrics are about the struggle to help someone who can’t help himself; Blige sings, “There’s only so much I can do if you’re not loving you.” This resigned, soul-baring emotion — reminiscent of much of Smith’s recent work — allows Blige’s voice to shine without distraction.

The London Sessions is named not only for the city where it was recorded, but also for the British artists it features, including Emeli Sandé, Naughty Boy, Disclosure and Smith. Of her decision to record in the U.K., Blige told the Guardian, “The music is free over here the way it used to be in the States. Artists are just free to do what they love.” The album drops on Dec. 2.

Write to Eliza Berman at eliza.berman@time.com.

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