Mary J. Blige

Reflections (A Retrospective)

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From 1992's "You Remind Me" through 2006's "Take Me as I Am," Mary J. Blige netted 16 Top Ten R&B singles, making the end of 2006 the ideal time to produce an anthology collecting the singer's biggest hits. A 16-track disc with nothing but Top Ten hits would be undeniable -- though, admittedly, not faultless since the 15 years of highlights cannot be contained on one disc -- a rather thorough and pleasing collection that would have no problem selling steadily for several years. Unfortunately, Reflections (A Retrospective) is nowhere close to being that straightforward. A mere handful of the Top Ten hits are included; while obvious picks like "Be Happy," "Real Love," "Not Gon' Cry," and "Be Without You" are present, a casual fan could rattle off just as many well-known songs that are not. (For starters, there are "You Remind Me," "Sweet Thing," "Deep Inside," "Love @ 1st Sight," and "Take Me as I Am.") Part of why the disc is missing so much is because over a quarter of it consists of new material; since Blige was still very active in 2006, the label found it necessary to maximize the sales potential by targeting the serious fans as much as the casual ones. By no means are the new songs poor, but none of them stand up to Blige's best singles. The same can be said of 2000's "911," where Blige guests for Wyclef Jean -- a well-chosen disc of Blige's best collaborations wouldn't include it. The other glaring gripe is the favoring of "I'll Be There for You/You're All I Need to Get By"'s "Razor Sharp Mix" over the original. With all these issues, it's impossible to not think of the disc as a first volume in desperate need of a follow-up. One of many things authenticating Blige's greatness is that this disc, for all its foul-ups, remains a completely enjoyable (if not completely satisfying) listen.

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