Mary J. Blige

Stronger with Each Tear

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    7
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Stronger with Each Tear's first four songs are decorated like NASCAR vehicles, with IDs from the Runners and Akon, Rodney Jerkins, Ryan Leslie, Stereotypes, and T.I. all heard before the voice of Mary J. Blige enters the mix. Sound logos and gratuitous self-serving plugs from producers and guest MCs are nothing new in mainstream R&B, but when an album by Mary J. Blige is dominated by them, in such an extended succession, a longtime follower’s minor irritation has the potential to turn to low-level rage. And while it is also understandable that the appearance of 2009 breakout star Drake on “The One” will help boost sales, the disparity is glaring; the MC was five years old when What’s the 411? was released. Trey Songz, featured on another track, wasn’t much older. Even when factoring these matters, Stronger with Each Tear is a very good Blige album, if not a classic. One of her briefest sets, it is tremendously (almost studiously) balanced between all the ground she has covered so well before. That’s no criticism, though, since most of the songs are easily memorable and display so much range. Those who detest “The One” on principle, for its use of Auto-Tune, need only to forward to the album’s final song, a quiet and sparse throwback (to 40-plus years ago) production from Raphael Saadiq in which Blige professes new love to chilling effect.

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