Mary J. Blige - Stronger With Each Tear (2009)

Mary J. Blige
MaryJBlige-stronger.jpg
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

Anger issues, a stolen childhood and unhealthy addictions to drugs, alcohol and the wrong men. It sounds like the makings of a reality show, but it's actually chapters from the Book of Mary....Mary J. Blige that is. The poised and polished performer of today is a far cry from the cagey sister that burst on to the scene with her 1992 debut, What's The 411?. Compared to Aretha Franklin in one breath, yet criticized in the next for her self-destructive ways, her ability to "keep it real" still earned her millions of fans and industry accolades, although many felt her hard-won personal happiness diluted the strength of her catalog.  Stronger Than Each Tear, her ninth studio CD, has a little something for both camps: some songs about working through the pain and others about transcending it on the way up the wedding aisle, out with the girls or onto the dance floor.

Anger issues, a stolen childhood and unhealthy addictions to drugs, alcohol and the wrong men. It sounds like the makings of a reality show, but it's actually chapters from the Book of Mary....Mary J. Blige that is. The poised and polished performer of today is a far cry from the cagey sister that burst on to the scene with her 1992 debut, What's The 411?. Compared to Aretha Franklin in one breath, yet criticized in the next for her self-destructive ways, her ability to "keep it real" still earned her millions of fans and industry accolades, although many felt her hard-won personal happiness diluted the strength of her catalog.  Stronger Than Each Tear, her ninth studio CD, has a little something for both camps: some songs about working through the pain and others about transcending it on the way up the wedding aisle, out with the girls or onto the dance floor.

Does she completely flip the script on her faithful following? No. Ms. Blige blends her proven formula with some modern tweaks and celebrated producers to mix things up (Ne-Yo, The Dream). The lighter songs make up the first half of the disc, starting with "Tonight," the Konvict-produced opener that is simultaneously urban and ethereal.  "Said and Done" is a chipper apology for a lover's quarrel written and produced by Ryan Leslie, and the breezy skater jam, "Good Love," pairs her again with the Grand Hustler himself, T.I. "We Got Hood Love," with Trey Songz,  doesn't describe busted windows, flattened tires or recurring guest appearances on The Maury Povich Show, but a love that makes them living legends on the block and beyond. And in case he forgets, there's the frothy "I Am," which posits her as the man's best-case scenario...just in case he feels tempted to stray.

Those wanting a taste of that pre-Mrs. Issacs performer will enjoy "Kitchen," an atittudinal neck-roller warning a woman about getting too close and that her man is off the market:  "I know a lot of girls that don't need a man, but I need this one, and I know you might need you a man, but you ain't getting this one. I can have anybody baby, I ain't stressin', but what've done for him, I consider him an investment." He tongue-in-cheek referrals to her man as various cooking appliances will induce chuckles, but still doesn't keep the point from coming across. The most powerful number, "Color," from the Precious movie soundtrack, is produced by Raphael Saadiq and as close to the blues as Mary's ever been, declaring that her life's vision been made clearer by what she's overcome: " I can see in color, the first sign of spring. The rosebuds are blooming, I got a new song to sing."

Stronger With Each Tear isn't as potent as The Breakthrough, nor is it as seasoned as Growing Pains, but it does display an artist who is still evolving and not quite ready to rest on her laurels as the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul.

By Melody Charles

 
Featured Album - Rahsaan Patterson - Heroes & Gods
Featured Album - Lasperanza - "Seeds"
Featured Album - Nichelle Colvin - Welcome to Gary

Leave a comment!