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Review: Mary J. Blige, "My Life II: The Journey Continues (Act 1)"

Published: Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, December 7, 2011 17:12

Mary J. Blige

My Life II: The Journey Continues (Act 1)

(Geffen)

Grade: B

Seventeen years ago, Mary J. Blige let loose with the harrowing My Life. Filled with raw emotions evoked by an abusive relationship and addictions of all kinds – to say nothing of her personal and professional move from pavement to penthouse – My Life set a high bar for all rap/R&B belters. Even Blige couldn't often match My Life's nervously fatalistic yet hopeful soul.

Blige's life and sound have famously moved past My Life's messiest business. This second volume's first act (more continuation here than the "Final Destination" film series) is a sequel, a star-stuffed (Drake, Nas, Beyoncé) slice of slick soul, rapid-fire hip-hop, and sappy but solid ballads.

Of course, it contains MJB's patented brand of angst anthem on "The Living Proof," in which Blige starts out beaten down, only to rise like a self-affirming Technicolor phoenix. There are Gamble&Huff and Wu Tang Clan samples to croon atop, covers to be tackled (Rufus/Chaka Khan's "Ain't Nobody"), and battles to be won over her costars. Tracks such as "Empty Prayers" and "25/8" show Blige at her breast-beating best, giving the agonies of 1994 a good run for their money.

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