Mary J. Blige

The Breakthrough (Geffen)

In December's Vibe Mary J. Blige said that even though she's comfortable revealing her abs in photographs, "I ain't giving you titty, nipple, pubic hair or damn near clitoris." While that's certainly the most colorful quote uttered by a public figure this year, Blige's comment actually runs counter to the nature of her career, which is airing in song love's dirtiest details--the breakups, betrayals and backstabbings that drive a woman to music as deeply felt as "Real Love" and "No More Drama." On The Breakthrough, Blige's seventh studio album, she continues to offer up emotional unmentionables, as indeed she always will. (Blige's fans' disappointment is always pronounced when the singer vows to stay positive.) But stuffed with productions by high-end knob-twirlers like Raphael Saadiq, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, the CD also contains the glossiest material we've yet heard from the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, which begs the question: Will Mary's bling dampen her blues? Not yet. Even when describing finding her everything, Blige sings with the raw hurt of someone who's looked for too long. And in "MJB Da MVP," a recounting of Blige's career set over the Game's "Hate It or Love It," she sounds proud but anxious, as if her music's ability to heal might soon falter.

 
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