Mary J. Blige

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Mary J. Blige: Queen of hip-hop soul.
Mary J. Blige: Queen of hip-hop soul.

Is Mary J. Blige still the reigning queen of hip-hop soul? It was looking iffy a few years ago, when she released her lukewarm Love & Life, an awkward attempt to reconcile her usual gritty themes of abusive relationships and ghetto drama with an increasingly happy personal life — newly married, kicked cocaine, found God. On last year's phenomenal The Breakthrough, however, the streetwise-yet-vulnerable Blige found a way to look back insightfully on her painful past through the lens of a content, mature woman — and the album (and her glorious, emotion-packed voice) is accordingly powerful and poignant. Even a collaboration with U2 on a cover of their song "One," which sounds abysmal on paper, comes off terrific.

 
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