Stronger With Each Tear

Mary J. Blige

Matriarch, 2009

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan


The last decade had been very good to Mary J. Blige. Lots of awards and countless more nominations, coupled with huge album sales and an ever-growing fan base, saw her become the premier R&B artist of her generation. Sure, there are plenty of pretenders and wannabes who think that baring their bodies and acting like tramps will cover for the fact that they lack any real talent. But long after they are finished and forgotten about, Mary J. will still be powering on because Miss Blige is the real thing. Her career is now approaching its twentieth year and the woman shows no sign of fading away any time soon. 

Writing of the material on this album began while Blige was on the road in support of her fantastic Growing Pains album, which saw her continue her journey of self-growth and her current relationship. The story of Stronger With Each Tear ends up being more of the same, because Mary J. is in such a good place these days that there ain’t much pain left to write about anymore. Although her travails added some grit to her earlier works, it must be a relief for her at least to not have to go there anymore. 

Blige took charge in the studio and produced this album herself, along with a select group of producers to work over separate tracks with her. It seems to be the way she likes to work, and rarely has she gotten it wrong. Her ninth release is no exception, as MJB has turned out another stellar disc that happens to be one of her very best-to-date. There is definitely a direction change here, though, because musically and stylistically, it has most in common with her very first album, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 What’s The 411? 

That’s a great thing, because the Queen of Hip Hop Soul over the last decade shifted to a more middle-of-the-road R&B sound that suited her, but by this time she had pretty much exhausted all that it had to offer, so this a fresh and pleasant change. Another aspect that I immediately loved about this album is that Blige has stripped it back to just twelve songs, which – after putting out 18-20 songs on every release – is again a welcome change in my book. This, of course, means there is no filler (although to be honest, with MJB there rarely ever is), and it sees fewer guest rappers than she has previously employed since her debut. 

The disc opens with the cool ambience of “Tonigh,t” which is followed by the album’s lead single “The One.” The latter features buzzed-about rapper Drake and is one of Blige’s most instantly accessible songs. Better still is the sublime, easy-grooving “Good Love” (featuring T.I.) that finds Mary J reveling in all her newfound confidence when it comes to the opposite sex. 

“I Feel Good” is more of the carefree and happy Mary J. that has emerged over the last several albums; it’s always great to hear her singing this stuff straight from the heart. Trey Songz joins Mary for the slick synth-laden “We Got Hood Love,” which along with laidback groove of “Each Tear,” provides two more highlights to this wonderfully pleasing set of songs. “Kitchen” is easily the most original moment on the album and serves as an amusing metaphor for something else entirely. 

“In The Morning” sees Blige exercising restraint in her emotive delivery that complements the slow-groove beautifully. The cut “Color” was used for the motion picture Precious, and Blige wisely decided to tack it onto the end of the album; it’s a great moment for her, and anyone who has ever doubted her vocal abilities should check it out and forever hold their peace. 

So it seems that MJB has come full circle with this release, and not since her debut some eighteen years ago has she sounded so truly soulful and full of hope for the future. Stronger With Each Tear is a fantastic album and one that should go down as one of Blige’s very best ever.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


I didn't think much of MJB when she first came out, but I've got to give it to her. She hasn't had a flop yet, and she's smart enough to use good writers and producers. I haven't heard this album yet. I probably won't buy it, I'm not really a fan, but I appreciate when an artist gives their all to make a good record. I do want to hear it, because I believe the review.

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