It ain’t all roses: the best of Mary J. Blige

Because R&B stations abjure playing singers over thirty-five after the rise of so-called “adult” R&B stations acted as assisted living facilities for otherwise fecund careers, the steady commercial collapse of Mary J. Blige in the last decade has a touch of sadness even if her decline is no steeper than others of her generation. Here was a singer who through the late Bush years could be counted on to send one crossover anthem — who, indeed, was still breaking records with 2005 and 2006’s “Be Without You” — onto the pop charts; now she struggles to top the R&B album chart. She’s released a wealth of material consonant with affirmations and enough self-help maxims to sink a conference program; Conor Oberst and Sufjan Stevens should be this bold. The new Strength of a Woman is good, 2014’s Disclosure collaboration The London Sessions even better, and I’m fond of the Stargate material on 2007’s Growing Pains. Respect is an estimable substitute for love, therefore have patience with my inclusions (and exclusions).

1. Not Gon’ Cry
2. All That I Can Say
3. Be Without You
4. Real Love
5. Stay Down
6. Family Affair
7. Sweet Thing
8. You Remind Me
9. Fade Away
10. I Can Love You
11. Sexy (featuring Jadakiss)
12. Get to Know You Better
13. Roses
14. Your Child
15. No More Drama
16. Whole Damn Year
17. Memories
18. Enough Cryin’
19. Missing You
20. U + Me (Love Lessons)

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