The combination of Mary J. Blige with strong material is one of the few guarantees of excitement in today's R&B world. Rather than stuff her lines with showy streams of notes like too many post-Patti LaBelle divas, Blige sings the song
. Even when she breaks into melisma, it feels like the direct result of an overflow of emotion and not the bad habit of a vocalist steeped in It's Showtime at the Apollo!
Like the 1994 My Life
engages in lots of self-affirmation in between its bouts with drama, fate, and the enemies of love--especially when the star takes pen in hand, as on "Keep Your Head." As if to confirm Blige's toughness, the strongest cut here is Babyface's over-it "Not Gon' Cry." --Rickey Wright