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Mary J. Blige

The Breakthrough (Geffen)

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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." That's certainly the most colorful quote from a public figure this year, but Blige's comment actually runs counter to the nature of her career, in which she has aired 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 she always should. (Blige's fans' disappointment is always pronounced when the singer vows to stay positive.) Stuffed with productions by high-end knob-twirlers Raphael Saadiq, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, the CD also contains the glossiest material yet from the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. Does Mary's bling dampen her blues? Not yet. Even when she describes finding her everything, Blige sings with the raw hurt of someone who has 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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