Mary J. Blige is part of the furniture in the R&B world at this stage, having been the strongest female influence in the genre since the release of her debut album What’s The 411? In 1992. 10 albums later and it seems that the New York songstress no longer dictates the twists and turns in female orientated R&B: maybe that particular torch has been passed to Beyonce. However, it is both refreshing and a hindrance that, with her 11th album, she has stayed true her roots with -90s-esque R&B beats.
Opening with an atrocious cover of Led Zeppelin’s -Whole Lotta Love’ was probably not the smartest move by Mary J. The cover is little changed from the original, apart from a few warbles and extra beats, and it seems entirely pointless as it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the album. Later on, we find another Zepp cover in the shape of -Stairway To Heaven’, a song even the most hardcore of Led Zeppelin fans could do without hearing again.
Perplexing covers aside, Stronger With Each Tear is sadly relegated to the realm of background music, with one or two notable exceptions. The soulful -Colour’, taken from the movie Precious, is highly emotive, with Blige’s voice at its very best, while -I Feel Good’ is a catcy, uplifting pop tune, although it does belong in the 1990s. While it’s commendable that Mary J. Hasn’t done what so many of music’s mainstays do (well hello, Madonna), it’s something of a double-edged sword, with almost every track sounding like it’s a left-over from her heyday in the last decade. She still has the voice, but maybe it’s time to get some new blood into the writer’s room.