Mary J Blige - Strength of a Woman review: ‘Her indomitable voice is always the main event’

andre Paine
New album: Mary J Blige's Strength of a Woman

A messy divorce might have made for a lyrically toxic 13th album from Mary J Blige but the Bronx-born star is too classy to succumb to bitterness — not that her ex-husband (and former manager) entirely escapes Blige’s scorn.

“There’s a special place in hell for you,” she sings on Set Me Free, though it’s smoothly soulful rather than the raging R&B you might expect.

Strength of a Woman is more about the healing process, which does mean slogging through syrupy tunes that hint at guidance from self-help gurus and, ultimately, God.

But there’s also plenty of hip-hop grit, including Kanye West’s fired-up rapping during Love Yourself and Missy Elliott on the skulking groove of Glow Up. Even alongside the special guests, though, Blige’s indomitable voice is always the main event.

(Capitol)