“I’m not saying that pain doesn’t exist no more in our life,” says Mary J. Blige in
the spoken intro to her 10th studio album. “But now we know how to navigate it.” Navigating pain has always been her subject. On this sequel to 1994’s My Life, Blige is, as usual, a voyager on storm-tossed emotional seas, swinging from bliss to anguish and back again. My Life II is packed with guest stars (Drake, Beyoncé) and top producers (Danja, Rico Love). But Blige is admirably unfashionable, staying in her sweet spot of midtempo hip-hop soul. After all these years, she can still make pain pleasurable.
Listen to “Feel Inside”: