If she’s that good, then why is Sheryl Crow the only one getting paid?…
Michaelangelo Matos: “I ain’t sayin’ I’m the best/But I’m the best.” Not anymore.
Al Shipley: Mary’s managed to keep up with almost two decades of rapidly changing production trends pretty well, all things considered. But lately she’s been on a really unfortunate string of tracks, like T.I.’s “Remember Me” and Jadakiss’s “Grind Harder”, where she’s never sounded more out of place, the queen of hip hop soul turning strangely prim and characterless over thumping synth beats. And at a time when even her much younger clone, Keyshia Cole, is going adult contempo, Mary straining to grab the of-the-moment sound and the guest rapper feels a little like seeing grandma in a tube top.
Anthony Easton: Mary J Blige is the last singer that needs the extending and abstracting, the fracturing and breaking apart of this kind of hip hop.
Martin Kavka: Why in the world would Mary J. Blige record a song that deprives her of all her uniqueness? This only gets any personality when Mary sings “I’m not sayin’ I’m the best, but I’m the best.” And the less said about Drake’s rap the better, as he forces “finger,” “bring her,” “thing for” and “Jenga” to rhyme.
Chuck Eddy: Not to be confused with “One” by Mary J Blige ft. U2 (primarily because Bono never rapped about the White Stripes, as far as I know).
Alex Ostroff: Average post-T-Pain production with some nice off-kilter drum fills ensures this will be at least a midlevel hit. Its existence is justified by Drake, who I might have written off unfairly as a Canadian, Jewish, actor-turnt-rapper. “While my brother Wayne rockin’ out like a White Stripe / Ima kill the game / I’m the Young Money white knight.” Indeed.
Martin Skidmore: She’s clearly one of the most talented singers of the last two decades, but although I’ve rarely cared deeply about her records, I am disappointed to see her using autotune, as it does remove much of her individuality. Drake is bright and lively, the beats are reasonably chunky, there’s a decent tune, and when she isn’t being ruined by the heavier momemnts of autotune, Mary still sounds great, so it’s still pretty good.
Anthony Miccio: Mary’s here, but thanks to unmemorable lyrics and a blur of vacuous autotune hooks, it’s distressingly easy to miss her. Docked a point for giving work to a sophomoric Yeezy-Weezy acolyte.
Jonathan Bradley: The production shimmers and glimmers, flickering on and off and, at particularly intense moments, short-circuiting Blige’s voice entirely. It’s quite dazzling, and for a singer as reliant on raw emoting as Mary J., the Autotune does not actually disrupt her performance as much you may expect. But it doesn’t do much to improve it either; where someone more suited to melting into an instrumental, such as Ciara, may have produced something astonishing from this, Blige’s take is merely good. OK, that “good” does come with a caveat: in the last minute, when producer Rodney Jerkins fricassees Blige’s singing and begins doubling it back upon itself in a disorienting ice storm of diva and disco, things get quite stunning indeed.
Alfred Soto: Another showcase for the latest promising newcomer undone by the blahs. In this context Blige’s megalomania sounds particularly repellent; when she crows about being the best, I wondered what the hell she’s so worried about. She’s more conversant with hip-hop swag, flow, and intonations than the Latest Promising Newcomer.
Alex Macpherson: Mary, girl, no. You’re Mary J. Effing Blige. You don’t need to do anything you don’t want to do any more.