Mary J. Blige asserts her role as R&B's authoritative life coach on her 10th album, a sequel to her 1994 breakthrough effort. Her pain is less harrowing - she's older now and knows how to cope - so instead of singing only for herself, she's doing it for her listeners, a noble goal but also dull and predictable.
Working with the usual producers and songwriters, Blige front-loads My Life II with beats reminiscent of her grimier 90s output and ends with a handful of easy-listening ballads that wouldn't sound out of place in the final credits of Disney's next blockbuster. In the middle we get an unnecessary reworking of Chaka Khan's 80s anthem Ain't Nobody and a Beyoncé duet that aims for posterity rather than chemistry.
The best moments are the most bad-ass: the embittered Nas team-up Feel Inside and the cocky, Lil Wayne-assisted bonus track Someone To Love Me (Naked). They're the only tracks that really strut with high heels on.
Top track: Someone To Love Me (Naked)