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V Opinion: Mary J. Blige Is Smooth Sailing On Stronger

When you reach the legendary status of a Mary J. Blige, you can either make exceptional albums, like The Breakthrough, or just-fine ones, like her latest set, Stronger With Each Tear. Career-tested and past the proverbial struggles and storms, hip-hop’s most soulful belter can still beast on the ballads, though with a modest overall outcome.

That Stronger is a succinct 12-track set helps its case. About half of the melodies don’t instantly excite, particularly on the first few radio-placating tracks, like the AutoTune-enriched “The One,” featuring Drake. An exception is the T.I. collabo “Good Love,” a showstopper built on handclaps and live instruments with a “Got to be Real” feel to it, as Mary wonders: “Am I coming on too strong/Do I make you nervous/Is this the first time you heard this?”

After a few mild adult contemporary joints, the album finds its upswing near the end, starting with the Trey Songz-assisted “Hood Love,” a track originally sung by singer/songwriter Johnta Austin, with a dramatic piano foundation that bears the stamp of a Bryan Michael Cox creation. That’s Blige’s comfort zone—smooth tracks, soprano crescendos and a cool refusal of drama.

The Queen is at her grittiest and most feisty, though, on “Kitchen” (helmed by Tricky Stewart and The-Dream, of course), with its R. Kelly-worthy moral tale about a home wrecker who’s “all up in yo’ fridge” with her “eyes on your man, hands on your pot.” Lyrics like these give the album a much-needed zest: “I know a lot of girls that don’t need a man but I need this one/And I know you might need you a man but you ain’t gettin’ this one/See I can have anybody baby I ain’t stressin’/But what I done for him, I consider him an investment.”

MJB mellows out with “In the Morning,” a measured slow jam with a simple sentiment (“Will you love me in the morning?”), while the sparse, nearly acapella “I Can See In Color” finds her stretching her vocals and mmhhmm-ing like only she can. While Mary isn’t preaching heavily about heartache or triumph anymore, given decent direction and songwriting, she’s still got much flavor. —Clover Hope

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Drake Debuts “Laugh Now Cry Later” Feat. Lil Durk

Champagne Papi hit fans with his second single in a matter of months.  “Laugh Now, Cry Later” arrived on Friday (Aug. 14) along with a cameo-heavy music video.

In the visual, Drake lives out his dream of being a professional athlete, complete with an oversized “draft day” suit (à la LeBron James in 2003). The 33-year-old rapper also shows off his range as both a dramatic actor (he sheds a tear, or two) and comedic actor.

Drizzy tapped director Dave Meyers for the music video, which features appearances from Kevin Durant, Marshawn Lynch, and Odell Beckham.

According to Drake's Instagram, “Laugh Now Cry Later” will appear on his forthcoming studio album, Certified Lover Boy.

 

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Laugh Now Cry Later off my next studio album CERTIFIED LOVER BOY 👌🏽 video link in bio

A post shared by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on Aug 13, 2020 at 9:02pm PDT

Drake’s last single, “Toosie Slide,” seemed tailored for the TikTok era and quickly shot to the top of the Billboard charts. “Laugh Now Cry Later” will likely make its way to the TikTok crowd, but the song offers a celebratory anthem perfect for the club, and other post-pandemic shenanigans.

Peep the music video below.

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Watch Ciara Celebrate Black Excellence In “Rooted” Video

Ciara connects to her roots and celebrates Black excellence in the music video for “Rooted.” Released on Thursday (Aug. 13), the up-tempo track, featuring Ester Dean, plays as a love letter to Blackness and a reminder that “everything you need to survive and thrive is rooted in you.”

The music video was filmed just two days before Cici gave birth to son, Win Wilson, and is the latest release under her record label, Beauty Marks Entertainment. A portion of the song’s proceeds will go to support Grantmakers for Girls of Color, a philanthropic organization “dedicated to cultivating investments in support of girls of color (Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and Pacific American) in the United States.”

The inspiring music video ends with a note of motivation from Ciara, “To all my Young Rosa’s and Young Luther’s keep marching. Don’t stop fighting for what you believe in. To all my Black Queens and Kings, continue to plant and spread seeds of love, hope and pride in your tribe. Everything you need to survive and thrive is rooted in you. Stay rooted.”

Watch the music video for  “Rooted” below.

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Premiere: Beyoncé's 'Ladies First Tour' alum, SINGLTN, Releases New Video “Skin”

When your name is connected to the woman that proclaims 'Black Is King,' your productions have a high standard to live up to and R&B's SINGLTN is well on his way of doing just that. With the release of his newest video single, "Skin," the once model and performer on Beyoncé's "Ladies First Tour" in 2004, brings an early 90s pop appeal with his ode to lavishing the lady in his life. “I’m talking about real relationships. I’m part of the creative process from scratch," says the former background singer for Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson. "It’s a universal, but soulful sound that hopefully appeals to everybody.”

"Skin" also delves into that very "moment your girl walks out all dressed up and ready, and you’re like, ‘I’d rather go back inside and stay home with you, ya know?’” he slyly grins. Having these inner visions by SINGLTN comes from an intense inspiration of great writer, composer and performer Stevie Wonder. Earlier this year, SINGLTN released a heartstring pulling cover of Mr. Wonder's classic tune “Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer.” SINGLTN was challenged in taking on such a storied tune, but felt compelled to do so as, “Stevie was one of the artists that inspired me to sing,” he goes on. “I wanted to do a tribute paying homage to him and his legacy. For me 'Never Dreamed You’d Leave in Summer' is Stevie at his best.

On the other side of personal creations, SINGLTN shines on the loyalty ode "Congratulations." The single that dropped at the top of the year shows the young crooner's status of hanging up his playboy jersey, as he explains, “The player in me has moved on. I found who I want to be with, and I’m off the market.” Check the video below.

Knowing that the entertainment industry will expect a lot from his talent, SINGLTN is ready for the world and for them to hear his messages of love and life that are on the way with full projects and extended creativity, “I’m giving you who I am,” he leaves off. “There’s a message for sure. I want people to walk away realizing I’ve got something to say, and I’m saying it honestly and from the heart.”

Listen to more SINGLTN here.

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