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Instead of offering another set of mostly forgettable material from assorted R&B and rap artists, the soundtrack for the sequel to Think Like a Man takes a different approach. It provides an all-new set of material from Mary J. Blige. Her first non-holiday release since 2011's My Life II, it aligns her with the-Dream and Christopher "Tricky" Stewart on seven cuts -- that's half the album -- as well as several other writers and producers. The match with the most star power is heard on "See That Boy Again," a collaboration with Pharrell Williams. It's a solid, elegant '70s throwback dashed with Latin, Philly, and Memphis soul touches and an easy groove. It's trailed by a sweet and sunny midtempo cut ("Wonderful") and a stunning ballad ("Kiss and Make Up"), both of which involve an extensive crew centered around the duo of Andrew "Pop" Wansel and Warren "Oak" Felder (Elle Varner, K. Michelle). Nostalgia naturally factors quite heavily, made plain off the bat with an opening faithful cover of Shalamar's "A Night to Remember" (a Rodney Jerkins production on which Blige could have used a Howard Hewett) and the following Dream duet "Vegas Nights," a slick dance cut that references more soul artists than Kanye West's "Slow Jamz." The Dream/Tricky productions are generally fine, if nothing special. The one that sounds least like their work -- "Cargo," involving soft electric piano and a breakbeat instantly familiar to old hip-hop heads -- is the best of the lot. For Blige fans, the amount of upbeat material -- relative to Blige's anguish-rich discography -- is refreshing, yet they get plenty of heartache as well. As a soundtrack, it's an enjoyable change of pace. ~ Andy Kellman

  • Genre: Pop
  • Format: CD

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