By calling Mary J. Blige’s new album A Retrospective and not using the usual tags “Greatest Hits” or “Best Of,” Geffen Records avoids the inherent obligation of including all or even most of the artist’s hits. But what’s a retrospective when entire chunks of a career are unaccounted for? Arguably, Mary’s biggest hits are here (“Real Love,” “Not Gon’ Cry,” “Family Affair,” “No More Drama,” “Be Without You”), but the bulk of her singles never made the Top 10. All but one of the hits from her blockbuster debut What’s The 411?, including her very first single, “You Remind Me,” and her fantastic cover of Chaka Khan’s “Sweet Thing,” are missing, while 1997’s Share My World and 1999’s Mary are completely ignored. Any collection of Mary songs would be remiss without “Everything” and “All That I Can Say”; in their place are songs like Wyclef’s “911” and Method Man’s “I’ll Be There For You/You’re All I Need To Get By,” not to mention album tracks that were never singles and four new songs, none of which hold up next to omissions like “Reminisce,” “You Bring Me Joy,” and “Not Today.” The tracks previously unavailable on a Mary album make this a valuable purchase for diehard collectors, but it will be useless to more casual fans. The fact that Reflections might be one of the worst excuses for a greatest hits collection ever is a testament to the longevity and consistency of Mary’s career—one that easily warrants two discs. One could argue that Mary is an album artist, and, indeed, her back catalog still sells relatively well, so what purpose does Reflections serve other than to scan a few more UPC codes, bolster the singer’s already engorged, often insufferable ego, and provide a mirror for her to gaze admirably at her own reflection?
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