The Breakthrough

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For other uses, see Breakthrough (disambiguation).
The Breakthrough
Mary J Blige - The Breakthrough album cover.jpg
Studio album by Mary J. Blige
Released December 20, 2005
Recorded 2004–2005
Length 72:59
Label Geffen
Producer 9th Wonder, Bryan-Michael Cox, Cool & Dre, Dre & Vidal, D. Emile, Ron Fair, Rich Harrison, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Rodney Jerkins, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Raphael Saadiq, Chucky Thompson,
Mary J. Blige chronology
Love & Life
The Breakthrough
Growing Pains
Singles from The Breakthrough
  1. "MJB da MVP"
    Released: April 18, 2005
  2. "Be Without You"
    Released: September 15, 2005
  3. "Enough Cryin'"
    Released: March 2, 2006
  4. "One"
    Released: April 3, 2006
  5. "Take Me as I Am"
    Released: August 17, 2006

The Breakthrough is the seventh studio album by American R&B recording artist Mary J. Blige, released December 20, 2005, on Geffen Records. The album opened with over 729,000 units in the United States, becoming her highest first week sales of her career, and the second-highest first-week sales by a female R&B artist, only behind Alicia Keys' As I Am. The album is certified three-time Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America and has sold over seven million copies worldwide. Upon its release, The Breakthrough received positive reviews from most music critics.


"Be Without You", the official lead single, peaked at #3 on the Hot 100. "One" was released as the second single in the U.S. on July 17, 2006. The song features Bono as vocal. In the UK, the song gave Mary her biggest hit to date, peaking at #2 on the Top 40.

"Enough Cryin", the album's third single, peaked at #32 on the Billboard Hot 100. It fared particularly well on the R&B charts, hitting #2 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The song was originally supposed to feature rapper Foxy Brown, but Mary went on to record the verse herself because of Brown's sudden hearing loss. This launched the "Brook Lynn" rapping alter ego which went on to appear on other tracks (e.g. the remix of Busta Rhymes's "Touch It"). "Take Me as I Am" was the album's fourth single. It reached #3 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

Other charting songs[edit]

The song "MJB Da MVP" was released as a radio only single prior to the release of Be Without You. It features the voice of rapper 50 Cent on the chorus. Due to strong airplay, the song charted on the Billboard Hot 100 at #75, before the first official single, "Be Without You" was released from "The Breakthrough". Another song, "Ain't Really Love", reached number 73 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart in the U.S., although it was not released as a single.[1]


Commercial performance[edit]

The album debuted at #1 on both the R&B albums and Billboard 200 for sales of 729,000 copies in its first week, making it the fifth largest first-week sales for a female artist, and the fourth largest debut of 2005. It also marked the largest first week sales for a female R&B artist until November 2007, when Alicia Keys' As I Am sold 742,400 copies, a mere 13,400 more.

The album has been certified 3x platinum by the RIAA for shipments of more than 3,000,000 copies in the United States.[2] It has been proclaimed as her comeback album (after the disappointment of Love & Life). The album has shown signs of longevity, remaining in the top five of the Billboard 200 for 11 consecutive weeks (including 2 weeks at #1). The album also went gold in Australia on the ARIA charts.

Critical response[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[3]
Entertainment Weekly B+[4]
The Guardian 3/5 stars[5]
The Independent 4/5 stars[6]
Los Angeles Times 3/4 stars[7]
The New York Times favorable[8]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[9]
Slant Magazine 3/5 stars[10]
Spin 5/10[11]
The Village Voice mixed[12]

The Breakthrough received generally positive reviews from music critics.[13] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 76, based on 20 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".[13] Allmusic editor Andy Kellman gave it four-and-a-half out of five stars and commented that "Beat for beat, the album features the best round of productions Blige has been handed since the mid-'90s".[3] Entertainment Weekly's David Browne noted a return of "drama to her music" and wrote that "its messy sprawl of conflicted emotions feels true to her fierce, prickly personality (not to mention life itself)".[4] Jon Pareles of The New York Times complimented its themes of "tribulations and true love" and stated "Blige brings together hip-hop realism and soul's higher aspirations, hip-hop's digitized crispness and soul's slow-building testimonies".[8] Rolling Stone writer Barry Walters noted its "particularly classy material" and commented that "what ultimately differentiates Blige's seventh studio album from previous discs is that its ballads truly matter".[9] Stylus Magazine's Thomas Inskeep viewed it as a "return to form" for Blige, dubbing it her "finest full-length since '99's Mary".[14]

However, Tom Breihan of Spin commented that "nearly all of its tracks sound like odes to her new husband" and criticized its production, writing that "too often, Blige’s voice doesn’t get the space it needs to cut loose with emotion [...] Because Blige never quite connects with the awkwardly programmed drums and cluttered synthetic arrangements of would-be club jams like 'Can’t Hide From Luv' and 'Gonna Breakthrough,' the songs’ chin-up aphorisms ring false".[11] Slant Magazine's Sal Cinquemani described the album as "the epitome of formulaic, giving you the feeling that you've heard this all before", and stated "it sports the kind of yucky, literal sentiment [...] that, however true it may be, should not be put to tape".[10] Jason King of The Village Voice viewed that the album "improves on 2003's Diddy-helmed misfire Love & Life but lacks the character of 1999's eclectic Mary", adding that "Mary's jones for hermetic, clinically slick production values doesn't complement her soul-baring aura".[12] Blender stated "Her ardent love songs ultimately come off not as love songs but standard ache-and-pain Mary tracks."[13] BBC Online's Matilda Egere-Cooper noted the album production's "ahigh quality", but viewed that it lacks the "attitude" of Blige's previous work.[15]

Caroline Sullivan of The Guardian expressed a mixed response to Blige "celebrating no more drama in her life", but complimented its "compellingly dark, percussive setting" and "the stunning power of [Blige's] voice", writing that "The lyrics may be wet, but she sings with cool conviction, not wasting a note".[5] Despite viewing many of its songs as overlong, Los Angeles Times writer Natalie Nichols commended its producers for "adeptly weaving beats and live instruments, vocals and rapping, melody and rhythm in configurations alternately stark and lush".[7] Mojo gave the album three out of five stars and commented that it "reveals a still intense and enthralling grittiness to her performances".[16] Dimitri Ehrlich of Vibe noted classicist soul music influences in "Blige's nostalgic flair".[17] Dele Fadele of NME gave the album an eight out of 10 rating and commented that "[Blige] draws on an eventful life to reach new levels of feeling".[18] Andy Gill of The Independent complimented Blige's "compelling delivery" and wrote that the album "may be her best, the most vivid realisation of her gripping, confessional style".[6] Steve Jones of USA Today gave it a score of three stars out of four and said, "Blige balances her trademark edginess with the personal happiness she has found in recent years. [...] What has always set her apart is that her songs have a ring of truth. Blige still touches souls, by laying bare her own."[19]


In December 2006, Blige received eight Grammy Award nominations at the 2007 Grammy Awards for The Breakthrough, the most of any artist for the 2007 awards. "Be Without You" was nominated for both "Record of the Year" and "Song of the Year". Mary won three Grammy Awards: "Best Female R&B Vocal Performance", "Best R&B Song" (both for "Be Without You"), and "Best R&B Album" for The Breakthrough. Blige won nine Billboard Music Awards for work done on The Breakthrough.

Track listing[edit]

Mary J. Blige's "Be Without You" from The Breakthrough

Mary J. Blige and U2's "One" from The Breakthrough

Problems playing these files? See media help.
No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "No One Will Do"   Erik Ortiz, Kevin Crowe, Clifford Brown III, Dave Young, Bunny Sigler J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League 4:46
2. "Enough Cryin" (featuring Brook Lynn) Mary J. Blige, Rodney Jerkins, Sean Garrett, Shawn Carter Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins 4:20
3. "About You" (featuring & Nina Simone) Blige, William Adams, Keith Harris, Anthony Newley, Leslie Bricusse 4:04
4. "Be Without You"   Blige, Bryan-Michael Cox, Jason Perry, Johnta Austin Bryan-Michael Cox 4:06
5. "Gonna Breakthrough" (featuring Brook Lynn) Blige, Wynter Gordon, Dernst Emile, Quarun Wages, Harry Palmer D'Mile 4:00
6. "Good Woman Down"   Blige, Sean Garrett, Patrick Douthit, Robert Aries, Freddie Jackson, Meli'sa Morgan 9th Wonder 4:07
7. "Take Me as I Am"   Jordan Suecof, Ezekiel Lewis, Candice Nelson, Keri Hilson, Thabiso Nkhereanye, Lonnie Liston Smith Infinity, Ron Fair 3:57
8. "Baggage"   Blige, James Harris III, Terry Lewis, Bobby Ross Avila, Issiah J. Avila, James Q. Wright, Dave Young Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis 3:35
9. "Can't Hide from Luv" (featuring Jay-Z) Blige, Andre Harris, Vidal Davis, Ryan Toby Dre & Vidal 3:52
10. "MJB da MVP" (featuring 50 Cent) Curtis Jackson, Jayceon Taylor, Andre Lyon, Marcello Valenzano, Norman Harris, Ron Baker, Allen Felder, James Johnson, Patrice Rushen, Karen Evans, Roy Ayers Cool & Dre 3:21
11. "Can't Get Enough"   Blige, James Harris III, Terry Lewis, Bobby Ross Avila, Issiah J. Avila Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis 3:40
12. "Ain't Really Love"   Blige, Bryan-Michael Cox, Johnta Austin, Candice Childress Bryan-Michael Cox 4:40
13. "I Found My Everything" (featuring Raphael Saadiq) Blige, Raphael Saadiq, Kevin Wooten, Robert Ozuna Raphael Saadiq 5:23
14. "Father in You"   Blige, Andre Harris, Vidal Davis, Ryan Toby Dre & Vidal 5:23
15. "Alone" (featuring Dave Young) Davel "Bo" McKenzie, Dave Young Davel "Bo" McKenzie 4:29
16. "One" (with U2) Bono, Adam Clayton, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr. Ron Fair 4:20

Sample credits[edit]

Credits adapted from album liner notes.[20]

  • "No One Will Do" contains excerpts from "I Swear I Love No One but You", written by Bunny Sigler and published by Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corporation (BMI), performed by The O'Jays courtesy of Philadelphia International Records.
  • "About You" contains samples from "Feeling Good", written by Anthony Newley, Leslie Bricusse and published by Musical Company Productions (BMI) by arrangement with the Richmond Organization, as recorded by Nina Simone used courtesy of RCA Records, a unit of Sony BMG Music Entertainment.
  • "Gonna Breakthrough" contains samples from The Mohawks recording and composition "Champ", written by Harry Palmer published by Embassy Music obo The Sparta Florida Music Group BMI, produced under license from Warner Strategic Marketing and Jet Star Phonographics.
  • "Good Woman Down" contains excerpts from "Heart Breaking Decision", written by Robert Aries, Freddie Jackson and Mel'isa Jackson and published by EMI April Music Inc. ASCAP, Wick-Di Music ASCAP, and Universal MCA Music Pub ASCAP, as performed by Mel'isa Morgan, used under license from Capitol Records, a division of Capitol Records, Inc.
  • "Take Me as I Am" contains samples from the composition "A Garden of Peace", written by Lonnie Liston Smith published by Songs of Universal Inc., performed by Lonnie Liston Smith courtesy of Sony BMG Music Entertainment.
  • "Can't Hide from Luv" contains excerpts and a sample of the recording "I Wanna Be Where You Are", written by Arthur Ross and Leon Ware and published by Jobete Music Co ASCAP, as performed by Willie Hutch. (P) 1977 Motown Records, a division of UMG Recordings, Inc. Courtesy of Motown Records under license from Universal Music Enterprises.
  • "MJB da MVP" contains excerpts from "Rubberband" (Baker, Felder, Harris) published by Golden Fleece Music/Mured Music Co. BMI as performed by The Tramps. Used by permission courtesy of Sony/Buddah. It also contains resung lyrics from the composition "All Night Long", written by James Johnson and published by Stone City Music (ASCAP), from the composition "Remind Me", written by Patrice Rushen and Karen Evans and published by Baby Fingers Music ASCAP, and from the composition "Everybody Loves the Sunshine", written by Roy Ayers and published by Chrysalis Music (ASCAP).


Credits for The Breakthrough adapted from Allmusic.[21]


Chart (2006) Providers Peak
Australian Albums Chart ARIA 19 Gold
Austrian Albums Chart Media Control 42
Canadian Albums Chart Nielsen SoundScan 13
Danish Albums Chart IFPI 20 [22]
Dutch Albums Chart MegaCharts 12
French Albums Chart SNEP/IFOP 25
German Albums Chart [23] Media Control 28
Irish Albums Chart IRMA 55
Italian Albums Chart FIMI 12 Gold
Japanese Albums Chart Oricon/RIAJ 18[24] Gold[25]
Norwegian Albums Chart VG Nett 18
Spanish Albums Chart PROMUSICAE 74
Swedish Albums Chart GLF 13 Platinum
Swiss Albums Chart Media Control 7
UK Albums Chart BPI/The Official UK Charts Company 22 Platinum
U.S. Billboard 200 RIAA 1 3× Platinum
U.S. Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums 1
U.S. Billboard Top Internet Albums 1

Chart precession and succession[edit]

Preceded by
Curtain Call: The Hits by Eminem
Billboard 200 number-one album (First Run)
January 1, 2006 – January 7, 2006
Succeeded by
Unpredictable by Jamie Foxx
Preceded by
Unpredictable by Jamie Foxx
Billboard 200 number-one album (Second Run)
January 22, 2006 – January 28, 2006
Succeeded by
Unpredictable by Jamie Foxx


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Gold and Platinum". RIAA. Retrieved 19 December 2009. 
  3. ^ a b Kellman, Andy (December 20, 2005). "The Breakthrough - Mary J. Blige | AllMusic: Review". Allmusic. Retrieved on 2011-04-16.
  4. ^ a b Browne, David (December 23, 2005). "The Breakthrough Review". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved on 2011-04-16.
  5. ^ a b Sullivan, Caroline (December 9, 2005). "CD: Mary J Blige, The Breakthrough". The Guardian. Retrieved on 2011-04-16.
  6. ^ a b Gill, Andy (December 9, 2005). "Album: Mary J Blige - Reviews, Music - The Independent". The Independent. Retrieved on 2011-04-16.
  7. ^ a b Nichols, Natalie (December 11, 2005). "For Blige, time to give back - Los Angeles Times". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 2011-04-16.
  8. ^ a b Pareles, Jon (December 19, 2005). "Listen Up, All My Troubled Sistahs - New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved on 2011-04-16.
  9. ^ a b Walters, Barry (January 12, 2006). "The Breakthrough". Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2011-04-16.
  10. ^ a b Cinquemani, Sal (December 22, 2005). "Mary J. Blige: The Breakthrough". Slant Magazine. Retrieved on 2011-04-16.
  11. ^ a b Breihan, Tom (February 2006). "Mary J. Blige, 'The Breakthrough' (Geffen)". Spin. Retrieved on 2011-04-16.
  12. ^ a b King, Jason (January 17, 2006). "The Royal She - Page 1 - Music - New York - Village Voice". The Village Voice. Retrieved on 2011-04-16.
  13. ^ a b c "The Breakthrough Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More at Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved on 2011-04-16.
  14. ^ Inskeep, Thomas (January 17, 2006). "Mary J. Blige - The Breakthrough - Review - Stylus Magazine". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved on 2011-04-16.
  15. ^ Egere-Cooper, Matilda (March 10, 2006). "BBC - Music - Review of Mary J. Blige - The Breakthrough". BBC Online. Retrieved on 2011-04-16.
  16. ^ "Mary J Blige - Breakthrough CD Album". Muze. CD Universe. Retrieved on 2011-04-16.
  17. ^ Ehrlich, Dimitri (March 2006). "Mary J. Blige – The Breakthrough (Geffen)". Vibe (Vibe Media Group) 13 (3): 186. Retrieved 2011-04-16. 
  18. ^ Fadele, Dele (January 7, 2006). "Mary J Blige – The Breakthrough (Geffen)". NME (IPC Media): 29. Retrieved 2011-04-16. 
  19. ^ Jones, Steve (December 20, 2005). "Another Blige 'Breakthrough'; another Biggie tribute (Mary J. Blige, The Breakthrough)". USA Today. Retrieved on 2013-05-01.
  20. ^ The Breakthrough (Media notes). Mary J. Blige. Geffen Records. 2005. 
  21. ^ The Breakthrough - Mary J. Blige | AllMusic: Credits. Allmusic. Retrieved on 2011-04-16.
  22. ^ Steffen Hung. "Mary J Blige - The Breakthrough". Retrieved 2012-02-08. 
  23. ^ "Die ganze Musik im Internet: Charts, News, Neuerscheinungen, Tickets, Genres, Genresuche, Genrelexikon, Künstler-Suche, Musik-Suche, Track-Suche, Ticket-Suche". Retrieved 2012-02-08. 
  24. ^ "ザ・ブレイクスルー - メアリー・J.ブライジ/ オリコンランキング情報サービス「you大樹」" (in Japanese). Oricon. Retrieved 2010-11-11. 
  25. ^ ゴールド等認定作品一覧 2006年3月. RIAJ (in Japanese). 2006-04-10. Retrieved 2010-11-11. 

External links[edit]