The Breakthrough (Deluxe)
By the time Mary J. Blige released 2005's The Breakthrough, she had already cemented herself as an undeniable legend—the reigning queen of hip-hop soul for over a decade. She began her career working closely with Diddy, who executive-produced her first two albums, and the pair reunited for 2003's Love & Life. When that album was unable to reconjure the magic of old, The Breakthrough found the singer collaborating with a who's who of producers: Raphael Saadiq, 9th Wonder, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, and will.i.am, among a slew of others. The result was a triumphant collection of songs that subtly ushered Blige into a decidedly more adult era of her R&B powers. Songs like "Enough Cryin" (produced by Rodney Jerkins and Sean Garrett), "Take Me As I Am," and the smash single "Be Without You" (courtesy of Bryan-Michael Cox) harkened to the wounded balladeering of old with a new grown-and-sexy bent. Netting seven Grammy nominations, the album remains one of her most celebrated.