mary20j.

Auto Tune, just like all the other fads of ’09—including Rihanna-esque haircuts and reality shows about baby mamas and housewives—was fun at first, but quickly became overdone and just plain pathetic. I enjoyed Kanye West’s all-Auto Tune album, 808s and Heartbreaks. But I draw the line when it begins to help untalented singers trick us into thinking they have skills. (Ahem, Kim from The Real Housewives of Atlanta with “Don’t Be Tardy for the Party.”)

So when I heard Mary J. Blige’s “The One” featuring Drake, I listened to the first 15 seconds or so then skipped to the end to hear Drake’s verse. I never really looked back on Mary’s part—heard one Auto Tune-d track, you’ve heard ‘em all. But after watching the super-hot music video, I realized that industry veteran Mary J. is just doing what she does best—reminding us that no matter what new trend us whippersnappers come up with, she can do it and do it well. I almost forgot that this old-school R&B diva was pushing 40. So while Jay-Z is trying to use his clout to proclaim the “Death of Auto Tune,” Mary J. is telling the world that no matter what direction music goes in (and regardless of how far south), she still has the ability to lead the pack.

- Jada F. Smith