|It's no accident that Mary J. Blige is an icon on the urban contemporary scene, in large part because each new album--and 2007's GROWING PAINS is her eighth--finds her more self-assured as a singer, a lyricist, and a person. Like 2005's THE BREAKTHROUGH, GROWING PAINS delivers a mature Mary J., one who's faced down her demons and emerged triumphant. The tough-as-nails, confessional nature of her work is still what gives it its distinctive stamp, but Blige's sonic palette continues to grow as well.
|From the heavily hip-hop-tinged "Work That," to the 1980s-sounding pop of "Fade Away," to the swirling balladry of "Work In Progress (Growing Pains)," the album isn't afraid to hop genres. Blige's work has always had a wide appeal, but GROWING PAINS has tracks that move from the club to the bedroom to adult alternative radio while still sounding 100% the artist's own. Help from the likes of Ne-Yo, the Neptunes, Ludacris, Usher, and Jazze Pha, among others, gives the set star-quality, but this is Blige's show: her voice, her style, and her sense of personal conviction shine through loud and clear.