Mary J. Blige: Growing Pains

If the age of the blogs were in the '90s, rest assured that Mary J. Blige would have been plastered on them. She came from drug-addicted beginnings and relationships with men that pushed to the brink of destruction. Mary J. Blige is the original Amy Winehouse. In the 2000s when she got on her No More Drama mentality many were quick to proclaim her best art came when she was hopped-up on drugs and domestically abused. Those rough criticisms reached their height in 2005 with the release of The Breakthrough. Critics and fans were convinced that Mary had gone soft leaving behind the hardness that her Hip-Hop roots offered her.The Breakthrough was considered an adult contemporary affair, and might have epitomized the growing disdain for Blige’s content. Growing Pains redeems Blige – still not completely. The content can be mistaken for that in No More Drama, except Growing Pains comes across less preachy and corny, and more genuine and earnest.Far from being a classic, Growing Pains brings forth a grittier sound than her previous album – but still not abandoning graciousness. A “Be Without You” duplicate won't be found on Growing Pains as Dream & Tricky (Rihanna’s “Umbrella”), Shaffer Smith (aka Ne-Yo), and Stargate were the most prevalent architects of Growing Pains. There isn’t a monster hit, by way of “Be Without You,” which shows that Growing Pains is a more cohesive album than The Breakthrough. The closest to a monster hit is “Grown Woman” - an annoying heavy bass track with an equally annoying verse from Ludacris.“Work In Progress (Growing Pains),” “Work That,” “Come To Me (Peace),” and “Hurt” all show how Growing Pains is less a demonstrative of pain and more a celebration of the breakthrough in 2005. Highlighting Growing Pains balance of hardness and softness are “Shake Down” (a modern R&B duet with Usher), “Roses” (an ode to healthy romantic arguments packed with Kelis-like screams), and “If You Love Me” (the closest song to sound like “Be Without You”). Growing Pains falls into the introspective and being a tough woman. Though, Mary stopped being hard a long time ago, what she personifies in this album is the difference between hardness and toughness. It’s a distinction that many old-school Mary lovers may not be able to live with. Still, it might be fun for many to listen to the difference between then and now. If not, it’s cool, pop in your scratched up copy of My Life and reminisce of “better days.” For those that can muster to listen to a diamond in the rough grow into a shiny gem dishing music with an uplifting message, you’re in for a treat.Buy from: