Growing Pains

Growing Pains

by Mary J. BligeMary J. Blige


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Eight albums into her career and comfortably settled into married life -- and, for the most part, herself -- Mary J. Blige continues to prove her versatility and strength, building off 2005's The Breakthrough, but not copying from it. Her increased self-confidence, some of which comes from confessing her all-too-human flaws, makes Growing Pains a mature, polished, and utterly professional set of well-crafted songs. Blige, as always, is in great vocal form: her clear, distinctive voice carries the record with its dips and swoops and cries, but the embellishments never get in the way of melody, never replace the meaning of words with excessive vibrato or melisma. Musically, in fact, the album takes an even greater step toward pop (foreshadowed, no doubt, by the cover of U2's "One" on her previous release), with songs like "Fade Away," which borrows heavily from '80s pop, and "Talk to Me," which is informed by classic soul and uses an Emotions sample underneath the guitars and keyboards, helping to set the overall tone. Blige certainly hasn't lost her title of Queen of Hip-Hop Soul -- the opening "Work That" is all swagger and affirmation with a great urban beat, the Neptunes-produced "Till the Morning" is funky and warm, and "Stay Down" takes a look back at mid-'90s R&B with rambling lyrical lines, including a fantastic reference to The Jeffersons, but she's opened herself up to more styles here, and successfully. She has been able to do what few others before her have: cater to her crossover audience without losing the essence of what she really is and where she came from, and so all of Growing Pains, from its upbeat beginning to its reflective, personal ending (though the last track, "Come to Me (Peace)" is the only real miss on the entire album), doesn't seem forced or calculated. These are strong songs, songs that keep hooks in mind, and while Blige's lyrics can occasionally border on cheesy -- like on "What Love Is," for example -- the very sincere passion she expresses, both in her voice and her words, is enough to erase, or at least fade, the platitudes, leaving only the emotion, the doubt and the love and the insecurity and the confidence and the talent, making for a very complete and satisfying listen.

Product Details

Release Date: 12/18/2007
Label: Geffen Records
UPC: 0602517520301
catalogNumber: 001031302
Rank: 8243

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Mary J. Blige   Primary Artist
Lee Blaske   Strings
Eric Hudson   Musician
D:Ream   Vocals
Jazze Pha   Keyboards
Christopher "Tricky" Stewart   Keyboards
Omar Phillips   Percussion
Bryan-Michael Cox   Musician
Duane Dugger   Horn
Andre Bowman   Bass
Sean Garrett   Vocals
Jesse Bond   Guitar
Chuck Harmony   Musician
Haye Price   Horn
Theron Feemster   Musician
James King   Horn

Technical Credits

Mary J. Blige   Composer,Executive Producer
Patrick Dillett   Vocal Engineer
Ron Fair   String Arrangements,String Conductor
Eric Hudson   Composer,Producer,Engineer
Pat Thrall   overdub engineer
Verdine White   Composer
Corey Williams   Engineer
Curtis Hudson   Engineer
Jazze Pha   Composer,Producer,drum programming
Kuk Harrell   Vocal Engineer,Vocal Producer
Christopher "Tricky" Stewart   Composer,Producer,drum programming
Pharrell Williams   Composer
Andre Harris   Composer,Producer
Neptunes   Producer
Johnta Austin   Composer
Vidal Davis   Composer,Producer
Andrew Coleman   Engineer
Brian Sledge   Composer
Bryan-Michael Cox   Composer,Producer
Dru Castro   Engineer
Kendu Isaacs   Vocal Engineer,Management
Sam Thomas   Engineer
Sean Garrett   Composer,Producer
Alec Newell   Engineer
The-Dream   Composer
Ne-Yo   Composer,Producer
Mikkel Storleer Eriksen   Composer,Engineer
DeJion Madison   Producer
Danny "Stems" Cheung   Vocal Engineer
Chuck Harmony   Producer,Engineer
Chris "Tek" O'Ryan   Engineer
Thaddis Harrell   Composer
Theron Feemster   Producer
Terius Nash   Composer

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