Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Rhythmic Review: Mary J. Blige - Growing Pains

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Growing Pains is the eighth studio album from the everyones favorite underdog and peoples champ! Mary J Blige. The Queen of hip hop Soul manages to make an album that treads new ground, yet sticking to the very familiar path that fans, stans and haters alike have come to know, love and hate. The 16 track offering is as honest as a My Life but without the pain, No shes no longer hurting, Yes she still experiences downs, but this time around she doesn't force either extreme like she has in the past on less successful releases (Love and Life anyone?) This outing shes being true to not only her fans but most of all herself.

The album opens up on a perfect note with the upbeat/inspirational second single "Work That" co-produced by Sean Garrett and Theron Feemster. The song is IMMEDIATELY followed by the head-nod inducing track "Grown Woman", which marks Marys best club ready, trunk blasting track since the 2001 infectious number 1 hit "Family Affair". Tracks segue into each other beautifully and without hesitation, grabbing the attention of your ears and keeping it until the very last track, which happens to be one of the best on the album. "Come To Me (Peace)" is arguably the apex of the album, showcasing a synth-heavy sound that's not typical of Mary's yet still familiar, relatable and experienced enough to be VERY MARY, much like the song that precedes it, the piano and string filled "Smoke".

With Lyrics like "Holding on isn't healthy, but its killing me to let go/ Trying to stare at your picture but i cant see it not for all the smoke" and Production/writing from heavy hitters like Brian Michael Cox, Neyo, Tricky Strewart, The Dream, and Stargate, it only proves that Mary can still relate to those going through it, because at times she still is too. Proving that shes still human and, contrary to popular belief, Kendu is not God and flubs up like anyone else. Songs like smoke and my personal favorite "Roses" only adds to the conviction of the albums push for positivity and love, or at least the up and down personal journey to that.

Like any album there are some weaker moments (not necessarily ineffective tho) within the album. The unbalanced "Shake Down" features Usher and comes off as a teaching lesson from Mary to the R&B crooner more so than anything else. A more logical and worthy opponent like Jaheim would have been a perfect counterpart for the maturity and polished honesty, in Mary's voice, that even with 45623345245645 million records sold later Usher still lacks. The weak moments are forgivable and completely overshadowed with gems and overall FUN tracks like the throwback sounding "Till the Morning". Produced by the Neptunes, this track takes Mary to an era where she would have fit in perfectly and solidifies the overall 1970s cohesion that this album gives, from the Michael Jackson inspired first single "Just Fine", to the cover shot, to the Wilona Woods inspired hair. Now is it just me or Would a remake of the CLASSIC 1976 track "Sparkle" By the QUEEN OF SOUL herself, Aretha Franklin, been more than suiting for this album and for Mary?

This album comes at a perfect time in Marys career, unlike past albums that weren't as appreciated as they should have been due to bad timing. 2003's Love and Life, which came 10 years too late, or one of Marys best, 99's Mary, which came out about 5 years too early for many to appreciate the growth, musicianship, and over all genius of that album. Not an overnight icon, A 15 year spanning career has groomed, trained and polished the coal turned diamond Queen of HipHop Soul and she continues to shine. Mary takes us to a familiar destination with a alternate route filled with beautiful scenery and new surroundings and shows us that Growing Pains is easily one of the best R&B albums since...well...The Breakthrough

I give Growing Pains an A
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In Stores NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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