- 11 Feb 08
Although there are numerous pointers as to what might have been, had Mary retained greater creative focus, there is precious little to savour here.
For all her evident talent, Mary J Blige has frequently appeared pathologically incapable of delivering a consistently excellent record, and Growing Pains is not about to buck that trend. Indeed, while it would be misleading to state that Blige is past her creative peak, the fact that she is still releasing records as filler-heavy as this, so late into her career, suggests that quality control is simply not part of her make-up.
But, as with most Mary J Blige releases, there are numerous pointers as to what might have been, had she retained greater creative focus. In this instance, the album’s “bookend” tracks provide the standouts, though there is precious little to savour in between.
The opener ‘Work That’ unfairly raises our hopes for a genuinely brilliant record (though the fact that there are 19 tracks listed on the CD case probably gave us fair warning that this would not be a particularly consistent affair). Regardless, the introductory song’s sprightly hip-hop bounce and playful piano hook make for a mouth-watering sonic appetiser.
This standard is met, immediately, by the second track ‘Grown Woman’, which features a guest verse from none other than Ludacris. The Southern MC’s bawdy machismo proves a perfect foil for Blige’s effortless charisma, while the beats have an ominous, beefy thump that is difficult to resist.