It is always exciting whenever Ms Blige decides to drop another album. We have all become pretty used to her usual routine of releasing a clubber banger as the opening single followed by a huge ballad (My Life, Share my World, No More Drama, What's the 411)

It's incredible how over the years Ms Blige's authenticity hasn't diminished and she continues to win crowds rather than lose them as her sound evolves.

Growing Pains I must confess creept up on me. The end of last year had been filled with such good debuts that I could happily have not purchased another album for a while.

I sampled this album on my MP3 as I always do - everything sounds better on headphones. The opener 'Work that' is trademark Queen-of-R&B-soul - quick lyrical delivery over Dr Dre-esque production. It certainly is a feel good number.

One of my immediate favourites follows 'Grown Woman' featuring Ludacris, testimony to what's going on in Black music in 2008 - obscure beat programming ridden with speak-style singing. Ludacris' verse is a key highlight "LUDA! I ain't lying, I think I'm in love wit a grown woman/ She stay stunnin' /Got sweet lovin' & home cookin'/ Be known to make'em moan to da break of dawn/ A lil lady in da streets, but at home I give her a grown whoppin/ Yea!/ I hit the jeweler and I make a chain flawless, white diamond and I put that on everything/ Mami stylish she knows how to accessorize and we some stair master i make her get her exercise wit ya sexy thighs body got me memorized/ Lil boys are scared and other guys be putrefied"

"Just Fine" is the feel good single that makes me what to replicate her Micheal Jackson-esque moves in the video. Then suddenly the ballads appear - and you know what - they are very good. They get better with every listen, "Feel like a woman", "Stay down", "Hurt again" are all classic Mary and very reminiscent of the MY LIFE album.

Some incredible vocals are unleashed on "Fade Away" and "What Love is" - these two are the peak of the album. Inspiring words like "And it feels like joy, and it feels like pain/ And it feels like sunshine, feels like rain/ An excuse for dying, reason to live/ And if you don't know, that's what love is/ Love is" are belted out over extremely polished beats.

'GROWING PAINS' exceeds my expectations and it certainly makes 'BREAKTHROUGH' seem like a rushed produce. We don't need to reiterate that Ms. Blige is in a good place as it is written all over the record.

A compelling effort.

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