After Thwarted Kidnapping Plans, Whitmer Calls for Unity

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]

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Mary J. Blige works it on ‘Growing Pains’

By |2018-01-16T05:45:02-05:00January 17th, 2008|Entertainment|

Could it be: Mary J. Blige, happy at last? Anyone who spun her Grammy-winning album “The Breakthrough” knows the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul dropped her drama – kinda – for some much-needed happiness. She found it in a man. That still doesn’t mean the recent Advocate cover girl, who will perform at the auto-themed GM Style event on Jan. 12 on the Detroit riverfront, found her happily-ever-after, ’cause what would MJB be if she didn’t air-out her dirty laundry?
Could be why a lead single like melodically-mediocre “Just Fine” couldn’t possibly be called something like, say, “Just Great.” That’d just be crappy marketing. As long as this is Mary J. Blige, she’ll never be – at least if she cares about music-biz longevity. So, on eighth album “Growing Pains,” bumps and are bruises are included. Like on “Roses,” where she’s miffed at her lazy-in-love man, and tells him to “suck it up.” Here, it’s not just her fierce vocals that spill emotion. That apparently wasn’t enough, and the clever reason producer Christopher “Tricky” Stewart (mastermind behind Rihanna’s “Umbrella”) decided to throw in some rolling-revolver chamber clicks.
But that’s Pissy Mary, who rarely pops up on “Pains.” Instead, we get a whole lot of Vulnerable Mary, Overcoming Mary and – hold on to something! – Merry Mary. She wants to disappear on “Fade Away,” and admits to still feeling sad on “Work in Progress (Growing Pains),” and though sometimes she sounds like she’s Oprah’s clone, she always keeps it real.
“You can look at my palm/And see the storm coming/Read the book of my life/And see I’ve overcome it,” she attests on “Work That,” a self-esteem-boosting anthem (and the one heard in the ubiquitous iTunes commercial) where she urges listeners to “work what you got.” That’s not the down-and-out MJB longtime fans are used to – and a major reason why several of them have dropped off since first-single “You Remind Me” in ’92. But Blige seems eager to please on the edgier “Pains,” with crunk synth-sizzling beats, shit-sorting material and the ever-evolving – but still flawed – queen behind it all.
Those changes are manifested in her songwriting, where she (almost completely) ditches woe-is-me lyrics for overcoming mantras, like that of “Stay Down.” The 16-song album’s final third falls off, losing steam with insipid piano-splashed “Talk to Me” and “If You Love Me,” but then knocks you out with “Come to Me,” a galvanizing gem where she pleads for peace.
Over a striking bed of piano, synthesizers and drizzled guitar, her commanding, silky voice demands complete attention – especially when instruments are stripped, background vocals billow and she’s left to croon lines like, “I love you baby, so why don’t you stay? Let the air of your voice dry my tears.”
The feeling’s mutual, Mary. B

About the Author:

Chris Azzopardi
As editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBTQ wire service, Chris Azzopardi has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in GQ, Vanity Fair and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi.