Three things you can count on: death, taxes and good Mary J. Blige albums. And her eighth studio disc, Growing Pains, easily on par with 2005's Grammy-winning hit The Breakthrough, is often better than good (if not perfect). Take the great first single, 'Just Fine." Riding a killer dance groove reminiscent of Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough," a blissed-out Blige exorcises all the demons fans have listened to her battle over the years. It's an instant MJB classic. She keeps the party going on "Till the Morning," a bass-heavy, Neptunes-produced jam. And it wouldn't be a Mary J. CD without some soul-baring ballads. Best include the thorns-and-all "Roses" and the hauntingly melancholy "Fade Away," on which Bilge shares her pain as only she can.
What's the 411? (1992) the debut that instantly crowned her the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul.
My Life (1994) Her masterpiece, hands down.
Mary (1999) Blige furthers her move away from hip-hop toward classic soul. Even pairs with Aretha.
The Breakthrough (2005) Grammy gold.