Bringing out a new Mary J. Blige album is a big challenge.

That's because Blige, anointed "the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul" in 1992, is on a 15-year multiplatinum run as one of the most electric performers in the urban world, with a wide-ranging crossover base that straddles the R&B, hip-hop, pop and even AC markets. Her last two studio albums, 2003's "Love & Life" and 2005's "The Breakthrough," debuted at No. 1 on The Billboard 200. Even last year's "Reflections—A Retrospective" opened in the top 10.

For "Growing Pains," due Dec. 18 via Geffen, it started in late September with the online release of the single "Just Fine." In October and November, Blige completed a whirlwind international promo tour to get audiences ready, and just before Thanksgiving, another new song began appearing in an Apple ad for iTunes and iPod.

"Each time, we have to think, 'What do you do to try to make it special?' " Geffen GM Jeff Harleston says. "It's a challenge every time. You've been to one mountain top; now you have to go scale another and just keep moving."

So one-upping all that and keeping the buzz strong and alive is a unique task Blige and Geffen face as "Growing Pains" nears release. The Bronx-born singer/songwriter's ninth album is already stirring things up with the uptempo "Just Fine." But as far as Blige is concerned, the music is the key component in maintaining that success.

She says, "I started out with this concept of growing pains because that's how I was feeling during the [2007] Grammys: 'Am I good enough for this; do I really deserve all this in my life?' But something in my head said, 'Yes, you are. Now you're forced to rapidly grow up in this area in order to achieve and get the things you want.' "

Featuring collaborations with Ne-Yo (who wrote the track "Fade Away" from a poem by Blige), Timbaland, Akon, the Dream and Tricky Stewart (the team behind Rihanna's "Umbrella"), Bryan-Michael Cox and the Clutch, among others, "Growing Pains" finds Blige coming to terms with her success, particularly in the wake of the last album's three Grammy Award wins.

It's been a hard-fought battle, through well-chronicled personal travails in romance and substance addictions, and coming out victorious has been an adjustment. As she sings in "Just Fine": "No time for moping around, are you kidding?/No time for negative vibes, 'cause I'm winning."

"This is just the work to get to that part—where nothing bothers you and nothing is stressing you out," says Blige, who also gets help from rapper Ludacris on "Grown Woman" and adopts her strident Brook-Lynn alter ego on the track "Nowhere Fast." "That's where I'm headed and that's where I am, but there's a whole other level of that that I have to get to. That might take a lifetime, but that's where I'm headed."

Geffen's Harleston is confident that theme will not only resonate with Blige's fans but also gave the artist some important direction for the new album's songs.

Click here to read the full article, including the unique and unexpected marketing obstacles this releases faces, the different avenues Geffen is exploring to promote the record, the key partnerships in place and more.