Sunday, September 11, 2005

The ever-changing consistency of Mary J. Blige

I don't think I would recognize Mary J. Blige on the street. She's always changing up her look, always gettin a new do. And although Blige is a very renowned hip hop singer, and although I really dig the song "No More Drama" - I'm not so sure I'd be able to pick out her voice in a line-up. It's not particularly strange and she doesn't distinguish herself with affected vocal acrobatics. Last Friday, September 9, for the third time Mary J. Blige blew me away with another chilling live TV performance. The first time was back in 2001 during Divas Live - the tribute to Aretha Franklin. Here's what I said then: "Mary J. Blige did two of the best R&B performances on the whole show. Her voice was in great shape. She became Aretha-sized and I loved it. Her performance of "Daydreaming" was flawless, far and away the best guest performance of all the guest stars. The beginning of her "Do Right Woman" duet with Aretha gave me chills. A true Divas Live moment was happening. " Months later, Blige sang "No More Drama" on the Grammy Awards telecast in February of 2002. It was a performance I'll never forget: at the climax of the song where she sings "it's up to us to choose whether we will or lose" and her head drops back and she sings "and I choose to win" like a carnal, passionate, primal wail to the core of the earth itself. Then she went into a ferocious calisthenics of singing "no...More...Drama" for what seemed like ten minutes. It was one of the best TV musical performances I'd ever seen, ranked right up there with Barbara Streisand and Judy Garland singing their meld of "Get Happy" and "Happy Days are Here Again" on The Judy Garland Show. Blige did it again Friday night for the celebrity Hurricane Katrina benefit concert. Broadcast live from an empty arena, she took the lead in singing "One" with U2. The performance started subdued but tender with Bono, who then practically passed it off to Blige: once again, clear, resonant, flawless, completely original, heart-rending, and spirit electric. Please tell me this is what a live Blige concert performance is like.

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