Mary J. Breaks Through
For Blige, it's a year of love, 'evolution,' Grammys

Monday, February 5, 2007

USA Today -- Mary J. Blige's breakthrough year isn't just the result of record-setting album sales and her pack-leading eight Grammy nominations. She has achieved a personal high point, as well.

The Breakthrough, her seventh studio album, has sold more than 3 million copies, starting with 727,000 its opening week, the highest ever for a female R&B singer. Like every album since her arrival in 1992, it's a window into the life of hip-hop soul's queen, sharing the joys of a strong relationship and self-affirmation.

The optimistic We Ride (I See the Future), from greatest-hits set Reflections: The Retrospective, also reflects her state of mind.

Blige's eight nominations, including record and song of the year for Be Without You, give the three-time winner 23 for her career. She'll perform on the Feb. 11 show, airing at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

"I'm proud of all the nominations for this record because it represents evolution in a big way for Mary J. Blige. I had a lot of things to fix, and I made a breakthrough in believing in myself. I wanted something people could celebrate, and the celebrating is that we are all working on something, and it takes a lifetime for us to get better."

Vibe editor Danyel Smith says recognition for Blige, 36, is long overdue.

"Mary should have been nominated for this many Grammys many times over the past 15 years," says Smith. "Finally, the rest of the world is catching on to just how amazing she really is."

Blige's music now is a far cry from early work that shared the pain of bad relationships, substance abuse and depression. She credits music executive Martin Kendu Isaacs, whom she wed in 2003, with getting her on the right track. On Take Me as I Am, she discusses how she has survived life under a microscope. Be Without You revels in love built on trust, while Enough Cryin'' finds her discarding love that is not.

Blige "inserts so much emotion into every lyric," Smith says. "The happiness comes shining out of her eyes. The sadness comes creeping out of her voice. It's like talking to a friend."

That honesty connects Blige to fans who've experienced similar troubles. She takes being a role model seriously.

"I've got to love people as much as (God) loved me, and that's a hard job," Blige says. "I might make some mistakes, but that's the kind of thing that I can't beat myself up about. I believe that I've been given so much that I have to give so much back."


USA Today / CBS
Elizabeth Chen , Web Producer