Mary J. Blige is set to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 BET Awards for her musical contributions that have impacted R&B/hip-hop and pop culture. As many of us may know, assembling the right cast of artists for an all-star tribute is no easy task.
For nearly three decades, Blige has played an important role in creating an R&B sub-genre known to most as hip-hop soul. As Blige evolved as an artist, so did the term of the genre she reigns. Noted as urban contemporary R&B — a hybrid of ambitious vocal knocks, well-crafted lyrics, and radio-ready backdrops — this stylistic approach has influenced many singers who followed in Blige’s footsteps. This is why Billboard crowned her most successful female R&B/hip-hop artist of the past 25 years, and she has an exclusive collection of Grammys to her name.
Given these critical footnotes, Blige deserves a tribute that will have viewers talking for years to come.
As a Queen of R&B aficionado, who has taken special notes from previous Lifetime Achievement Award tribute performances, we have tasked ourselves to share nine essential singers that should be considered for Blige’s one-of-a-kind tribute concert.
It goes without saying that Keyshia Cole should be at the top of the list when it comes to a Mary J. Blige tribute. This decision was written by the Black culture at the beginning of Cole’s career. No, the two don’t have similar vocal nuances, but their urban-themed backgrounds are alike, and Cole looks up to the Blige.
While many believe Cole should perform, it would be more fitting for her to hand the prestigious award to her idol. The main reason for this unique ruling is because Cole was allegedly slighted in a 2009 tribute and has seemingly felt neglected in other spaces. This moment will be a huge breakthrough for both Blige and her biggest musical daughter.
Tribute selection: “Love No Limit” from the 1992 album What’s the 411?
Anita Baker means the world to Mary J. Blige. It was her karaoke mall rendition of Baker’s romantic ode “Caught in the Rapture” that won over Uptown Records founder Andre Harrell and landed her a record deal.
On her debut album What’s the 411?, Blige returned the love to Baker again with her smooth solo “Love No Limit.” With Baker’s warm and smokey vocal influence embedded on this track, it would be refreshing to hear her live version of Blige’s classic song.
Tribute selection: “Real Love” from her 1992 album What’s the 411?
Knowing a thing or two about lighthearted songs, “Real Love,” Blige’s first top 10 single on the Billboard Hot 100, has all the right nostalgic elements that “Boo’d Up” possessed.
Tribute selection: “No More Drama” from the 2001 album No More Drama
Fantasia and Mary J. Blige have one thing in common: they both leave it all on the stage when they perform. And for the Rock Soul pioneer, when she is asked to pay tribute to an artist, she doesn’t mess around. Her recent performances for the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin are prime examples of her showing nothing but respect.
As a product of gospel upbringings, and an anointed spirit that is untamed on stage, Fantasia should be on BET’s speed dial so she can deliver a stirring rendition of Blige’s signature anthem “No More Drama.”
Tribute selection: “I Can Love You” from the 1997 album Share My World
If BET wants to get the crowd jumping, then invite Teyana Taylor to the party. The R&B superstar always comes fully locked and loaded with the swag and the look of the artist she is invited to pay tribute to, especially an R&B/hip-hop great.
After watching her perform incredible tributes to Janet Jackson and Lil Kim, it’s a must to have Taylor honor the hip-hop soul legend with her ‘90s hit “I Can Love You.” She even can bring the Queen Bee to spit her iconic verse.
Tribute selection: “I’m Goin’ Down” from the 1994 album My Life
Remember how excited Mary J. Blige got when she heard Jazmine Sullivan was up next to perform at last year’s Black Girls Rock? Blige knows that the fearless singer-songwriter and her chilling vocal runs are in a league of their own.
Having collaborated together several times, most recently on Blige’s 2017 Strength of a Woman album, it would be beautiful to see how giddy the icon gets when she sees and hears Sullivan singing one of her most popular covers.
Tribute selection: “Everything” from the 1997 album Share My World
Considering that Mo has used each song to dedicate a special message to Blige, hearing how she employs the beautiful words of this Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis-crafted tune to celebrate the multi-awarded singer would be another sweet moment.
Tribute selection: “You Bring Me Joy” from the 1994 album My Life
This year, Mary J. Blige’s sophomore album My Life celebrates its 25th anniversary. R&B veteran Faith Evans played a tremendous part in the making of the album, with her gospel influences on tracks like “Don’t Go.” The growing success of Blige’s career and this LP helped launch the creative direction for Evans’ debut album.
To dismiss the foolish rumors from their fabricated 2018 fight and celebrate the approaching anniversary of My Life, why not have Evans bring down the house with “You Bring Me Joy”?
Tribute selection: “Seven Days” from the 1997 album Share My World
Like Mary J. Blige, Ari Lennox is a special gift to R&B. There is a genuine level of honesty in her lyrics that makes her like every girl around the way.
No one cannot say that “Seven Days,” off Blige’s Share My World album, wouldn’t have fit flawlessly on Lennox’s truthful Shea Butter Baby debut.
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