Mary J. Blige is a beloved icon.
Having had the credentials of a bonafide star since she made landfall on the musical map in the early ‘90s, the legendary singer can account for the most dependable discography in R&B.
Among Blige’s major hits and other signature album cuts are legitimate remakes, all responsible for cementing her icon status.
“Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” (2015)
Blige had the part of Nina Simone in a biography based on her life and career. Then, for unknown reasons, she was replaced and instead had to put years of studying for the role into a sultry, adult R&B version of a song made famous by Simone.
“I’m Going Down” (1994)
If there’s one song by another artist or band that Blige could claim as her own, this update on a late ‘70s classic popularized by Rose Royce for the Car Wash soundtrack would be it. She doesn’t even have to sing “I’m Going Down” at shows anymore. The crowd does all the work.
“A Night to Remember” (2014)
Featured on the Think Like a Man Too soundtrack, one of two albums released by Blige in 2014, this ultra-catchy take on Shalamar’s ‘80s party starter was one of her most slept-on covers. An ambitious blast from the past taken from an album that deserved more praise.
“I’m in Love” (1999)
Mary is a hard soul album in every way, a distinction deduced from Blige’s overly smitten recreation of The Gap Band’s 1979 gem. Without difficulty, Blige’s tough vocals transform into a female imitator of Charlie Wilson, giving quiet storm programmers a recurrent tune for their after-dark playlist.
“Day Dreaming” (2001)
At a 2001 VH1 Divas event saluting Aretha Franklin, Blige performed onstage with the queen of soul. But before their duet moment, Blige rendered a raspy rendition of Franklin’s lovestruck favorite. She added in a few fierce scats to spice up her version. Let’s not forget: Three years prior, Blige took on “Day Dreaming” for her live album, The Tour.
“Hello It’s Me” (2007)
Everything about Blige’s Growing Pains album was phenomenal, notably the overseas editions. Mark Ronson laced her with a sophisticated arrangement to complement her soft and warm tone for this stab at a masterpiece penned and recorded by Todd Rundgren many years ago.
“Sweet Thing” (1992)
When Blige entered the music game, comparisons of the female powerhouses followed. Chaka Khan was one of them. As a fan of Khan, it was no surprise that Blige was on board when pitched to tackle such a special song from Rufus featuring Chaka Khan’s catalog.
Blige’s reputable remake eventually sparked a bond between her and Khan, resulting in subsequent interactions, shout-outs, and a Grammy win.
“Before I Let You Go” (2009)
Talk about getting chills. Blige gave an indisputable reinvention of Maze featuring Frankie Beverly’s timeless song for a tribute album honoring their banner cuts. A close second to the band’s original version for sure.
“Our Love” (1997)
It felt almost mandatory, at least in the ’90s, for Blige to revisit the trusty record bin and make whatever oldie she selected her own. That seemed to be the case on Share My World when Blige pulled a goodie from Natalie Cole’s 1977 LP, Thankful. If there’s one thing to say about Blige and this cover, she could hang with the best in soul music and knew how to introduce it to the new generation.
“One” with U2 (2005)
After seven years, Blige reunited with Bono of U2 for the second time, not for an inspirational helmed by Kirk Franklin & The Family but a soulfully amplified rendition of U2’s lionized 1992 cut taken from their album Achtung Baby. These days, “One” is just as much Blige’s song as U2’s.
“Let No Man Put Asunder” (1999)
Long before Blige set up shop in the U.K. and recorded club and soul music with a few new kids on the block, she cruised back to the late ’70s in 1999 to record this beloved disco jam laid out by First Choice. Blige would kiss the ring of the Philadelphia soul group again to generate a Billboard Adult R&B hit (“Only Love”) in 2018.
“Love Changes” with Jamie Foxx (2005)
When Blige and Jamie Foxx weren’t treating the top spot of the Billboard 200 like a rotating door in the winter of 2006, the two were making and performing sweet music together. Foxx invited Blige on a faithful trip back to 1978 to explore one of Mother’s Finest famed songs, reworked a few years later by Kashif and Meli’sa Morgan.
“Got To Be Real” (2004)
Film soundtracks aren’t what they used to be. Blige had everyone in the theaters watching 2004’s Shark Tale feeling nostalgia with a modern makeover of Cheryl Lynn’s 1978 breakout hit. It’s a crime that this feel-good, Will Smith-featured number is available on streaming platforms.
“As” with George Michael (1999)
Label politics can be the downfall of a major pop hit. In an interview with Rated R&B, Blige’s former Kirk Burrowes said George Michael called on Blige to remake this Stevie Wonder smash. However, Jay Boberg, the president of MCA Records at the time, closed the curtain — at least in the U.S. — on what could have been Blige’s first crossover hit.
“Never Too Much” (2005)
Covers can be tricky business. Not every artist should touch a classic if they cannot keep it close to the original or put their spin on it. Here, Blige does the late Luther Vandross justice for J Records’ 2005 tribute album.