March 25th – Tempted 2 Touch presents Mary J. Blige at Rain nightclub in The Palms.

At the start of her career in the early ’90s, Mary J. Blige covered her eyes with bangs, baseball hats and berets, sunglasses, and shadows. On Mary, the diva maneuver of concealment also matched the basic instinct of a survivalist: see before you’re seen, defend before you have a reason to be defensive. What wasn’t obscured was her susceptibility to forces around her. Later on, gossip and, eventually, Blige herself would confirm that she spent her twenties and her early thirties depressed, abused, dysfunctional, and spiritually sick. As a 19-year-old singer from Yonkers, the ferocity of her voice conveyed not only that she was going through personal disaster, but that she had the resolve necessary to withstand it.

Women are especially drawn to the fundamental sensitivity of Mary J. Blige. She is the kind of singer who can imbue the tamest of aphorisms — “My life’s just fine,” or “No more drama” — with the wild sincerity of biography. She does that through her instrument: her embattled, loud, consumed, and gorgeous voice. “I’m a singer who thinks like a rapper,” she once said. By this, Blige might have meant a few things: the recycling of soul samples, her savvy self-managerial moves, and her projects-to-riches New York transformation. It’s likely she also was saying something about her approach to talking about personal events through narrative, a breakthrough she made for herself and the group of singers, male and female, who now make lovelorn confessional music at the crossing of hip-hop, soul, and R&B.

Even at levels of unimpeachable fame and showy, designer-label wealth, Blige still feels hard. On her current press tour for the release of her 13th studio album, Strength of a Woman, out later this month, Blige has been speaking candidly about the end of her 13-year marriage to Kendu Isaacs. “Unfortunately he was my everything, and you can’t make one person your everything,” she said in an interview with the radio host Angie Martinez. As Julianne Escobedo Shepherd recently wrote at Jezebel: “And yet her confessional nature never seems to be self-serving … She’s doing this because it’s what she’s always done.”


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