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April 9th, 2006

The diva who gazed deep into her soul @ 03:33 am

canadanne:
Neil McCormick interviews Mary J Blige in today's Telegraph arts section, which includes some quotes from herself and Bono about the new cover of One:


During a Hurricane Katrina charity telethon in September last year, hip-hop diva Mary J Blige joined the Irish band U2 for a performance of their classic single One. It was one of those unlikely combinations that television entertainment thrives on, rock meets soul with two superstars on the mic.

Bono kicked off proceedings, delivering his tortured lyrics with typical passion and commitment. At the end of the first verse, he said "Mary" and stepped back from the mic. And the soul singer just let it rip. It might have been a duet rather than a competition, but for the most part all Bono could do was play his guitar and look on in admiration.

The performance was so powerful that it was released as a single last week, with some added strings and vocal touches. If you can imagine someone spitting out a lyric and caressing it at the same time, you might begin to get some idea of the intensity this most personal of vocalists brings to lines like: "Did I disappoint you, or leave a bad taste in your mouth? / You act like you never had love and you want me to go without." And it just goes on, building into a towering "we're one but we're not the same / We hurt each other, then we do it again".

"It was around the time of 9/11 when the song touched me," says Blige. "I listened to it over and over again. It made me cry because we live in a world where we don't recognise that we live here together no matter what race or colour, and because of our separation we blame things on each other."

Blige has never performed with a rock band before, but says: 'I don't discriminate - when it's hot, it's hot.' The technical standards demanded in the soul, gospel and R & B genres are so high that one might imagine a diva like Blige would be disparaging about the limitations of rock singers, but what she responds to is emotion: "What I love about rock and roll is, the only rule is that it has to be for real. Whether they can sing or not, they're delivering from their passion, from their honesty. Janis Joplin made my hair stand up on my skin singing Piece of My Heart. To always think about hitting a note puts you in a box where you can't bring people in. You bring people in with emotion, fire, passion. It's not an act. It's almost like throwing up. You can't control it."

U2 and Blige have repeated the performance of One at live shows and at the Grammys. Recording a video, Bono was astonished by how much the soul singer put into it. "We were miming to playback but she sang every take full blast, as if her life depended on it," he recalls. "I don't know what is going through her mind when she sings 'You say love is a temple, love is a higher law / You ask me to enter but then you make me crawl', but it obviously takes her somewhere very personal. Most singers hold back when they are not in front of an audience, but not Mary J. I don't know what that costs her emotionally, but it is as if it is the only way she can do it."

"It costs nothing to sing like that," is Blige's response. "I'm just having a ball, wailing through it. If you have to struggle, that means it's not taking you away. All that stuff in that song related to all the things I was dealing with, going through the growing pains of fixing and changing my life - all my so-called friends were falling by the wayside. The first time I ever sang it, by myself, maybe three-and-a-half years ago, I had the realisation that it was just me and my husband, basically, against the world."



You can go here to read the full article.
 
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From:lovedstrangely
Date:April 9th, 2006 02:31 am (UTC)
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am i the only one who HATES this cover with a passion?
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From:canadanne
Date:April 9th, 2006 02:33 am (UTC)

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How on earth did you manage to respond that quickly?!

And no, I think it's fair to say there are quite a few people who hate it!
From:hot_coffee
Date:April 9th, 2006 02:42 am (UTC)
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I don't listen to the new version with her singing in it, but I don't think that I hate it.

P.S. Neil McCormick is sex.
From:stay_please
Date:April 9th, 2006 03:03 am (UTC)
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I am one of a very select group who actually likes this cover/duet/thing (whatever you want to call it). I think Mary hits it just right. I wish it could be more of a duet, with harmonies and such, and not just Bono on the first verse and out. In fact, if Mary covered it solo, I'd probably like that, too. Just make sure she has an Edge, Larry, and Adam with her. ;-) I also think she hits it just right with her feelings on the song. It can be different things to different people, and here's what it is to her, for us all to read. I like that Bono admits "I don't know what she's thinking...... but it works." Yay for his support of the listener-response theory.

Thanks for the summary!
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From:canadanne
Date:April 9th, 2006 03:26 am (UTC)
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Agreed... I can see why the histrionics would put people off her version, and I'd be happier if nobody ever covered that song (or at least didn't release it as a single) because it's my very favourite and the original is untouchable. But I do admire the fact she seems to be singing it from the heart - you can just *tell* the song means a lot to her, and that she's not just covering it because she knows it's a guaranteed chart hit or whatever. (And let's face it, there are plenty of loathsome, soulless acts out there who wouldn't hesitate to butcher a classic song just because the record company told them to... this could have been so much worse!)

I love the high-pitched "Onnnnne..." she sings at the end, too - it differs from the glorious way U2 close the song, but I think her voice sounds lovely there.
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From:anna_banana666
Date:April 9th, 2006 03:10 am (UTC)
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i like it =)

i think a woman singing (part of) it -- particularly mary -- hits it closer to home for me... but thats not to say i don't love the original too.
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From:arcmorality
Date:April 9th, 2006 03:12 am (UTC)

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Bono kicked off proceedings, delivering his tortured lyrics with typical passion
and commitment.


LOL whilst looking at his teleprompter thing?! Riiiight!!!

Good review otherwise. I've started to enjoy her version. Tho it would be fucked up iof this version gets a higher chart placing than the original did 15 years ago.
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From:canadanne
Date:April 9th, 2006 03:28 am (UTC)
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It's fucked up that the original charted so poorly, full stop. It wouldn't be that hard for the new one to do better!!
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From:la_woman
Date:April 9th, 2006 03:49 am (UTC)
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Thank you for posting this. I'm one of the few who happen to love her version of the song, and what she said about emotion, fire and passion is dead on. That's what singing is all about, not vocal perfection.
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From:boriel
Date:April 9th, 2006 07:32 pm (UTC)
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i wonder if they'll release this as a single in the record shops..i know you can get it at itunes, and on various charity websites, but would be nice to have a physical copy of it too.

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