For those who were unable to see Mary J. Blige in action during her Apple Music Live performance held in New York City, the one-night-only set is now available to view exclusively on the streaming platform. Blige took fans on a musical journey with her live band and sang songs, from her newest hits to her OG classics, including “I’m Going Down,” “Love Is All We Need,” and “Real Love.”
Ahead of the broadcast, the singer—who is celebrating the 30th anniversary of her debut album, What’s The 411?, and the 25th anniversary of her third studio album, Share My World, this year— sat with Apple Music’s Nadeska to discuss a slew of topics like how she curated the dynamic setlist, how her 1991 single “You Remind Me” altered her life, and what it means for the Icon to be considered a “north star” for the female R&B acts of today.
“I’ve been touring and doing shows for years now, so I know what the fans want to hear from each album. So, you know…classics… you can’t lose with that,” she explained about her setlist. She added how if doesn’t incorporate her classics, it won’t be a good show. “So, you start from the beginning. The performance is definitely gonna be like a history lesson because most of my songs are sample-driven,” she said. “This is gonna be fun, what I’m gonna do. It’s gonna be fun, it’s gonna be crazy. You gotta incorporate the classics, give them some new, give them some out, give them a rest, pick it back up and go home.”
Mary expressed how she used to be “nervous and scared and crazy” about performing in her early days. Now, she enters into it with the mindset of telling herself, “Okay, whatever happens, happens, but I’m just going to give my best. I’m going to give 100% to the audience, no matter what.”
With her being 30 years into her career, the 51-year-old applauded herself and her journey. “I’m super proud of myself and I’ve never thought I’d ever be able to say that in my lifetime,” she stated. “I am super proud of myself because I did a lot of work to get here. And I’m proud of my heart, I’m proud of my soul, my spirit, my work ethic, the people that I choose to be around me, the energy that I give to people, I’m proud. I’m super proud of how far I came because I come a long way.”
Coincidentally, it didn’t really click for her until she accepted the Icon Award at the 2022 Billboard Music Awards, presented by Janet Jackson.
“When I got the icon award, it all just started to register like, ‘Wow, I really did something, I really did something,’ but it’s not like I did something because I was great all the time, I did something because I was going through all types of hell all the time,” MJB explained. “And I didn’t have a choice. I had to walk through that hell. I had to watch all my business on the news. I had to listen to people laughing at me. I had to hear all this negative stuff.
“I had to go through all that hell in front of everybody for them to have what they have, and they have great music. And great songs and a lot of women are being more transparent because I tripped and fell a million times and got up. It’s not like everything was great. A lot of things wasn’t but now things are better than what they were, and I’m acknowledging and embracing the good now. Although there’s still bad stuff happening, I have to embrace the good to get out to keep from falling back into that. So I birthed a whole lot of beautiful, amazing female R&B singers because of the trials and tribulations that I’ve gone through and the lyrics in my songs.”
Mary later talks about early memories with Diddy and what it’s like working with R&B artists of this generation like H.E.R. and Summer Walker. Watch the full discussion above. Her Apple Music Live performance can be watched here. The live album can be heard here.