Back in January, when Mary J. Blige was announced as a two-time nominee for this weekend’s Oscars, it was noted that the legend primarily known for her singing became the first woman in Academy Awards history to be nominated for both an acting and a song (writer’s) award in the same year (and, in this case, for the same movie, Mudbound).
That is quite an accomplishment for any artist – but particularly so for a woman in the historically male-dominated motion picture industry. And given its history with African-Americans, it’s even more unlikely that a woman of color would achieve such a feat.
Throw in the fact that the woman in this case is Mary J. Blige, the now iconic R&B singing superstar who once shunned awards ceremonies and whose former tough girl/ hood chick persona had many doubters legitimately questioning her place in the pantheon of great women singers, and you’ve got one of the most unlikely success stories in the history of entertainment.
Seriously, for those who were around in the beginning, who among us pictured Mary Jane Blige receiving Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for both her music and her acting in 2018?
From the beginning, Blige, whose career began over a quarter century ago with the iconic 1992 début album What’s the 411?, was dubbed Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. It was a title she was boldly given after just one album – a crowning granted, of course, by her own promotional team at Uptown Records, the short-lived label to which she became the first solo female singer signed in the early 1990s. But for anyone to give an artist that lofty a title, especially in the early ‘90s when there was still only one true soul queen (Aretha) and before such crowns were being given out like Skittles, well, it was blasphemy at worst, tomfoolery at best.
But by the time What’s The 411? and its succession of hit singles (“You Remind Me,” “Real Love” and “Love No Limit”) had run their course, Blige had lived up to the title, becoming the first woman to fuse R&B and hip-hop on the regular, effectively making it a hybridized genre that would define a whole generation and force the music industry to take notice.
In essence, Mary J. Blige pioneered the R&B/hip-hop genre, and she’s been setting or breaking trends and records ever since.
In commemoration of her record-setting Oscar nominations, here are some of Mary J. Blige’s most noteworthy accomplishments over her now 26 years in the entertainment biz.
1. Last November, Blige was given the Icon Award at the 2017 Billboard Women In Music awards. It capped 25 years of chart success for one of the most accomplished musicians in Billboard chart history.
2. Her “Be Without You” is the No. 1 single of all time on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop chart (and all of its predecessors). The song spent a record-setting 15 week’s at No. 1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart in 2006 and it outranks – at least chart-wise – such iconic hits as “Sexual Healing,” “Bump N’ Grind,” “Let’s Stay Together,” “I Will Always Love You,” “When Doves Cry,” “Billie Jean” and “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” among all others.
3. When her album The Breakthrough debuted in 2005, it sold 726,000 copies in its first week, making it the largest first-week sales for an R&B solo female in the SoundScan era…a record that still stands today. That’s more than albums by Beyoncé, Whitney, Mariah, Janet and any other R&B female have sold in their début weeks.
4. Her album My Life stands among the most critically acclaimed R&B albums of all time. It’s ranked in Blender’s list of 100 greatest American albums of all time, Time magazine’s 100 greatest albums of all time, and at No. 279 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list. (Personally, it ranked as my favorite album of the 1990s.)
5. Overall, Blige is the fourth-best-selling album artist among African-American women based on U.S. sales, behind Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson. Her U.S. album sales certifications stand at 20.5 million copies (15th among all women).
6. In 2017, Billboard named Blige the most successful female R&B/Hip-Hop artist of the past 25 years.
7. With Blige’s Oscar nominations, not only is she the first woman to get an acting and songwriting nod in the same year, but she made Dee Rees, the director of Mudbound, the first black woman to direct a movie for which an actor or actress received an Academy Award nomination.
8. Blige is an international superstar, with her records having sold over 75 million copies worldwide.
9. On the non-musical front, Blige’s perfume fragrance, My Life, became the Home Shopping Network’s fastest-selling and most popular fragrance with more than 50,000 bottles sold over its first weekend back in 2006.
10. Blige has overcome some serious odds in getting to where she is today. As her iconic status has grown, she’s dealt with bad relationships, both professional and personal, folding record labels, substance addiction issues and, of course, the usual haters. Through it all, she’s persevered and has defied the odds yet again with her latest accomplishments.
So, even if she doesn’t emerge victorious after Sunday night’s Oscars (and even if she didn’t earn any money from Mudbound – as reports so emerged on Friday), Mary J. Blige is no less a superstar in djrobblog’s book.
Congratulations, MJB. You’ve earned your iconic status as one of the most enduring and legendary artists of all time!