Sunday, February 7, 2010

She's Singing What?

Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Mary J. Blige.

I am a plain, chubby, white girl. As plentiful as we are, there are very few things out there in that great wide world that are ours, that feel like they were made specifically for us/by us. We are the girl in high school with lots of male friends, and she is not sleeping with any of them (incidentally, gentlemen - if you had that friend in high school I would bet that you once broke her heart a little). We are the girl in college with very few friends that probably joined a weird fringe campus group and pierced something. We are the woman in the grocery store that makes eye contact and smiles politely, but you will probably never think of her again. Betty Crocker single serving microwave desserts are ours. Anne Rice is ours. And Janis Joplin . . . is OURS. Nobody . . . NOBODY will ever be able to duplicate the emotion she poured out and thusly they should not try.

I could prattle about why she is so special, but this interview really sums it up. She was weird and plain and invisible; which, if you've never experienced, is a truly heartbreaking combination. It can hurt even worse than actual malice.

If you've never felt that way, you can't do those songs justice no matter how pure your intentions ("Me and Bobby McGee" being the rare exception. Talented people can make that song pretty, but only when they don't try to sing it like she did).

So one eventless evening many years ago, I decided to watch this one-night only variety show called "Fashion Rocks." It was profoundly awful. Performers doing cover numbers in front of clothes from the era respective of the song the played. I don't remember any performers other than the aforementioned Ms Blige. In fact, after 20 minutes or so I had decided to change the channel when an announcer mentioned that Mary J. Blige would be performing soon, doing a Janis song.

PFFF. That was my thought. PFFFF. I knew very little about her at the time, probably really only her genre and appearance. But I knew she would do a terrible cover, so I decided to watch. Naturally. And oh lawdy, she blew the fucking roof off that song! My jaw dropped, I barely blinked, goosebumps, watery eyes . . . the whole shebang. Mary J. Blige . . . knew.

I'll be a son of a bitch, but this talented beautiful woman knows what it feels like to be so full of emotion that is has to absolutely erupt. She's said at some point "fuck it, this is coming out whether y'all like it or not." Maybe she doesn't know what it's like to feel invisible but screw it, the ideal end result is the same: a volcano of feeling and every last drop is spent in the art you are making, that touches every single person that hears it and understands it. It can be exhausting to watch, but it's always cathartic and empowering. Falling in love with Mary J. Blige changed my perspective on a lot of things. It's hard to feel isolated when a goddess of a woman has probably felt the same way as you at one point in time. One could argue that it makes Janis obsolete, but yeah . . . no. Not even close.

Incidentally, this is the performance that prompted me to write this. The bit at about three minutes in buh-lows my mind.

PS - Dave Navarro is a giant douche.