Why do we allow comebacks in music and film? It has always baffled me. They had their chance and for one reason or another it passed. Even though actors and musicians may continue to release music and movies past their prime and even remain popular, the quality is just not there. They stick to what they know; what’s safe. However, this doesn’t win over new fans or critics. It takes a ‘shake-up’ or dramatic revelation in the media to bring the focus back.
Now, I’m not down on any particular artist or music style but there are two in particular that come to mind that fit this mold. I will talk about one of them here; Mary J. Blige. I will be the first to admit that I liked her back in the day. I even owned her first album What’s the 411? But during the mid- to late-90s alternative rock was all the rage and that was what the cool kids were listening to. However, it should be noted that during this time period Ms. Blige continued to be successful releasing several hits and winning a Grammy for her collaboration with Method Man on her second album My Life. But then in December 2005, she released her seventh album The Breakthrough and what a breakthrough it was. Ms. Blige collaborated (another post to come about collaborations) with nine different artists/groups/duos on this album. So, instantly there is buzz because people like J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, will.i.am, and 9th Wonder were involved. Another boost was coming though. In February 2006, Mary J. Blige appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show. She talked all about having a hard life and how she had been molested at the young age of 5. Oprah took to her like flies on sh… well you know what I mean. And she continues to be enchanted by Ms. Blige. This was recently reaffirmed by Oprah including Growing Pains (the most recently released album) as the CD in her influential ‘favorite things’ list for summer 2008.
Not only did Oprah like her but so did the critics and fans. The Breakthrough was flying off the shelf! And it didn’t stop! She went on to win nine Billboard Music Awards, two American Music Awards, two BET Awards, two NAACP Image Awards, and a Soul Train Award. This is not to mention the eight Grammy Award nominations that she received, although she only won three. Now is it just me or does that seem excessive? This is someone who has been popular with fans for a long time but not critically acclaimed for ten years since her last Grammy Award. Everyone wanted a piece of the media frenzy that followed Ms. Blige that year, and they did. Mary J. Blige’s ‘comeback’ is not uncommon in the entertainment industry, but for some reason sticks in my mind. One last note further illustrating the pattern of her media rush was the release of her eighth album, a greatest hits compilation.
I think that it’s great when an artist releases a film or album that demonstrates good work. But for the media and award groups to pounce upon it is asinine. It’s no wonder that it is so hard for an up and coming star to ‘make it’ in the entertainment industry; as those who have to influence to realize those dreams act like ADHD kids without their meds jumping from one shiny object to the next in unison and without much thought.