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Mary J. Blige Gets Life Lessons From Fans

Of the Oakland Press

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Forget the record company executives and the critics. When it comes to feedback, Mary J. Blige says she depends on her audience.

“My fans are like shrinks for me,” says Blige, 37, who was anointed “the Queen of Hip-Hop/Soul” back in 1992 and whose ninth album, “Growing Pains,” debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart in December. “Any time a person listens to you, they’re helping you, and there’s 5 million people out there listening to me. I’m like, ‘Wow, thank y’all for listening.’

“So I help them and they help me, and we all help each other. I’m just happy they’re happy. All they want to know is that somebody out here understands their pain, their joy or whatever they’re dealing with, and I’m so glad they can do that with me.”

Blige’s achievements have given her quite a bit to live up to, however. Her last two studio albums, 2003’s “Love & Life” and 2005’s “The Breakthrough,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200; the latter also snagged three Grammy Awards. “Reflections — A Retrospective,” even made a Top 10 debut in 2006, a rare feat for a greatest hits set.

With a wide-ranging crossover base that straddles the R&B, Hip-Hop, Pop and even the Adult Contemporary markets, Blige says the music itself is the key component in maintaining that success.

“I started out with this concept of growing pains because that’s how I was feeling during the (2007) Grammys: ‘Am I good enough for this; do I really deserve all this in my life?’” explains Blige, who collaborated with Ne-Yo, Timbaland, Akon and Ludacris on “Growing Pains.” “But something in my head said, ‘Yes, you are. Now you’re forced to rapidly grow up in this area in order to achieve and get the things you want.’

“I’m probably in the best shape that I’ve ever been in in my life,” she reports. “I’m really healthy. I make sure I’m not stressed out over a lot of things and just do the best I can with everything I do.”

Mary J. Blige and Jay-Z perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday (April 25) at The Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $125.75, $89.75 and $49.75. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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