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Mary J. Blige Shares Her Drama-Free World at 2014 Essence Music Festival [EXCLUSIVE]

Mary J. Blige
Erika Goldring, Getty Images

On Saturday (July 5), Mary J. Blige returned to the 2014 Essence Music Festival in New Orleans to give concertgoers a dose of the old favorites mixed in with a bit of her latest work.

In 1995, the veteran songbird appeared as one of the featured artists at the first Essence Music Festival and she’s returned to the stage nearly every year since. The chanteuse’s appeal is in the familiar — who doesn’t know what it’s like to have your heart broken or to feel weighed down by negativity? Blige’s appeal is that she’s relatable and that may lend to the amount of times she’s been asked to appear at the Essence Fest.

The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul started off with a mix of her greatest hits dating back to her 1992 debut, ‘What’s the 411?.’ She reveled in the youthful bounce of ‘Real Love,’ using Biggie’s remix version to transition into ‘You Remind Me,’ another classic track. The crowd was on their feet for the majority of that first medley, happy to revisit those days when Blige was rocking a baseball jersey and cap.

Wearing a skintight white romper and sneakers with her short honey blond hair in pin curls, Blige dove into even more fan favorites like ‘Reminisce’ and ‘You Bring Me Joy.’ The Grammy Award-winning singer, who’s known for her signature “two-step bop,” broke into a couple of old-school dances while the audience gleefully cheered her on.

Always gracious to her doting supporters, Blige thanked the crowd and disappeared for a few minutes. Concertgoers anxiously waited with bated breath to see what was happening next.

Another few moments passed and the stagelights dimmed. The graphics on the surrounding screens shimmered in aqua. Blige returned in a pair of strappy sandals and moved into the mid-tempo ballad ‘Share My World’ followed by ‘Take Me As I Am,’ a cut from her 2005 album, ‘The Breakthrough.’ For the majority of her set, the ‘Suitcase’ singer held the stage down on her own — though every once in a while her set of male dancers would appear to assist.

The argument is that people loved Blige when she started because she was going through periods of hurt and depression. People thrived on the drama in her life, or at least the drama that she sang about — this much was observed during her Essence Festival performance.

The tales of a woman scorned, like ‘Not Gon’ Cry’ and the soulful aching of ‘I’m Goin’ Down’ seemed to resonate within the crowd more than her triumphant joints.

After another quick change, Blige returned in a black fedora and another romper with lace and brass button detail. She then powered through ‘No More Drama’ and the poppy ‘Family Affair,’ while the crowd stood in solidarity.

Years ago, long after that first appearance in 1995, Mary J. Blige has taken on a different mentality and even still, she’ll revisit the past — just for a moment — to give the people what they want, while urging her supporters to take this new journey with her.

Mary J. Blige
Erika Goldring, Getty Images
Mary J. Blige
Johnny Nunez, Getty Images

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