Continuing our celebration of Black Music Month, this weekâs featured moments are dedicated to the best chart topping, record breaking, and soul stirring R&B/Soul singers from Whitney and Mary to Aretha and Chaka. Plus get the lowdown on the latest news and upcoming projects from each featured Diva. Mary J. Blige – The Breakthrough Mary Blige set the record straight that she is the undisputed Queen of Hip-Hop Soul to anyone that doubted her with the 2005 release of her seventh album âThe Breakthrough.â Bligeâs âBreakthrough,â came on welcoming ears as the singer who was often labeled as one of the toughest female artists in the game revealed her breakthrough and blossoming new lifestyle, new image and new man…sometimes coined âHappy Maryâ or âThe New Mary.â Indeed she was, and the Breakthrough proved that she could be âHappy Maryâand still sell records to the tune of 730,000 copies in the first week. This made Bligeâs Breakthrough the biggest first week sales tally for a Female R&B Artist until Alicia Keysâ As I Am in 2007 sold just over 742,000 copies. Bligeâs new beginning helmed by Rodney Jerkins, Will.I.Am., Bryan Michael Cox, Raphael Saadiq and Cool and Dre to name a few kept Blige on the charts for much of 2006 and 2007 spawning four Top 20 R&B singles including the mega hit âBe Without You.â In its own right, âBe Without You,â also the lead single for the album started a new set of records for the Queen of Hip Hop/Soul. The Grammy Award-winning single sat on the Billboard R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart for a record 75 weeks in addition to sitting at #1 on the R&B charts for fifteen consecutive weeks. Not stopping there, Blige went on to score two additional Top 10 R&B singles with âEnough Cryinâ and âTake Me As I Am.â As of today, The Breakthrough has sold over 7 Million records worldwide and is certified 3x Platinum in the U.S. Closing out 2007, Blige received top honors at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards with a record eight nominations besting albums from Corinne Bailey Rae and Gnarls Barkley. In the end The Breakthrough won Best R&B Album, Best R&B Song (âBe Without Youâ), and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance (âBe Without Youâ). Blige also won a host of other awards including nine Billboard Music Awards and a 2006 BET Award for Video of the Year (âBe Without Youâ). Today: Mary J. Blige unleashed her 8th studio album in December of 2007 entitled âGrowing Painsâ and is yet again topping the charts. Led the by the single âJust Fineâ which peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs tally, Blige has gone on to release two singles including the female empowered anthem âWork Thatâ and âStay Down.â Looking forward, Mary J Blige also launched the Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now in May 2008. In partnership with record executive Steve Stoute the program is dedicated to inspire women of all walks of life to reach their individual potential. FFAWN reaches women through scholarships, grants and programs that foster strong self-esteem, career development and personal growth. âMost of my life was centered around living for the moment.â âI had very few resources and very little real life education to make good decisions. What I did have was a voice and that ultimately became my vehicle of growthâ says Blige. âIt is my great hope that FFAWN will be a vehicle to help other women reach greater heights despite their environment, despite low self-esteem, despite their immediate circumstances.â So there is one question…. How do you feel about the âNewâ Mary, did you enjoy âThe Breakthroughâ more than her previous releases such as Whatâs the 411 and Share My World?
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