Mary J. Blige categorically stated that she eagerly accepted the invitation because “I’ve always been a fan. I’ve always loved and truly, truly respect Taylor Swift as a woman, as a businesswoman, and as an artist. So I immediately saidyes because I just love her that much.”
Perish the thought that the pop superstar and R&B queen might come from different worlds. “Taylor has great, relatable lyrics,” Blige said, calling from her car on the way home. “And she is a great businesswomen and she’s a great example for a lot of women — young women and older women — to follow. Her music speaks for itself. And that’s one of the reasons why I loved the opportunity of being on the stage with her tonight, because I respect real artists, and she’s a real artist.”
Swift teased her introduction of Blige during Saturday’s show by first just telling the audience she’d be singing “Doubt,” a number that was recently released as the fourth single off Blige’s acclaimed London Sessionsalbum.
“I heard it at this pre-Grammy party, the Clive Davis party, last year in L.A.,” Swift said. “She got up and sang this song I had never heard of before, and all of a sudden, I felt like, I go through that so much. I doubt myself every single day, no matter what happens… And I think I always will, and I think it’s always something I’m going to struggle with. But this song helped me, and helps me moment to moment. I don’t think we can ever hope to fully get over the things that make us insecure, or the voices in your head that say, ‘You can’t do it, you’re not good enough, nobody likes you, you’re not cool, you’re so annoying.’ But I wanted to sing this song for you because this was the first city I heard this song. And it is absolutely foolish to try and sing a Mary J. Blige song, because she’s the greatest singer who ever lived. But this song matters to me, and it means so much to me to get to sing it to you, and I think it can help you if you struggle with the same kinds of insecurities that I do.”
Blige said there was some discussion over which single song of hers to collaborate on before they came to the obvious conclusion.
“The song ‘Doubt’ is a song that I truly love and means so much to me, and as you could see tonight, it means so much to her,” said Blige. “So I asked her if she could sing it with me, and she said yes. And then of course ‘Family Affair,’ she wanted me to perform that. And I said, ‘Just sing all the songs with me tonight—let’s just make it a duet night.’”
Blige isn’t done with duets for 2015: following a tour of Australia and the U.S. in September and October, she’ll be costarring with Queen Latifah in NBC’s live broadcast of The Wiz Dec. 3.
Back at Staples Center, “duet night” also extended to include a pairing between Swift and Orange is the New Black actress Uzo Aduba. Last month, at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, Aduba also appeared on stage, but just to walk the catwalk while Swift sang “Style.” This time, “Crazy Eyes” actually got to show off her crazy voice, sitting down for a full-on acoustic duet of one of the rare Swift oldies of the night, “White Horse.
As for the requisite catwalk of the night during “Style,” that belonged to three guys on this particular night. First, Swift introduced Sean O’Pry, “the top male model in the world,” quickly followed by “the No. 2 and 3 male models in the world,” who turned out to be Chris Rock and Matt LeBlanc.