3. Mary J. Blige
Most people herald Mary J. Blige as the second coming of Aretha Franklin but I strongly disagree. Gritty and raw yet musically sound, Blige rose to fame because she gave a voice to the people on the ground, similar to Simone in her younger years. Indeed, she represented the widely overlooked girls who couldn’t identify with the over-polished Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey divas, thus pioneering a movement in popular culture.
Additionally, Blige’s combinations of R&B, Soul and Jazz with Hip-Hop gives a contemporary twist to Simone’s musical legacy. Yes, the influence of Franklin on Blige is clear as with countless other acts in the industry, but there is no denying that Simone played a key role in the rise of the Queen of Hip-Hop/Soul.
Musical selection: “I Can See in Color”