The Second Coming of LaTonya Blige

On a cool spring evening I made my way uptown to the Sugar Bar, located on West 72nd Street, for a listening party of a new artist.  But in reality, this was no ordinary new artist.   The listening party held in the restaurant owned by the iconic Ashford & Simpson was for LaTonya Blige, sister to Mary J. Blige the queen of hip hop /soul music. 

Most people would believe that for LaTonya the stakes are high.  She is following in the footsteps of her sister whose pioneering career paved the way for most R&B/hip hop divas in the game today.  If the project is not successful, she will be raked over the coals by the media.  But LaTonya is no stranger to the music industry. The Yonkers native has helped to co-manage, sing background vocals, co-write and co-produced songs for her sister as well as write and co-write songs for Mariah Carey and Faith Evans, all while balancing a family. 

As I watched LaTonya become humbled by the love and support she received on stage by family, friends and other guests, it became abundantly clear that the new incarnation of LaTonya Bilge in the music business is not about individual glory, it is about the love of music and the love she has for the most high.

Shortly after her listening party, I had the opportunity to ask LaTonya a few questions about her new music and singing with her sister.

1.   In the quest to get their material heard, most artists forget that music is a business.  How did the years co-managing your sister help you as you prepared to step into the spotlight?

I came from a music background. My father had his own band and my mother sang occasionally with him.  Working with my sister allowed me to take it to another level. I am a writer first, and then had my own publishing company. This showed me business perspectives as well.

2.   Has there ever been a time that you questioned pursuing singing as a career?

Yes, because it was everyone’s vision at some point, but not the [right] time for me. Now is the time I felt [like] pursuing singing.

3.   What events inspired you to want to sing gospel music?

I was asked to write a song for an artist to a track.  For some reason I couldn’t write R&B lyrics, inspirational was what flowed. My original plan was to do a compilation album. I wanted many artists to participate, such as Mary Mary, Kirk Franklin, etc.  I let my sister listen to the songs and she asked me, “Why aren’t you doing this as your own album?” 

4.   You have sung background for your sister Mary and also co-written songs with her.  How did it feel working with your sister on your songs?

Nice, we always had good chemistry together.

5.   What do you say when people compare you to your sister Mary?  

There is no comparison. My sister has been in this industry [over] 20 years crafting her talent and I’m brand new.

6.   You had a listening party at the Sugar Bar.  Describe your feelings as you sang for your family, friends and Ashford and Simpson.

Wonderful, the love and support from family and friends can’t be measured.

7.   What would you like your fans and people listening to your songs for the first time to take away from your music?

To view it simply as music [and] not to categorize, listen to the words in the song and hopefully it will help my listeners.



Fame Mistress Opens 52nd Grammy Awards


The grand dame of music and fashion walked the red carpet looking like an extraterrestrial representative from the planet Diva.  Lady Gaga did not disappoint fans or media with red carpet ensemble or other outfit changes, none of which were able to grace the Staple Center stage.  Although Gaga did not receive the opportunity to speed through a speech before the music cuts into her “thank you “list, she did add Grammy winner to her list of accolades.  Lady Gaga won Best Dance Recording for “Pokerface” and Best Electronic Dance Album for The Fame.  She also opened 52nd Grammy Award ceremony and shared the stage with another piano tickling, fashion icon Elton John creating another memorable moment in Grammy history.   

Speaking of memorable moments in Grammy history, the music industry’s consummate rebel Pink gave one the best performances of the evening.  Her high flying, Cirque du Soleilsque rendition of “Glitter in the Air” proved to the audience in attendance and to those viewing at home that she is still a badass with a banging body to match.

Yonkers native Mary J. Blige provided inspiration duet with Andrea Bocelli.  Introduced by Haiti’s native son Wyclef Jean, they sang “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” in support the impoverished island devastated by the recent earthquake.   

Beyonce took fierce to another level with her hair swinging, military powered performance of “If I Were A Boy.”  She also won Grammys for Song of the Year for “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)”, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “Halo”, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)”, Best Traditional R&B Performance for “At Last”, Best R&B Song for “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” and Best Contemporary R&B Album for I Am…Sasha Fierce.  I don’t know if The Black Eyed Peas did, but I believe Mrs. Carter definitely had a good, good night.   Mr. Carter added to the family’s night of Grammy wins. The ambassador of New York took home Grammys for Best Rap Solo Performance for “DOA (Death Of Auto-Tune), Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Rap Song for “Run This Town.”

R&B crooner Maxwell cemented his comeback with Best R&B Album for Blacksummers’ Night and Best R&B Male Performance for “Pretty Wings”, which he performed during Sunday night’s telecast. He also performed a duet with the incomparable Roberta Flack, thank you Maxwell for truly bringing sexy back.

Punk superstars Green Day provided a glimpse into their new Broadway musical American Idiot.  They sang “21st Century Breakdown”, which won the Best Rock Album Grammy, along with the show’s cast.  American Idiot will hit the St. James Theater in March and officially open in April.

 Photos courtesy of Kevin Winter/Getty Images