When noteworthy recording artists pen songs for films, it’s an opportunity for them to flex their creative muscles and brand themselves in another arena, but rarely do you hear about a hired performer exorcising their demons.
Which is what makes Mary J. Blige’s track “I Can See in Color” from “Precious” so transcendent: Blige has walked in the title character’s shoes.
The lyrics in “Color,” co-written with Raphael Saadiq and LaNeah Menzies, are largely upbeat, describing Precious’ awakening as she delivers her second child.
But with its light organ, rhythmic drive and Blige’s soulful cry, the tune lays on a thick bluesy sound reminiscent of Donny Hathaway’s ’70s hit “Giving Up.”
“Lee would say ‘I want it darker, bluesier. Use your own life,'” Blige explains about how director Lee Daniels prodded her to draw inspiration from her hard-knocks upbringing in a Yonkers, N.Y., project. “I went into the studio and cried hard, reaching back.”
Urban pathos has long been a motif in Blige’s canon, but her decision to return to her roots stems from an obligation to reach out to the hopeless young women on the street.
“‘Precious’ is why I keep telling this story,” she says.