Turning 50 is a big milestone for anyone. But for Mary J. Blige, this birthday was especially meaningful. The nine-time Grammy winner explained why during the Feb. 23 episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
"When it hit at 12 o'clock that night, I just cried like a baby because I made it," she said. "I've been through hell in my life. And to make it to 50, it was just beautiful."
Blige, who turned 50 in January, recently reflected on her journey while listening to some of her early hits amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
"I really don't like to listen to even the sound of my speaking voice, let alone listen back to Mary J. Blige," she explained. "But I've grown so much, you know, in confidence that during the quarantine, I don't know, just something just said, 'Listen to some Mary J. Blige.' And I did. I felt like an outside person doing it."
The singer couldn't believe how much the lyrics from songs she wrote more than two decades ago still resonated with her today.
"What blew me away is, like, you know, so many of the lyrics was helping me now during the quarantine and in my life," she continued. "And what I couldn't understand was how could somebody so messed up that was, you know, drinking and on drugs and just a crazy person, you know, young person write those lyrics that can help me through everything that I'm going through right now. It's like listening to another person, especially during the time we were all just, you know, suffering in the quarantine and in this pandemic, you know?"
Blige has publicly spoken about her past alcohol and drug use before. During her interview with Ellen DeGeneres, the star recalled how her own inspiring words weren't "penetrating" around the time of her 1994 album My Life and that things didn't really start to change until her 2001 release, No Drama.
"I was listening to the My Life album during the pandemic, and I was listening to 'My Life,' the song 'My Life,' and I was like, 'Wow, how did I write those lyrics? How did I do that?'" she said. "Because it was a time where we all needed to be patient, and I know I need patience. And the line, 'Take your time, one day at a time. It's all on you. What you gonna do?' was like, that was, you know, that was the healer for me. Like, 'Just sit-down Mary and relax. You're not going anywhere.'"
Today, Blige continues to take the music industry by storm. Not only is she among the 2021 nominees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but she's also been working on new music, which she hinted will be coming "real, real soon." She also was "beyond honored" when Vice President Kamala Harris walked out to her song "Work That" after it was declared that she and President Joe Biden won the 2020 election. As Blige put it, "It's the coolest thing, you know, next to getting two Oscar nominations that could've happened to me and my career."
Watch the video to see her full interview.