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The Songs: A little 'Help' from Mary J. Blige

July 09, 2012|By Todd Martens | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles…)

Mary J. Blige | "The Living Proof" | "The Help"

When it comes to writing a song for a film, R&B star Mary J. Blige has a list of criteria that the movie must first fulfill.

"It has to be something that touches my heart," said Blige, who wrote "Colors" for 2009's "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire."

"It has to touch my heart because it has to be relevant to me and what I've seen in my life, or what I've watched someone else experience," she continued. "It has to be something I can relate to, and it has to be something that can pull on my heartstrings."

"The Help" and its tale of 1960s civil rights in the South hit all the right notes for Blige. She watched the film twice before writing "The Living Proof," taking notes on her BlackBerry each time. "I was writing things that would move me. I was writing questions, I was writing about characters."

She was also struck by the score created by Thomas Newman. Blige visited the composer on one of his final days of working on the film and instantly decided to incorporate his score into her film-ending ballad.

"She was very taken with certain pieces of the end title," said Newman, who was nominated in the Oscar song category for his collaboration with Peter Gabriel on "Wall-E." "They took those and crafted the song from it. It's kind of a kick to think the score was being notched up."

Indeed, Blige's song swells with orchestral flourishes, giving an undercurrent of hope to her bluesy tones. "When and if we all survive those negative situations, we all walk away as living proof that we can change things," she said. "All of those women were sticking together trying to make a difference. They were living proof of that, and that was where the title and inspiration for the song came from."

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