Literal Hollywood star and R&B singer Mary J. Blige made Oscar history today: she became the first person ever nominated for an acting performance and original song in the same year. Her work in 2017's Mudbound landed her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Song (“Mighty River”). Although I haven’t seen Mudbound and trust that she’s great and deserving and should take it all home, doesn’t it seem a little nuts that no one has ever done this before? Considering all the actor/musicians that exist on this Earth? MJB, show ‘em how it’s done.
While it’s not entirely rare for singers to make the leap into acting, it is somewhat rare for them to be recognized by the Academy for their efforts—and to be honest, it’s probably because most aren’t awards-worthy in both mediums. Since 2000, we’ve seen several Oscar wins from artists who have made the leap, including Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club, Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls, and former teen pop star Brie Larson for Room. Those folks often like to separate their serious acting work from their serious music work, so it’s not totally the norm for these double-threats to lend their voice to their silver screen spotlight. They prefer to take things one at a damn time.
Except with the case of Hudson—she came really close to pulling off Blige’s feat at the 2007 Oscars. Aside from her nomination and win in the Best Supporting Actress category, Dreamgirls was nominated a whopping three times for Best Original Song despite being adapted from the 1981 musical of the same name. (The film added four new songs. Also, why can’t we just cap that at one song nomination per movie?) Hudson sang one of the nominated songs, “Love You I Do,” but didn’t get any songwriting credit—therefore making her ineligible for more Oscar love.
MJB, however, wrote the lyrics to “Mighty River” soon after watching Mudbound for the first time at Sundance Film Festival last January. “I couldn’t write while I was filming because I didn’t even know I was doing the song until after I saw it at Sundance,” Blige told Entertainment Weekly in December. “Then I was like, ‘Okay, I gotta write a song for this!’”
Blige and Mudbound join a surprisingly strong year of nominations, both in continuing the Academy’s commitment to diversity and honoring inspired movies that fall out of line with whatever we used to consider Oscar fare (like Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig storming into Best Director for Get Out and Lady Bird, respectively). All in all, I’m looking forward to watching this year’s Oscars and crying while indie rockstar Sufjan Stevens performs his Call Me By Your Name song. Unless the demonic Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri manages to win Best Picture. Then we riot.