The Los Angeles Times’ Pop and Hiss blog reports that rhythm and lead guitars were led by Steve Vai and his pop protégé Orianthi (Michael Jackson’s lead guitarist in “This is It”), respectively, Travis Barker on drums and “American Idol” judge Randy Jackson on bass, with producer Ron Fair (Christina Aguilera, Pussycat Dolls) handling piano.
“What people don’t know about me is I’ve been a rock ‘n’ roll fan for years,” Blige told the column after finishing her 17th vocal take at Capitol Records Studio A. “I loved soft rock as a child. I’m full of this stuff, naturally.”
Mary J. had one previous international rock hit, a cover of U2’s “One,” which Blige performed with Bono on the 2007 Grammy Awards, but it was a much bigger success in Europe than here in the States.
Still, ever since the collaboration, it’s Bono who’s been pushing Blige to embrace her inner rock star, so the Queen of Hip Hop Soul – with musicians assembled by Jackson – decided to go straight to classic rock’s most sacred tune.
“Some people might consider it blasphemy, but Mary’s voice really is a nice match [for the song],” said Fair. “Robert Plant’s high-pitched blues thing is right in step with Mary’s vocal range, and she brings the soul music to it, which is what Plant was going for in the first place.”
Indeed, Blige had no trouble hitting “Stairway’s” sweet spots and making its boldest moments her own, but she was also keenly aware of not just replicating the original. “You approach it as yourself, you don’t try to be the artist,” she said.
The remake will be available on Blige’s 10th studio album, due out later this year.