George Michael doesn't have all the freedom he wants these days. The pop singer's new greatest hits collection, "Ladies & Gentlemen: The Best of George Michael," was to feature a duet with MCA artist Mary J. Blige on a cover of Stevie Wonder's "As," which originally appeared on his 1976 classic album, "Songs in the Key of Life."But as we previously reported (see "Mary J. Blige Track Pulled From George Michael Album..."), the track was pulled at the last minute from this U.S. version by Blige's record label, even though it appears on the various international versions of Michael's new album. During his recent interview in MTV's Times Square studios, Michael talked with John Norris about his most recent dispute involving the record label powers-that-be. "Mary is thrilled with the track as far as I know," Michael said, "and it's one of the best performances
she's ever given. So I think she's kind of really pissed off that it's not going to be out here in the States.""I'm sure it will be a big hit in the rest of the world," he added, "which [is great, because] actually she's not recognized as much as she should be outside of America. It's kind of the reverse situation to mine. I think it will really break her open in the rest of the world. It's a real shame that it's not going to be out over here." [28.8 RealVideo] Apparently Michael and Blige, who met through producer and R&B vocalist Babyface, went into the studio to cut the song before they had received approval from her label, and since Blige's last studio record, "Share My World," went multi-platinum in the U.S. and Michael's ("Older") decidedly did not, MCA didn't feel motivated to allow Blige to appear on Michael's album. Further negotiations resulted in the compromise
allowing the overseas edition of "Ladies & Gentlemen" to include the track, because Michael remains a bigger commercial draw internationally than Blige.