Sunday, February 12, 2012

'90s Sunday - R.I.P. Whitney Houston

1963 - 2012

I find it slightly disturbing that our society values celebrities so much more than everyone else. Whitney's death warrants attention because of her talent and impact on POP music. However, I don't think she deserves more news airtime than the arrest of a suspect in a gay man's videotaped beating. I'm saying this as a writer of a POP music blog, which makes me feel even more crappy. I justify this sense of discomfort by telling myself that I write about all aspects of music, of which celebrity is but one. Therefore, I should be able to dedicate a proper post to a person whose music has affected many lives.

Many performers have had a greater impact on me. I've been more saddened by the death of other POP stars. Still, that doesn't take away from the influence Whitney has had on many. Known as "The Voice," many (including my parents), say Whitney Houston had the best voice they'd ever heard. I disagree, but of course understand the immense talent that this woman possessed. Also, her body of work is deep and memorable. Songs like I Wanna Dance With Somebody and I'm Every Woman still end up on our dance playlists, side-by-side with tunes by Rihanna and GaGa. Whitney was able to last beyond a few years of relevance, recording hits over multiple decades. One of my first musical memories is constantly singing I Will Always Love You in the shower (it was my favorite song at age four, and my sister happily teased me, as a result). Later on, Whitney continued her successful streak with the irresistible Heartbreak Hotel, It's Not Right But It's Okay, and a song that still breaks my heart, My Love is Your Love. Not many performers (regardless of talent level) are able to have careers long enough to impact multiple generations, so Whitney and, most importantly, her team should be commended for such a feat.

It's strange how people laugh at talented messes like Michael, Amy, and Whitney until they die, at which point they venerate them as if they were their biggest fans. I see things in shades of grey. Whitney, like many entertainers, was troubled and insecure. Why else would she turn to drugs and surround herself with enablers who would give/tell her what she wanted just so they could have a piece of her, the vile parasites they were? Obviously, she was self-medicating to numb the pain. With that said, she was extremely talented and made some irresistible, timeless POP music, the reason she was on our radar in the first place. However, it's not one or the other. It's both. I don't understand why some people will only see her as a self-destructive mess, and why others (who solely want to remember Whitney for her voice) feel they need to ignore her faults and insult those who point them out? Whitney was (and will be) a musical ICON, but she was also a druggie who was never the sharpest tool in the shed. Just as I won't forget her music,  I'll always remember when she stupidly and snobbishly told Diane Sawyer that "Crack is cheap. I make too much money to ever smoke crack. Let's get THAT straight. Okay? We don't do crack...We don't do that. CRACK IS WHACK." Afterwards, when Diane read the headline alleging that Whitney had spent $730,000 on drugs, the singer responded, "I want to see the receipts from the drug dealer that I bought $730,000 worth of drugs from. I want to see the receipts." Um, yeah, Whitney. AS IF a drug dealer prints out a receipt after ringing up the cash register; it's not Walmart! The only thing WHACK was Whitney, and I think it would be a shame to forget her troubles. That would be a waste of a valuable lesson to those who use or will ever consider regularly using drugs. I'm not here to preach; I'm all for experimentation. However, it's one thing to occasionally snort a little something just to try it out. It's another to do it on the regular. 

Whitney's marriage to Bobby Brown was simultaneously heartbreaking and amusing. Not only did Bobbaaaaaaaayyy (remember "Being Bobby Brown?" Television gold...) most likely introduce the druggie lifestyle to Whitney, but he always needed an ego boost around his superstar wife. I found it ridiculous when Whitney attempted to appease him by calling Bobby the "King of POP, hip-hop soul, R&B funk" in acceptance speeches. Is that even a genre? Lastly, we'll never forget Whitney's favorite stage prop - a sweat rag. Typically, standing and singing isn't physically exhausting, but I guess a little white powder (allegedly) makes the air feel a bit more humid.

The good comes with the bad. There's no need or reason to let one outshine the other. And to be honest, I found Whitney's antics nearly as entertaining as her music. I'm not attempting to diminish her talent or musical impact. I just believe in accepting the whole package, extremes and all. Her voice is/was a huge part of that package. There is a reason she was the first female singer to be called a DIVA, and it's not because of her rider demands or her attitude. It was because of her ability to fuse massive vocal prowess with the POP genre. For that, she will long be remembered. We will always love you Whitney, sweaty high notes and all! Let's end this post with one of my favorite Whitney songs, shall we? This is today's '90s Sunday pick - 1999's My Love is Your Love. I couldn't find the radio/dance version, but below is the original produced by Wyclef Jean (of the Fugees).


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