Whitney Houston R.I.P.

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(sorry for typos and xposts)

Josh in Chicago, Sunday, 12 February 2012 15:23 (2 years ago) Permalink

One crucial difference: MJ (and Winehouse to a lesser extent) boasted dozens of critics who considered Off The Wall and Thriller classic albums whereas Houston endured a lot of sneers for most of her career.

Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 12 February 2012 15:24 (2 years ago) Permalink

anyway r.i.p. lady. my mom was a big fan and the 80s pop hits are ingrained in me from childhood and those late '90s club mixes were an essential part of my going out experiences in the major period when i bothered to go out. i always kinda hoped you'd do more house diva stuff.

jesus christ (strongo hulkington's ghost dad), Sunday, 12 February 2012 15:24 (2 years ago) Permalink

wow, almost ALL whitney vinyl is selling on ebay right now. haven't seen that since MJ. needless to say, whitney not big with vinyl fans. you couldn't give it away. very much a cd artist.

scott seward, Sunday, 12 February 2012 15:25 (2 years ago) Permalink

Whitney's first album released at the cusp of CD's going blogal.

Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 12 February 2012 15:26 (2 years ago) Permalink

*global

Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 12 February 2012 15:26 (2 years ago) Permalink

lol i was wondering wtf pun you were trying to make there

J0rdan S., Sunday, 12 February 2012 15:26 (2 years ago) Permalink

i like a lot of the ballads. its weird i don't think i ever actually thought about who else she should have worked with or other material she should have used. it never occurred to me. she sold more records than, like, anyone. so, she was probably good with that.

scott seward, Sunday, 12 February 2012 15:27 (2 years ago) Permalink

xpost to Al: Yeah, I mean, it's totally unfair, by my memories of her at her peak, when I was at my peak pop-music consumption period, I suppose, was that she epitomized pop as product, and that between S/A/W and Clive Davis she was kind of a polished cog in a well oiled machine. Again, totally not far, and ur-rockist, but I'm not sure how much respect Whitney ever got as more than a singer or a gormless shipper of units. She was never considered an Artist, and in fact when the Dolly cover came out she was actively derided for her total lack of subtly and nuance (even as she sold umpteen millions).

Josh in Chicago, Sunday, 12 February 2012 15:28 (2 years ago) Permalink

(Just how I remember it)

Josh in Chicago, Sunday, 12 February 2012 15:29 (2 years ago) Permalink

also i have as many gripes about this being the Most Ahistorical Generation as anyone (and a whitney thread is not where i thought i'd be making this argument) but i remember how many motown songs *i* knew and loved as a kid in the '80s, when "oldies" meant 50s/60s. now that it means the 80s (hell, almost the 90s), i doubt their aren't kids into r&b/soul/showtunes/whatthefuckever who dont know whitney songs. also i might (maybe) argue that these singing shows have done a lot of heavy lifting keeping her rep alive during the dark years by completing the transition from working pop artist to Great Voice.

jesus christ (strongo hulkington's ghost dad), Sunday, 12 February 2012 15:33 (2 years ago) Permalink

Josh in Chicago, Sunday, 12 February 2012 15:36 (2 years ago) Permalink

I liked Whitney Houston, more than I would expect considering I was never a fan per se (though I did/do really like "I Wanna Dance with Someone"). Back around 1992/93 I had a next door neighbor named Belinda who was a nurse from the Philippines. The walls were very thin, and I think the only recording she owned was by Whitney Houston.

Also, so funny about the Material song. I'm pretty sure I owned a copy of that album at one time, but I never knew she had anything to do with it until now.

_Rudipherous_, Sunday, 12 February 2012 15:36 (2 years ago) Permalink

For real. Anyone who doubts the impact of her legacy need only watch "American Idol."

Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 12 February 2012 15:37 (2 years ago) Permalink

an unintentionally Shakey observation

Literal Facepalms (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 12 February 2012 15:39 (2 years ago) Permalink

here's another fabulous 2-step remix a friend has just unearthed

http://soundcloud.com/bat020/whitney-houston-2step-remix

first period don't give a fuck, second period gon get cut (lex pretend), Sunday, 12 February 2012 15:41 (2 years ago) Permalink

xpost But I think that's her legacy as a show-off unit shipper, alas, thus justifying rampant melisma.

Josh in Chicago, Sunday, 12 February 2012 15:42 (2 years ago) Permalink

i don't think anyone does prefer the acappella, it's just a pretty astonishing demonstration of her voice

― first period don't give a fuck, second period gon get cut (lex pretend), Sunday, 12 February 2012 14:42 (52 minutes ago) Permalink

I do. I suppose this will qualify me for rockism or some such egregious sin, but it's just a personal preference - the '80s, tinny pop production values of producers like Arthur Baker sound tuneless so me and detract from the voice.

thirdalternative, Sunday, 12 February 2012 15:44 (2 years ago) Permalink

man there was some speed garage tune (ha ha probably something really obvious like "ripgroove") that looped a bit of whitney melisma until it sounded like god's own emergency broadcast system.

jesus christ (strongo hulkington's ghost dad), Sunday, 12 February 2012 15:46 (2 years ago) Permalink

Arthur Baker is tinny?!?!

Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 12 February 2012 15:47 (2 years ago) Permalink

i always kinda hoped you'd do more house diva stuff.

so many remixes over her career which did this job for her though - thunderpuss mix of "it's not right" as correctly rhapsodised over upthread, also hex hector's "i learned from the best" and jr vasquez's "how will i know"

first period don't give a fuck, second period gon get cut (lex pretend), Sunday, 12 February 2012 15:54 (2 years ago) Permalink

I adore this performance, espesh ~ 4:00 in :

"renegade" gnome (remy bean), Sunday, 12 February 2012 15:59 (2 years ago) Permalink

awww, my brother dan bunny wrote something nice on facebook just now:

"i miss whitney..working in record stores when her first record came out i felt th sky shift a little every day..people were berserk for that voice..moms..teens..old frumpy dudes..all they wanted was to be taken out of whatever hell the 80's had to offer and escape to a cloud w a caramel angel..when i djed for some mafia at a steakhouse,,dipping low behind the booth to snort some cocaine.,i couldnt wait to blast the new record and make people happy..th dirt and grime will forthcome in th press..but i will always feel like a saved soul of some sort in th presence of that amazing voice,unequalled,poorly imitated and never forgotten"

scott seward, Sunday, 12 February 2012 16:32 (2 years ago) Permalink

guthrie ramsey on facebook:

"Perfect vibrato. (Deceivingly) effortless diaphragmic support. Excellent way of "crowding" the cadences with "just enough" sonic information before landing coyly in the next structural part of the song. Widest of ranges: hardly ever "bailed out" by flipping into falsetto. Used the falsetto flip as a subtle garnish. Impeccable intonation (builds "trust" in a listener). Grew more melismatic as time progressed--never overdid this, though--mostly clever twists at the ends of phrases or tossed in between plainly rendered melodic statements that allowed us to sing along at full voice, by ourselves, in the car. Through musical economy and powerful execution could shape the emotional contour of a song whether in long concert-versions or on a 4:00 minute record. A come hither/don't come another step closer or I'll call my cousin camera presence. She and "the voice" seemed like two separate entities: she performed it; allowed us to witness it, she obviously enjoyed it herself. But in the end it just couldn't keep up."

scott seward, Sunday, 12 February 2012 16:38 (2 years ago) Permalink

there's an x-men remix of "it's not right" that you can find on the internet but the b-side is an alternate mix they did that i like even better. i have ripped it from the white label JUST FOR YOU and encoded it, and uploaded it here -

http://www.mediafire.com/?uyr8m4v86eycb83

TracerHandVEVO (Tracer Hand), Sunday, 12 February 2012 17:04 (2 years ago) Permalink

: /

According to TMZ, Whitney Houston was found in the bathtub of the Beverly Hills hotel with her face underwater. She had been in the bathroom for over an hour when her hairdresser went to check on her, only to discover her head underwater and legs in the air, as if she'd slid down the back of the tub. It is unclear if the official cause of death was drowning.

omar little, Sunday, 12 February 2012 17:11 (2 years ago) Permalink

damn scott, helluva quote

Raymond Cummings, Sunday, 12 February 2012 17:28 (2 years ago) Permalink

<---- drowning in a sea of OTM posts

― Bo Jackson Overdrive, Sunday, February 12, 2012 10:21 AM (3 hours ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

plee help i am lookin for (crüt), Sunday, 12 February 2012 18:52 (2 years ago) Permalink

Grew more melismatic as time progressed

Yeah, Josh, there's no rampant melisma on her early hits.

timellison, Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:02 (2 years ago) Permalink

im pretty sure that's where the general public all started to think she was an amazing singer.

pfunkboy (Algerian Goalkeeper), Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:07 (2 years ago) Permalink

Grew more melismatic as time progressed--never overdid this, though

Beg to differ. In addition to showcasing two dynamics--soft and LOUD--she oversings the living shit out of "I Will Always Love You."

I don't pretend to know her catalog through and through or anything. And I apologize if I'm being too unsentimental for people less than 24 hours out.

But I feel like people are confusing her talent--which she had in abundance--with artistry. And while I don't deny talent alone can take even the most banal of material to somewhere emotional, even artistic (see: The Star Spangled Banner), I'm not entirely sure a handful of moments to that effect over a span of three decades justifies some of the tributes we're hearing. Put another way, Whitney Houston wasn't a legend -- she was a star. And like every star, she burned bright for a while and then burned the fuck out.

Naive Teen Idol, Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:14 (2 years ago) Permalink

let's agree to, not exactly disagree, but that we are completely right and you are completely wrong

TracerHandVEVO (Tracer Hand), Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:19 (2 years ago) Permalink

Glad you brought up The Star Spangled Banner, because that performance was pretty widely debated- people who loved her loved it, but I can also recall a lot of catty and/or skeptical reactions to the display going on there.

I'm also wondering if I"m the only person who remembers the very long and elaborate Henry Rollins spoken word bit about Whitney Houston's version of "The Greatest Love of All"- I recall it being an extended cranky rant about race in America with some aside about Houston's undeniable pipes.

the tune is space, Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:20 (2 years ago) Permalink

What's the difference between a star and legend? A "legend" in this context is a showbiz word.

I encourage unsentimentality -- it's a tonic to the shall we say wetter tributes I've read in the last nineteen hours.

About the only edifying thing emerging from the death of someone as big as Houston is figuring out what made her awesome and gross. I'm not a fan and said so in my obit. To my ears she recorded quite a few misconceived songs. I dislike a third of her hits. I was in the anti-Whitney camp in '93.

But I've learned a lot about gospel and R&B in the interim, specifically how to listen and judge it. Thus, I'm reacting more kindly to those moments in vast catalog that ARE powerful. But it's a waste of time to pine for a purer Whitney who could have kept working with Bill Laswell.

Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:21 (2 years ago) Permalink

It's funny, being born in late '82 I always felt Whitney was just a hair before my time, whereas it seems like I grew up with Mariah Carey (her heir to the big-ballad/pop-soul/M.O.R&B throne, of course). And despite that voice, her music never really signified for me either, though I can feel that great big gorgeous voice now more than I ever could as a kid. But her decline spooked me for real. After the drugs she turned into an utterly, completely different person. Look at early and late interviews, or performances. It's terrifying. What a fucking shame.

wolf cola, everyone (thewufs), Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:23 (2 years ago) Permalink

(Lex has already linked my piece on how "I Will Always Love You" actually works and where the hostility to it comes from, so I won't spam: it isn't to do with her "oversinging" it, though, it's to do with her singing exactly as she means to, and the response this inevitably entails.)

mark s, Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:25 (2 years ago) Permalink

(<i>a purer Whitney who could have kept working with Bill Laswell</i> : "purer" also i think misunderstands laswell's project)

mark s, Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:28 (2 years ago) Permalink

I was going to stick square quotes around "purer."

Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:29 (2 years ago) Permalink

Whitney wasn't the kind of icon i had much time for when she was big, but I think Rich J's piece in The Daily does a great job of summing up her accomplishments in a critically aware way without engaging in hollow acclaim or unnecessary pontification about drugs, music-liked-by-grandmas, etc.

http://www.thedaily.com/page/2012/02/12/021212-news-whitney-houston-appreciation-1-2/

da croupier, Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:32 (2 years ago) Permalink

Jody Rosen:

Houston was the queen of Adult Contemporary—but her adultness made her not quite contemporary. She was old-fashioned, a little bit fuddy-duddy; your grandmother loved her. She sang about grown-up emotions, and had no feel for the attitude, or the rhythms, of hip-hop. She spent the early '90s in a tug-of-war with Mariah Carey for chart supremacy, but Carey’s hip-hop savvy ensured that she’d come out on top in the end—even though Whitney could sing circles around her.

She captured the zeitgeist in other ways, though. Her message was self-esteem: She made opera out of Oprah. A historian wishing to understand America’s late-20th-century therapy culture can begin and end his research with Whitney Houston: “Learning to love yourself / Is the greatest love of all.”

The self-esteem was inseparable from self-regard—she was a diva, after all. But she was not just singing for herself. She was criticized for being too milquetoast, too “white,” but you could hear the black church in every note of her records. There was a reason that African-American women were her most loyal fans: When she unleashed her fearsome melisma, singing about struggle and resiliency, demanding love and fair treatment in the face of indifference, only a dolt could miss the politics. You can hear it in the stormy final chorus of one of her greatest ballads, “I Have Nothing.” “Don’t walk away from me!” she commands in a wild gospel growl. It’s a sound that will outlive her, and the rest of us.

Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:33 (2 years ago) Permalink

the first paragraph of that slate piece pretty much sums up why i'm impressed with the daily's.

da croupier, Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:37 (2 years ago) Permalink

Did she sing about "grown-up emotions"? I never thought she did, even at her best ("Exhale" is an exception, maybe). She sang from the point of view of a blinkered sixteen-year-old.

Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:43 (2 years ago) Permalink

the "let us not forget that mariah took whitney down with the achilles heel of hip-hop" part made me think of maura's rule no. 3: Are you comparing the artist you're writing about to other female artists only? If so, why?

da croupier, Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:45 (2 years ago) Permalink

seriousness and carefulness more than grown-upness (and ha, obv those are the hallmarks of the kind of teenager who wants to be more mature than they are) (kind of opposite to mariah's whole "eternally 12" thing)

must not let myself read any of these pieces til i've finished mine

first period don't give a fuck, second period gon get cut (lex pretend), Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:47 (2 years ago) Permalink

What's the difference between a star and legend? A "legend" in this context is a showbiz word.

Ok, how about genius? Or one of the greatest artists of the modern era? My point is, she never actually transcended the business. She was basically a creation of it.

But it's a waste of time to pine for a purer Whitney who could have kept working with Bill Laswell.

Honestly, that's a terrifying thought. For me, the bigger issue is that she never hooked up with particularly good songwriters or producers. Where Dionne, Dusty and Thelma hooked up with Bacharach/Stax/Gamble & Huff and Britney, Beyonce and Mariah have been square in the middle of the R&B producer-ama of the last decade, Whitney hooked up with...Clive Davis. Which pretty much tells you all you need to know about her, her interests and her career (and in fairness, her era).

Naive Teen Idol, Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:48 (2 years ago) Permalink

XXP - Considering Mariah was marketed as the next Whitney, and that's effectively what she became, I think it's an entirely appropriate comparison.

wolf cola, everyone (thewufs), Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:49 (2 years ago) Permalink

whitney also hooked up w/rodney jerkins, babyface, missy elliott, danja, swizz beatz and tricky stewart

first period don't give a fuck, second period gon get cut (lex pretend), Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:52 (2 years ago) Permalink

For me, the bigger issue is that she never hooked up with particularly good songwriters or producers

Babyface? Rodney Jerkins? Annie Lennox? Narada Michael Walden?

I'll grant you Michael Masser.

Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:53 (2 years ago) Permalink

i mean the reason she wasn't in the middle of the producerama you speak of is that for many of those years she wasn't recording music at all

first period don't give a fuck, second period gon get cut (lex pretend), Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:53 (2 years ago) Permalink


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