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 (1 year 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 (1 year 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 (1 year 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 (1 year ago) Permalink
I was going to stick square quotes around "purer."
― Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:29 (1 year 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.
― da croupier, Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:32 (1 year ago) Permalink
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 (1 year 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 (1 year 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 (1 year 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 (1 year 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 (1 year ago) Permalink
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 (1 year 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 (1 year 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 (1 year 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 (1 year 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 (1 year ago) Permalink
Michael Masser wrote "Touch Me in the Morning!"
― timellison, Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:57 (1 year ago) Permalink
I get the logic of comparing Whitney to Mariah, but not the logic of playing "TS: Mariah Carey vs. Whitney Houston" in her obit. I like the Rich's piece (while acknoweldging Clive's paternalism) let's Whitney own her victories and failings, rather than making the thinkpiece about us.
― da croupier, Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:57 (1 year ago) Permalink
I like that Rich's piece lets, rather
― da croupier, Sunday, 12 February 2012 19:58 (1 year ago) Permalink
Seriously bill laswell mostly sucks guys, he's done way worse than whitneys worst song...are people really mourning some shitty, thinly produced theoretical funk/fusion record she might have made with him? Oh no!!
― dave coolier (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Sunday, 12 February 2012 20:00 (1 year ago) Permalink
Narada Michael Walden was a very good drummer. I think my broader point is that I just never got the sense that Whitney cared all that much about what she sang or who she worked with. And I can't really think of another *great* singer I could say that about.
― Naive Teen Idol, Sunday, 12 February 2012 20:03 (1 year ago) Permalink
XP Crouper: Yeah, good article. One thing Rich got wrong, tho: Whitney's death isn't going to overshadow the Grammys. Instead, it'll be the biggest ratings boost the show has ever had. It never ceases to amaze me, the, well, "awesome and gross" drawing power of celebrities dying. Perfect timing, huh?
― wolf cola, everyone (thewufs), Sunday, 12 February 2012 20:04 (1 year ago) Permalink
god damn bobby brown for laying his crack dusted fingers on her
― RudolfHitlerFtw (Hungry4Ass), Sunday, 12 February 2012 20:04 (1 year ago) Permalink
think my broader point is that I just never got the sense that Whitney cared all that much about what she sang or who she worked with
haha -- dude the competition is thick in this category! Ray Charles comes immediately to mind. Lady Dionne too.
― Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 12 February 2012 20:06 (1 year ago) Permalink
i thought whitney made some pretty bitchen music. it never occurred to me that she was some kind of schlockmeister. 'i will always love you' still gives me chills, who cares if its not subtle or tasteful. since when does ILM care about that crap!!
― RudolfHitlerFtw (Hungry4Ass), Sunday, 12 February 2012 20:06 (1 year ago) Permalink
Whitney's death isn't going to overshadow the Grammys. Instead, it'll be the biggest ratings boost the show has ever had.
i think he means the whitney tribute will overshadow the Adele-fest or the resurrection of chris brown, not that ratings will go down.
― da croupier, Sunday, 12 February 2012 20:07 (1 year ago) Permalink
i was actually thinking about whitney last week, & was contrasting her with mariah and how mariah's kept her nose to the grind to maintain her empire, while whitney sadly stopped caring about her career. that contract she signed more than 10 years ago, the deal that toppled arista, what a disaster! lets kill boby brown yall
― RudolfHitlerFtw (Hungry4Ass), Sunday, 12 February 2012 20:09 (1 year ago) Permalink
I don't know much about Whitney Houston's whole personal thing but I never assume anybody's decision to abandon public life is necessarily a sad one
― TracerHandVEVO (Tracer Hand), Sunday, 12 February 2012 20:19 (1 year ago) Permalink
m@tt so otm about laswell; this is the last place i expected to read ppl pining for that stuff tbh
― call all destroyer, Sunday, 12 February 2012 20:21 (1 year ago) Permalink
can you abandon public life while being a reality TV superstar
― RudolfHitlerFtw (Hungry4Ass), Sunday, 12 February 2012 20:23 (1 year ago) Permalink
Well you know what I mean
― TracerHandVEVO (Tracer Hand), Sunday, 12 February 2012 20:26 (1 year ago) Permalink
― RudolfHitlerFtw (Hungry4Ass), Sunday, 12 February 2012 20:28 (1 year ago) Permalink
xpost Yeah, Laswell had already found a much better voice for his purposes in Nona Hendryx.
Whitney would have been better, I think, born later, had she come of age alongside the likes of Mariah, let alone Mary J. Blige, two singers much better in tune with the pop music tenor of their times. Whitney was too young to hit R&B/soul's heyday, too old to work well in the hip-hop era. She may have thrived in a Celine Dion mode, but rather than ease into that role she retreated into de facto retirement numbness.
Perhaps this explains why folks only seemed half-heartedly hoping for a comeback, knowing that the Whitney we got wouldn't be much better than the divas we already had and didn't really want.
― Josh in Chicago, Sunday, 12 February 2012 20:31 (1 year ago) Permalink
God, Bobby Brown is like one part Ike Turner, one part Flava Flav.
― Josh in Chicago, Sunday, 12 February 2012 20:32 (1 year ago) Permalink
Osama kept coming back to Whitney Houston. He asked if I knew her personally when I lived in America. I told him I didn't. He said that he had a paramount desire for Whitney Houston, and although he claimed music was evil, he spoke of someday spending vast amounts of money to go to America and try to arrange a meeting with the superstar. It didn't seem impossible to me. He said he wanted to give Whitney Houston a mansion that he owned in a suburb of Khartoum. He explained to me that to possess Whitney he would be willing to break his color rule and make her one of his wives. I tried to hide my outrage at his racist remarks, but it would come to pass that for the entire time that I would be trapped in his palm, Whitney Houston's was the one name that would be mentioned constantly. How beautiful she is, what a nice smile she has, how truly Islamic she is but is just brainwashed by American culture and her husband—Bobby Brown, whom Osama talked about having killed, as if it were normal to have women's husbands killed. In his briefcase I would come across photographs of the star, as well as copies of Playboy, but nobody in the West believes me when I tell them this. It's like they have this totally bogus image of Osama bin Laden. Anyway, it would soon come to the point where I was sick of hearing Whitney Houston's name.
― omar little, Sunday, 12 February 2012 20:39 (1 year ago) Permalink
^^^boof boof ridin
― mark s, Sunday, 12 February 2012 20:47 (1 year ago) Permalink
Meanwhile, Houston's daughter Bobbi has been taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
― pfunkboy (Algerian Goalkeeper), Sunday, 12 February 2012 21:06 (1 year ago) Permalink
Only things wrong with "Memories": Shepp, struggling with his lip for years, overplays the very first note of his solo, a little "ethereal" breathiness/brain fart, but then redeems himself (thing of no wrong notes if you can come up with the right context); also, do we really need kitchen percussion to show how real this is? But the song, the singer the feeling merge perfectly. Also, some stuff in here I didn't know:JOINT STATEMENT FROM KENNETH GAMBLE & LEON HUFF, LEGENDARY ‘SOUND OF PHILADELPHIA’ PRODUCERS AND PIONEERS, ON THE DEATH OF WHITNEY HOUSTON GAMBLE & HUFF WROTE AND PRODUCED HITS WITH THE LATE LINDA CREED,WHO LATER WROTE HOUSTON’S #1 SMASH, ‘GREATEST LOVE OF ALL.’ “Whitney Houston was an unbelievable talent and one of the greatest voices of all time. Her passing is a tremendous shock and a terrible shame. She had a rough life and was under so much pressure as an artist, because she meant so much to the music community. She was one of the most admired singers ever, who was loved by everybody. We’re praying for her family.” Gamble & Huff also recalled Ms. Houston’s strong Philly connection:- A then-unknown Whitney Houston recorded “Hold Me,” a duet with Gamble & Huff recording artist Teddy Pendergrass for his 1984 Elektra album, “Love Language,” his first following the automobile accident that left him paralyzed. - Gamble & Huff wrote and produced a number of hits with the late Linda Creed, who later wrote Houston’s #1 Smash, “Greatest Love of All.” They first met Houston in Philadelphia at a memorial for Creed, following her death from breast cancer, recalling that Houston “looked like a model and had so much going for her” when they went to her dressing room. They also recalled seeing Houston for the last time at Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammy party in 2008. - Gamble & Huff’s relationship with the Houston family began in the late ‘60s when they worked with the R&B act the Sweet Inspirations, founded by Cissy Houston. A Gamble & Huff composition, "Gotta Find Me A Brand New Lover" appeared on the group’s fifth album (Sweet Sweet Soul) in 1969, and “whenever Cissy couldn’t find a baby sitter, she’d bring Whitney to our studio in Philly. Cissy always used to talk about her daughter when we were recording with her, and what a great talent she was going to be.”
― dow, Sunday, 12 February 2012 21:14 (1 year ago) Permalink
Only things wrong with "Memories": Shepp, struggling with his lip for years, overplays the very first note of his solo
I wondered about this! I agree. At any rate it's too loud for a few seconds.
― Exile in lolville (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 12 February 2012 21:17 (1 year ago) Permalink
Kind of a "Hahhh", quietly overwrought stage whisper--not just the lip, maybe also the perils of what the young Shepp mocked as "my Stan Getz shit", talking to Leroi Jones. But when they were on it, Getz and Shepp made a lot of good records fueled by that shit (among other things).
― dow, Sunday, 12 February 2012 21:34 (1 year ago) Permalink
i hope this isn't too soon. but maybe a wee bit of light relief and its not as if its spiteful.
― pfunkboy (Algerian Goalkeeper), Sunday, 12 February 2012 23:03 (1 year ago) Permalink
This didn't particularly stick out for me. It sounds like what I assumed Archie Shepp sounded like in the 80s (I've only heard his early '60s recordings).
― Let A Man Come In And Do The Cop Porn (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Monday, 13 February 2012 00:31 (1 year ago) Permalink
One thing I often think of w/r/t Whitney (and this before recent events) is not a performance by her per se but rather all the Whitney cover versions I've seen on shows like Idol by aspiring divas.
Doubtless many would assume that these are all awful but at least two spring to mind as quite amazing, both being covers of "I Have Nothing" - Jennifer Hudson on US Idol and Rickie-Lee Coulter on Australian Idol (perhaps the only time Rickie-Lee actually lived up to her promise).
These performances are always tributes to Whitney first and foremost, the contender trying to step into the biggest shoes possible and not lose her feet in them. There really is a sense of the big Whitney ballads as the gold standard for powerhouse emoting. If anything, the more exposed to that idea I am the more I feel comfortable with it; and concomitantly can't really vibe with the idea of Whitney having wasted her talent or career (except in the more prosaic sense that she could have put out more music) - as good as My Love Is Your Love is (and it's my favourite Whitney album) I'm not sure that her legacy would be greater if she'd adopted some kind of grittier template throughout.
(someone could do a bitchin cover of "Run To You" as well, I suspect; sensibly people only seem to do "The Greatest Love Of All" in the failed auditions the shows play for lols, and I think either network producers or otherwise God has enough sense to prevent any performances of "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" from ever being broadcast)
― Tim F, Monday, 13 February 2012 01:46 (1 year ago) Permalink
i think most have now accepted GLoA as kitsch, largely b/c of the lyrics.
― flesh, the devil, and a wolf (wolf) (amateurist), Monday, 13 February 2012 06:08 (1 year ago) Permalink
I passed myself off as knowing all about Whitney albums just then but in truth I haven't heard I'm Your Baby Tonight past the singles - hot or not?
― Tim F, Monday, 13 February 2012 06:53 (1 year ago) Permalink
My awareness of Whitney Houston's music pretty much cuts off somewhere around her big 90s soundtrack albums. I'd known she had her dalliances, but I had no idea that she was struggling so much & for so long w/ addiction - so this is pretty shocking to me.
I also didn't know about her early collaborations before now & some of those tracks posted upthread are pretty dope! There are about four or five of her early singles that have insane vox & hooks & which, after hearing, I will invariably have stuck on repeat in my brain for hours, days even.
― Jurgis Rudkus // Dick Butkus (Pillbox), Monday, 13 February 2012 10:07 (1 year ago) Permalink
I'm really sad about this which is sort of weird because while I definitely liked some of her music, it's not like I was ever an enormous fan. That said, sside from the early dance pop stuff I mentioned a couple days agom IWALY can give me chills and make me tear up any time I hear it. She just had such a powerful voice. They were talking about it the whole thing on the news this morning and it bummed me out a lot more than I would have expected.
― wolf kabob (ENBB), Monday, 13 February 2012 14:47 (1 year ago) Permalink
I haven't posted anything on this thread, because I wasn't much of a fan. I played "How Will I Know" for student-entry music this morning, though, and that was nice--it's the one song of hers I always liked--and then in my own class I played the Super Bowl performance off YouTube. It's the kind of thing I normally wouldn't care for (I was at teachers college at the time, and had pretty much tuned out the first Iraq War altogether), but this morning, it did feel historic. Not as historic or as audacious as Hendrix, maybe not even as good as Marvin Gaye's rendition, but in the ballpark.
― clemenza, Monday, 13 February 2012 14:58 (1 year ago) Permalink
wait, "student entry music" -- like entry to your classroom or over the speakers in the whole school?
― Laura Lucy Lynn (La Lechera), Monday, 13 February 2012 15:22 (1 year ago) Permalink