Whitney Houston, RIP

To me, listening to Whitney Houston was exactly the same as listening to cats howl or to fingernails running across a chalkboard.  I couldn’t turn her music off fast enough.  I also hated that she opened the door to a series of ululating, howling women, all of whom sounded like scalded cats.  If I say I thought she was a great talent, I’d be lying.

However, when a woman who has the world at her feet destroys herself with drugs and dies at age 48, that is a terrible tragedy.  I don’t mourn the loss of a singer I disliked.  I mourn very much the loss of a still-youthful woman with so much talent and promise.  I hope that she finds in death the peace that eluded her in life.

Whitney Houston, requiescat in pace.

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  • artmodel

    I am not a fan of Michelangelo’s artwork, but never in a million years would I say that he had no talent. I understand that it’s easy to look down on pop music. Gosh, I’m basically a jazz/classical person myself. But to suggest that Whitney Houston was not a great talent defies logic. She had a five octave vocal range. She transitioned seamlessly between key changes. She released a jazz album that was outstanding. She trained in gospel and R & B – genres that are not hospitable to weak vocalists. She sang a memorable version of the National Anthem that gives everyone chills. She is also not responsible for the inferior crop of those “howling women” you mentioned. Esteemed singers of all generations have heaped praise on Whitney Houston’s vocal ability, from Aretha Franklin to Tony Bennett. Not trying to give you a hard time, really. Liked your tribute, in fact. Just thought it worth mentioning that, musical tastes aside, the kind of vocal control, expressiveness, breathing technique and timing that Whitney Houston possessed is rare among singers. Listen to some of her blues recordings. They are not the sounds of fingernails on a chalkboard.

    • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

      Artmodel: I agree with you. Houston had natural gifts and great training — and she put those gifts and that training to service in a ululating, wailing style that I found singularly unattractive. It’s a matter of taste. Her style — something separate from talent — made my teeth hurt. Given that I truly hated her music, and I hated the stylistic change in music that flowed from her popularity, it’s hard for me to feel a tremendous passion about her loss as an artist, especially given that her own lifestyle choices had long ago destroyed her natural gifts.

      What’s so terribly sad is the tragedy of those choices. That makes me want to cry. She’s like Michael Jackson. They were two people who crumbled under the unbearable burdens of fame in the modern era. Had both kept out of the cesspool and pressure cooker (both terms are correct) that is the modern entertainment world, it’s likely both would have been alive and healthy today. What a loss!

  • Charles Martel

    I’m not partial to what she did to Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” It set a regrettable tone—or maybe it just codified something our culture has been trending toward for a long time—namely, the permanent orgasm, the eternal high, the perpetual peak. When one-tenth of the way into the song you are wailing at the top of your lungs that, “Eye-yi-yi-yi-yi will always love you-ooh-ooh-ooh,” there’s really nowhere left to go.
    Me? I like to build to my climaxes the old-fashioned way.
    My old-fart observation aside, she had a terrific talent. RIP.

  • SJBill

    I met Whitney as a young girl back in the early 70s, at a recording studio in Hillsborough, New Jersey. Her Mom, Cissy Houston was an incredible lead and backup singer who appeared on many rock, soul, and jazz albums of the era. How good was she? Cissy sang backup for Elvis. Here’s a sample: http://youtu.be/Sk_lrVVKzWc 

    Cissy’s home turf was the churches in Newark, NJ. Classic. Incredible. Gospel.

    What do I remember? Young Whitney accompanied her Mom to a few recording sessions during the Summer months. She was precocious, adorable, well-behaved and adoring of her Mom. 

    I admit, I’ve not followed her work in the past decade or so – don’t like much of what she’s done lately. I am truly saddened of the turns in her life. I don’t know what Whitney injested, drank or shot into her body, but she looked like she’s been on the wrong tracks for a long time. Most of all, I am sorry for Cissy, and her Aunt Dionne (Warwick). All that talent helped lead the youngest of this talented family to an early grave. A real American tragedy. Whatever Whitney did – it kills.

  • bizcor

    Funny how one person’s poison is another’s pleasure… I absolutely loved Whitney Houston. She could sing… At the height of her prime when there was mostly crap going on in the pop culture world she could sing.. 5 octaves… are you kidding me name another ….Whitney could make people want to dance…she could melt your heart…and she could make you very proud… Our National Anthem is one of the most difficult songs for anyone to sing and she absolutley nailed it at the Superbowl one year… http://youtu.be/wupsPg5H6aE (Book don’t listen if you don’t want to but I am telling you this made me cry)  In my humble opinion Whitney Houston had.. maybe.. the most incredible singing voice I have ever heard…she could have sung the phone book … the tragedy that she succumbed to the pressure of the lifestyle still breaks my heart … She had amazing talent… I have missed Whitney Houston for a while because she ruined her voice… she had a gift… and she squandered it.

    This is not a challenge….this is just me giving the woman her due. RIP Whitney Houston.  

  • OjosdeAguila

    I have to totally disagree with Bookworm, especially when the word ‘hate’ is used.  But to each their opinion.  I have always admired her early singing and as bizcor stated, she nailed the Star Spangled Banner.  It was so good I went out and bought a copy of my own to include with my collection of patriotic songs.
    My daughter studied Jazz Vocals at USC and thought Mariah Carey was better and had more range than Whitney.  But not to my plebian ear!  Whitney was the real thing and Book, you are right, many wannabe’s followed but she remained the standard of her generation.
    However, like with Michael Jackson, as much as I believe in personal responsibility, I have to believe that the worms in the entertainment industry were a big part of the downfall of these supreme talents.  Maybe we will never know the real truth about Bobby Brown and their relationship but it didn’t look good to me.  Pictures of her smiling at him seemed dope lined and propped with a certain deadness in the eyes.  No real joy.
    A real classical talent.  One I truly enjoyed.  I can only wonder about you when you say her voice grated on you.  How can that be?

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    The Left corrupts all in existence with their touch. Such is a trait often associated with evil, not simply decadent and rich societies.


  • Leah

    Thanks, hard for me to get worked up about this one. Someone who had everything and threw it away on drugs. I guess popular music is just there in the background for me.

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    This is definitely a case of each to his own taste.  When it comes to singing, my gold standard is Ella Fitzgerald, whose singing was so effortless. Houston’s songs, despite her natural gifts, always sounded so labored. That style doesn’t work for me — and it’s one of the reasons I don’t like operatic voices either.  

    Here’s Ella, being relaxed:


  • jj

    So Art – what don’t you like?  St. Peter’s Basilica?  The Pieta?  The Ark of St. Dominic?  The Sistine Chapel?  The Sistine Chapel ceiling?  David?  The Palazo Farnese?  The sonnets?  The Chapel of Leo X in the Castel Sant’Angelo?  Bacchus?  The Siena saints?  Of which art in particular are you not a fan – fresco?  Tempura on panel?  Sculpture?  Poetry?  Architecture?
    I’ll go with Bookworm on this one.  Whitney Houston had a spectacular instrument, which she proceeded to use to screw up song after song after song.  How many times did you sit listening to her, thinking to yourself; “why is she doing that to this song?  This fairly quiet, heartfelt little ballad – why is she doing that?”  It’s kind of like going to a Dylan concert – nobody on earth can take your favorite Dylan song and f*** it up better than Dylan himself can.  (Except I think he does it on purpose.)
    Not a big fan of howling and screeching, no – just sing the goddam song, bow, and go away.  No screeching.

  • http://ruminationsroom.wordpress.com Don Quixote

    To each his or her own.  I’m with bizcor, though.  I loved Whitney’s voice and her singing.  I also agree with BW that her life was a tragedy.  I blame Bobbie Brown. 

  • Danny Lemieux

    I liked Whitney Houston’s music as well. I blame Whitney Houston…an adult with tremendous talent and someone who also made bad choices.

  • Mike Devx

    Tatse is taste.  I’m with Bookworm.  I *liked* Whitney’s music, and Sinead O’Connor, but they both screeched.  Whitney screeched much more purely and smoothly.  I am not a fan of that kind of … robust energetic vocal output.  I’ll leave it for the fat lady opera singers to bellow it out at full-up max.

    But what a talent Whitney had, my God, oh yes. The true relevance here, and the tragedy, is how she threw it all away due to her personal demons.  As she herself knew, and said, “Sometimes I am my own worst enemy.”

  • http://thoughtyoudneverask.blogspot.com/ zabrina

    Neal Boortz calls that style of singing “urban yodeling” and I don’t like it either. A terrible, annoying way to mess up a good song.
    But yes, a talented lady and a tragic end. Chalk another one up to addiction, overlooked and enabled by so many. I feel most sorry for her daughter.

  • beefrank

    The ‘wringing of hands’ by the entertainment news is so annoying.  Since when does ‘talent’ equal being worthy of ‘adornment’, ‘super admiration’ or simply ‘hero’ worship.  The song ‘Greatest Love of All’ is most narcissistic, egotistical, selfish and self-centered song every written (okay, ‘I’m Too Sexy’ may tie).  If that was considered her ‘signature’ song, she really took it to heart because it appears it is how she lived, Me, me, ME.  It is sad to see a talent wasted by an individual but such is life.   I learned long time ago to separate my music adoration from the musicians.

  • http://darthkeller.com DarthKeller

    However, when a woman who has the world at her feet destroys herself with drugs and dies at age 48, that is a terrible tragedy.  ”

    Sorry, I couldn’t disagree more.  Had she been killed in a plane crash : Tragedy.  Shot in a mugging: Tragedy

    OD on drugs?  Not a tragedy.  STUPID.  PERIOD.

    Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston….. Not one of them “tragic”.  All of them stupid! 

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    I guess, Darth, that I find profound stupidity tragedy.  I hate the waste of human potential, even if it’s self-inflicted. 

    jj and Art:  I’m going to agree with Art on this one.  I don’t like Michelangelo too much either, although the Pieta is one of my favorite pieces of Renaissance sculpture.  As with Houston, I can recognize the talent but, for the most part, I don’t like the way the talent was put into effect.  De gustibus non disputandum est.  There are some people, today and in history, who I think are no talent hacks.  There are others whose talents just don’t float my boat.  Give me Jan Van Eyck and Ella Fitzgerald any day.