Whoever thought Whitney Houston still had a voice worth listening to, whoever thought she continues to be worth shelling out good money to purchase a copy of, whoever thought her comeback would return her to the status of fame and fortune that she allowed to whither over the past seven or so years ago, must be seriously disappointed these days. I just got through seeing a clip of Ms. Houston singing live at what may have been somewhat of an impromptu concert for Good Morning America in New York’s Central Park. She was downright awful.
Back in the day, Ms. Houston’s voice had a range and strength and a clarity and control that didn’t just hold musical notes but caressed them like they were the most intimate of lovers. From the moment I heard her sing to me “You Give Good Love” to her lament of “Didn’t We Almost Have It All” I was a Whitney Houston fan. But when she did her outstanding rendition of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”, I thought her voice could pull the deepest emotions out of the hardest of hearts. And at the peak of her abilities, just when it appeared that there was absolutely no limit to what she could do as a singer, Ms. Houston put music on the backburner to do whatever she pleased as Mrs. Bobby Brown.
It seemed like Ms. Houston stayed in the tabloids. She and her hubby Mr. Brown were accused of all kinds of dastardly deeds revolving around illegal drug usage. There were countless photos of Ms. Houston looking like she was deep in the throes of some drug binge. The few interviews of her that I was able to catch a glimpse of revealed her to be incoherent and void of any self respect. In an interview with Diane Sawyer Ms. Houston went on a tirade about she makes too much money to be doing something cheap like crack cocaine. She would ramble on about how it was all some conspiracy against her and her husband. Instead of letting her lawyers and other spin masters go to work to do what they could to brush their illegalities over, Ms. Houston wants to air dirty laundry and give credence to the tabloids. There were contract disputes and breaches that had to be resolved through the courts. The number of missed performance appearances began to add up into the double digits on a yearly basis.
But we can chock that up to just a low time in her life. Ms. Houston and Bobby Brown went their separate ways. In typical bad marriage fashion they blamed everything on each other. I don’t know what happened between the two of them and I really don’t care. Mr. Brown holds fast to his claim that he’s the victim here. He probably is to a certain extent. He lost any share of custody for the couple’s only child and his ability to earn money for years rested on the fact that he was Mr. Whitney Houston. So there really does appear to be enough victimization to go around.
In March 2007, Clive Davis of Arista Records announced that Ms. Houston would begin recording a new album. That album, I Look To You, was released just a few days ago. The Good Morning America performance was intended as little more than a marketing spectacle. But what a spectacle it was. Her performance was dismal. Her voice wandered like a blind man driving a Mack truck. The once fantastic voice range that was hers to command has abandoned ship. What was once buttery smooth, rich, and luxurious has now hardened into a mess so curdled it is acidic and harmful to partake. I know the good folks at Arista records are thanking their lucky stars for mixing boards, digital recordings, and all the technological magic that can mask the lack of talent.
Ms. Houston’s performance reminded me of Ella Fitzgerald. I never ever really sat down and listened or watched Ms. Fitzgerald sing. But I did see her perform in an Abbott and Costello movie once. I caught snippets of her performances over the years. Despite suffering from diabetes and all of its associated complications, Ms. Fitzgerald continued to sing well into her old age. Her voice faded with time. But she never stopped scattin’. As she became older and her voice and range became mediocre at best, people still lined up to see her and pay tribute to her as a legend of music who truly wanted to be in front of people to sing and scat and be all that Ella could be.
Unfortunately, Ms. Houston is no Ella. While Ms. Houston has made some truly wonderful music for the world to hear she made a choice to waste that talent. Now, she claims that a two hour interview can negatively impact her ability to sing. It now appears that that once astonishingly strong voice is too fragile to talk and sing at the same time. That was to be expected. We’re all human and unavoidably our physical bodies will reach their zenith and start to decline and with it will go some of our abilities. With our infinite diversity some of us will inevitably do it faster than others. It’s kind of the luck of the draw.
However, it appears that Ms. Houston actually made a conscious choice to partake in activities that would hasten her decline along. And instead of putting forth a serious effort to minimize her neglect of her talent and the damage she has done to her person, she appears to be putting forth a half-assed effort and trying to cover up the rest with glitz, glamour, sound recording equipment technology, and marketing. As far as comebacks go, if she is unwilling to put forth an honest effort, she’s better off not making any effort at all.