Comments

  1. madmatty says

    It always makes me so angry and frustrated when critics take such delight in absolutely shitting on someone’s performance. Even if someone is bad, do they have to delight so completely in kicking them while they are down? I don’t think any good ever comes of such critiques. It makes you wonder how it may fuel the demons of some artists!

  2. shle896shle says

    Yours is the best tribute I’ve read yet about Whitney Houston. It’s so sad and wrong that people rejoice and revel in tearing someone down. I think we’re all guilty of that.

    But, in the future, I think the negative stories about Whitney will die down and we’ll all remember her for being a BRILLIANT singer with the most incredible voice.

    She made a huge mark on the world and she will live on for decades through her beautiful music. She’ll never be forgotten.

  3. Name2 says

    A lot of those “trainwreck” YouTube videos from the last tour had sustained bits of unnatural beauty (and I was no big WH fan).

    She was changing into a different and more mature singer, but that Dolly Parton song and her own flaws were like an albatross around her neck. Sad.

  4. TJ says

    BKT – Excellent, excellent post.

    Among artists I’ve enjoyed, there is Rosemary Clooney. Her “Sentimental Journey” album, with the voice so not up to par, is a favorite. She earned not being perfect.

    Whitney earned not being perfect. But in her last years, she was not paid her dues. Perhaps if she had been allowed to evolve into a different artist, we’d be telling a different tale today.

  5. Mark says

    I think it is sad how a human being’s worth is distilled down to their particular talent. Granted, Whitney did have a tremendous gift and she could have made healthier life choices. But despite her incredible talent she was still a human being who had merit and value beyond her singing ability.

    As gay men we get so used to objectifying each other that we end up doing the same to those we idolize. When they fail to be perfect or measure up to our high expectations we turn away or lash out, because their value lies in who they are to us–not in their inherent value as a fellow human dealing with many of the same frailties and imperfections we all have.

    The truth is nothing lasts forever, and someday all of us will be worn, weary and gone. Instead of crucifying those who are already there, make peace with your inevitable future by showing a little compassion.

    What goes around, comes around.

    I am very sad about Whitney’s passing. ;( Rest in peace. Thank you for the music you brought to the world–and for the legacy of music you leave behind. You will be missed.

    “I was lost…now I’m free…” –Whitney Houston, “I Believe In You and Me”

  6. says

    “Whitney’s instrument was a natural marvel. She didn’t have to do anything with it. She opened her mouth and there it was; making sounds bigger and better than any other sounds in the world.”

    Excellent words, Brandon. I wasn’t a Whitney diehard, but damn, I adored her nonetheless. I think it’s important to remember her voice, not her tragedies.

    Also important, Whitney is the first of this generations gay-adored Divas to pass. At only 48, she was young and was given — and took– the pass for a second chance.

    Rest In Peace, Whitney.

  7. Secret Identity says

    Wonderful and cathartic post. Thank you for putting into words, the feelings of my heart.
    And what a wonderful song to post as well.

    May she rest in peace.

  8. says

    No, I don’t think we now get to vilify critics who were hard on her before she died. I’m sure they are all feeling bad enough. Let’s just mourn the loss of pretty much the greatest voice of our generation.

  9. SKOC211 says

    This read like an obituary in the form of a backhanded compliment.

    Yes, she struggled in her later years. She was not what she was at the end of her career (though the Callas comparison is entirely misplaced). But to discuss her life by emphasizing her failings with just a nod to what she once was – one of the most successful singers of all time – is distasteful, at best.

  10. Dback says

    I’ve been very, very tough on Whitney over the years, including on this blog–her abuse of melisma and “oversinging,” her seeming contempt for her audiences, her waste of her talent, her flagrant narcissism & cruelty and self-involvement. However, seeing that clip last week of her singing the national anthem years ago reminded me of the young girl with the potential to make thrilling music on occasion. I take no pleasure in her passing, nor in her family’s grief; a mother has lost her daughter, and a daughter her mother. Maybe now, at least, she has some peace from the demons which were clearly eating her way at her for so long–demons few realized the measure of. Godspeed.

  11. says

    SKOC211: I think you misread. I would not compare Whitney Houston to Maria Callas. I do, however, believe that Maria Callas and Bob Dylan were probably the two greatest singers of the last century — the former because she had a mutant voice and an enormous soul; the latter because he had a thoroughly mediocre voice but an enormous brain — and I also believe that the best music is not necessarily comprised of the prettiest noises. Whitney turned out some fine music when she made pretty noise. For my money, she made much more affecting music when she could make pretty noises no longer. Tastes may differ. – BKT

  12. Anthony says

    I think we all need to remember that nothing lasts forever. We all get old, our voices and looks aren’t going to remain the same as in the past. Whitney’s past work was so tremendous that it elevated her to icon status and that was certainly enough to carry her throughout the rest of her career. The true fans didn’t care that her voice was not what is used to be, true fans are there to support her. You go to concerts and spend money to support the artist you love. I loved Whitney and I’m sad I won’t hear new material but I am thankful that she was in my world for the time that she was. God Bless Whitney.

  13. Matt says

    one of my earliest realizations that i was gay is my brother making fun of me and calling me gay because i loved “it’s not right, but it’s okay” a lot. A LOT. and i still do.

    i’m very sad that Whitney is gone.

    :(

  14. David says

    Get a grip! “bigger and better than anything else in the world” MARY! Her voice was remarkable only for its remarkable like of colour and tone. She was a mere belter, nothing more. She couldnt have delivered an intelligent or subtle interpretation of a song if her life depended on it. Will soon be deservedly forgotten.

  15. Mark says

    I will forever be astounded by the lack of compassion by many who post on this site. Too many gay men have become what they purport to hate.

    You cannot demand of others what you are not willing to give yourself.

  16. says

    Y’know, she wasn’t in her twenties any more. Voices age, just like the rest of our bodies, even if you take care of them. There’s a lot of guts in that clip, a lot of reality. She was still a compelling performer.

    As for critics of rock and pop, I have little respect for them. They seem to forget that it’s all music and needs to be taken for what it is, not what they think it should be.

  17. ggreen says

    Miss Houston had an amazing voice but that was not enough for those that promoted, exploited and profited from her talent. Sound engineers always usually tweaked her voice and range to reach a timber and pitch (both live and in the studio) that a human voice simply can not reach on its own. This was done fairly early on in her career so the impossibly high expectation was set for her to always reach. No one seems to remember the mini-scandal that erupted when it was learned that there was a vocal “assist” used to help her stunning rendition of the national anthem at the 1991 Superbowl. Miss Houston was built into an untouchable pop goddess by the press with an assist from fans and then torn down when it was proved she was human. She does leave a legacy of work for all her fans and detractors alike to enjoy.

  18. says

    It has nothing to do with a lack of compassion.

    I can’t think of anyone in recent times who had so much talent yet squandered it so precipitously. She was a trainwreck — and there’s no two ways about it. There’s going to be no end of kid words andtears both synthetic and genuine. But the fact of the matter is she was not well-liked for very good reason. You’re not going to be hearing much about that now of course but I trust it will all come out in the big biography someone’s going to pen down the road.

    When I think about the equally and even more talented peopel who never got a TENTH of the opportunities that came her way it breaks my heart and raises my blood pressure.

    Cry all you want to.

    She made he bed and now she’s laying in it.

  19. Anthony S says

    She was one of the greatest voices of our time. I heard the news yesterday on CNN and was shocked . Don Lemon did a beautiful tribute about Whitney just when the news was breaking.She was an icon1. Unfortunately very talented and beautiful people sometimes live troubled lives. Her music will live on. I hope she finally gets a chance to rest rest and rest. RIP Whitney.

  20. shane says

    Beautifully written and thought-provoking, Brandon.
    (I had mostly praise for Madonna after the Superbowl, not only because had she been wearing shorter heels it would have been almost perfect, but also because I feel a genuine appreciation for the gifts of fun and revelry she provided me during my college years and beyond. It’s an emotional thing. I won’t ‘hate on her’ because that would simply be a reflection of my own fear of growing obsolete, tired, and lackluster myself.)

  21. Jersey says

    Whitney Houston was there when I took my first steps out of the closet, her songs playing late into the night at after hours clubs. She was awesome and she will be greatly missed by many. However there’s absolutely no denying that her voice was savaged by her drug use. Sorry but the few of you who are blaming it on her “age” are in serious denial. As I read the critiques of her later performances they seem more to me to be expressing sadness in the seemingly unstoppable squandering of her talent rather than reveling in her self-destruction.

  22. Autarchic says

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was a capital “F” fan, but her talent-your taste or not-was undeniable. And “Whitney” ruled my turntable in the summer of ’87.

    Listening to her performance of the “Star Spangled Banner” at the Superbowl or “I Will Always Love You”…these are masterclasses in vocal prowess.

    Such a heartbreaking end. What becomes a legend most…

  23. jw says

    She left me pretty cold
    – to my ears
    She seemed over loud – and soulless
    And those songs! – saccharine, sappy – and so boring
    The pathos was completely self driven –
    For a voice, musical intelligence and soul cf. nina simone or joni Mitchell

  24. anon says

    Just about all pop stars make use of auto-tune these days and therefore don’t sound particularly sharp when live, but there is an obvious degradation to her voice that goes beyond that.

    The irony is that she died on the day of a “tribute” to Clive Davis, the septuagenarian music mogul whose personal music tastes have set the tone for pop music now for decades. It was people like Davis that exploited WH’s talent but didn’t lift a finger to help her when she needed it, repeating the pattern seen elsewhere with Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson (though she wasn’t nearly as big of a star). Everything in the music industry is a one-way street for the benefit of the middlemen and offering only crumbs really for artists.

  25. Kenny says

    These disgusting hateful comments make me sick beyond words.Houston was full of life loved life and no matter what she was going through she ALWAYS ALWAYS wanted to please her fans and give them what THEY wanted.She genuinely cared about her fans despite all she went through in life she LOVED people and despite the diva stuff ive heard over the years.The woman was beaten and battered by her sob ex husband and deserved love respect and to be treated like a woman.So she messed up concerning drugs she tried to get better she struggled so much in her life and it breaks my heart she went through so much.None of commenting genuinely knew her but she was a remarkable person with a good heart a beautiful angelic voice that was out of this world and in the end her voice is not what mattered.Just look at how many people love her from celebs to normal people THAT is a true artist and something that will never be forgotten nor will she be.Love you Whitney always.

  26. johnny says

    A great talent, a flawless voice, an excellent career, back in the day.

    But when she stupidly brought Bobby B. into her life, she signed a death warrant for her career, her voice, her talent, her respect and ultimately, her life.

    You cannot smoke crack daily and expect your voice to have the purity her’s had at it’s peak. Plain and simple. It’s not a matter of her age, it’s a matter of drug abuse and what it does.

    Same thing happened to Judy Garland. Cigarettes, pills and booze eventually had their way with her and when you hear her last performances, you can see that – even though she was under 50 – her voice was pretty much blown. How many opera divas sit around and drink and smoke? There’s a reason they don’t, their voice is ALL and they know not to abuse it.

    Aside from her vocal talent, the whole WH downslide thing is very tragic, for her family and for the world. A superstar is now in the heavens. Goodbye to “The Voice” and thank heavens for recordings, at least we have them to remember her by.

  27. Hdtex says

    Billie Holiday’s last album, “Lady In Satin” was resoundingly panned by the critics for the very same reasons that Whitney Houston’s last efforts were vilified. It’s only with many years of distance and retrospect that “Lady In Satin” emerges as a completely different performance from Lady Day. It’s gut wrenching in its raw emotion, the lilting voice of her youth is ragged and torn. It’s also one of the singular performances of her career for the very same reasons. A portrait of the artist at the end of her struggles, and beautiful in capturing her life’s resolution.

  28. Name2 says

    To D.E.:

    I don’t think being closeted (if that’s even the case) was her biggest human failing, and even if it was, it’s not something she deserves hate for. If it’s what drove her to her excesses, then shame on society, not her.

    As I posted earlier, I was never a fan, but every time I hear a screeching caterwauling singer who is supposed to be next Whitney Houston, I give the real WH respect for doing something which clearly still sets her apart from the wannabes, even if I lack the vocabulary to express it. In the face of impossible-to-ignore handicaps in 2010, she toured trying to do something different and people acted like swine.

    Jesus, people – Streisand hasn’t done a decent “People” since 1994. People get old, you know???

  29. Hdtex says

    And as usual Davaid Erhenstein contributes NOTHING but the perspective of a BITTER OLD QUEEN who has NO talents and nothing to offer save his petty petulant nasty perspective. We’d like to trade David for Whitney who at least offered something to the world, but are left with the useless Mr. Erhenstein.

  30. Stephen J. says

    Brandon,
    Thank you for a measured analysis. I myself felt somewhat let down to hear that the majestic and broad voice Whitney once had was gone. But, in the intervening time it had grown to a more incisive instrument able to read the color and line of a lyric and melody. And, with more time and training, I feel, it could have grown to be incredibly expressive and beautiful. Unlike the early years, rather deepened and heightened by maturity and experience. Unfortunately, as with Maria Callas, a lack of confidence and loneliness lead to a life cut short. What could have been? We’ll never know, but as Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote,
    “My candle burns at both ends;
    It will not last the night;
    But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
    It gives a lovely light!”

  31. says

    My sadness comes more for the person than the singer. I never was a fan and I think she was tremendously overrated. But as the blog says most importantly: “A daughter lost a mother.” And that’s really where it should stop because this is relevant whether she’s famous or not and I hope her daughter is OK. I don’t think it’s wrong for people who weren’t fans of hers to continue to NOT be fans of hers. Anything else would be hypocritical and creepy. I think Linda Ronstadt’s version of IWOLY was head and shoulders above Whitney’s as I believe so was her voice. But there’s no reason to be nasty about something so tragic on a personal level. Whatever tortured her was stronger than her desire to save herself. How horrible must that be to live through?

  32. Guy says

    Houston had a tremendous vocal instrument, one I remember TIME magazine calling “bionic.”

    Yet hers is also a cautionary tale, about image (innocent, classy pop princess) and reality (loud, vulgar woman in her reality show), drugs and addictive personalities.

    Her early death is not unexpected. The timing suggests a possible message from her to Clive Davis, but I would only be guessing.

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