Whitney Houston: remembering the voice who inspired a generation

You could fill an hour-long special just with a montage of audition footage showing the many young people who have named Whitney Houston as their musical inspiration.

Whitney Houston is – without question – one of the most influential female pop vocalists of our time and today while the world falls silent upon hearing of her tragic death, all I want to hear and all I wish to remember her by is her voice.

Word broke out this afternoon on social media that the Grammy-winning American music superstar had died on Saturday, aged 48. Even though we were all hoping against hope that this was just another cruel hoax and asking to see the “receipts”, the singer’s publicist Kristen Foster herself confirmed it.

At the time of writing, details of how Whitney died and where her body was found and such haven’t been officially confirmed – and frankly, it don’t matter to me. I feel like there’s been enough material in the press over the last few years detracting from Whitney‘s contribution to music and her vocal asset that we don’t need to feed on that right now.

The music industry has lost a truly defining star who set the standard in which so many young female talents have aspired to in terms of vocal presence and influence.

Whitney Houston took soul-powered pop to new heights when she broke out with her debut self-titled album in 1985. The almighty hits ‘Greatest Love of All’ and ‘Saving All My Love For You’ projected a blueprint for pop ballads in the decade to come, while the fun – and albeit few – uptempos like ‘How Will I Know’ and ‘Someone For Me’ spoke directly to the ears of the 80s.

What’s been really interesting upon reflection of Whitney‘s six-studio album discography is how well her voice serves up everything from the signature lip-synch-for-your-life type ballads to sassy, fluorescent pop numbers.

Through Whitney‘s smashes like ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)’ and ‘I’m Every Woman’, we learned that there’s a place in the mainstream pop sphere for powerful vocals matched with slick dance productions. In Whitney‘s albums we found a place where sass and pure class can cohesively meet. She showed pop music listeners that you could really have it all and have it sung right, for the matter – from skyscraper ballads to finger-snapping dance records.

At the end of the day, regardless of whether you came to cool down or throw down [Editor’s note: her exact words – see, Whitney – The Greatest Hits] you were guaranteed to be treated with the utmost commitment to passionate vocal delivery.

There was no bullshitting with Whitney‘s voice, even when the wear and tear started to show over the years. While we miss the era of the whistle-clear top notes, we also appreciate her developing raspy tones because it gives the records she sings much more character, maturity and depth.

Inspirational songs like ‘I Look To You’ and ‘I Didn’t Know My Own Strength’ on her final studio album I Look To You would not have been what they are if she had recorded them 25 years ago.

It wasn’t always easy to accept that Whitney‘s voice is not what it used to be but I think once you understand that the source of her great vocal power is not in the strength of her vocal chords but rather the soul from which she sings from – it all starts to make a bit more sense.

Through all the years, different shades of uptempo and downtempos, and personal drama that followed her – there was no denying that the voice always came through with a bite and with a good deal of conviction.

Check out five of Feed Limmy‘s favourite Whitney tracks:

‘I Will Always Love You’

My earliest memory of Whitney Houston was sitting in front of the television at my babysitter’s housing commission flat, watching the camera zoom in on this woman and pausing just before she opens her eyes to belt out the final stretch of ‘I Will Always Love You’.

I remember being so swept away by her almighty vocals in that moment that I forgot to breathe. Needlessly to say, I felt very dizzy by the end of the song. When you encounter music that leaves a lasting first impression like that, it’s really hard to find anything that could ever possibly top that.

‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)’

I wish I could say that I knew and loved this song from the moment it came out but my proper introduction to ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ only occurred when I was old enough to go clubbing. I associate this song so much with joy, freedom and gay pride because of this experience.

I just remember seeing the faces of gays around me light up when the song powered up and how much everyone was living for the anthemic chorus. ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ was singing the sentiment of every single man and woman on the floor. It’s like this communal feeling of we all came out to dance tonight and have a good time, but really we’re wishing that a special someone would find us under all the smoke and strobes.

Now report to the dance floor in honour of our Queen of The Night:

‘Saving All My Love For You’

Mama Lim used to play this song a lot when I was a child but it wasn’t until I revisited it in my teens that I realised what a sexy, baby-making jam ‘Saving All My Love For You’ really is.

Whitney made having an affair sound so romantic, pure and sacred. It was the combination of her smooth jazzy vocals and saxophone, and this idea of saving herself for a man. This ballad actually gives moments, albeit subtler ones than the likes of ‘Greatest Love of All’ and ‘I Will Always Love You’. Truly is one of my favourite vocal performances by the late diva.

Prepare to smooth it out with ‘Saving All My Love For You’:

‘Step By Step’

Halleloo, Ms Houston. You can’t touch this space where Whitney goes – it’s literally where heaven’s gates open up and blasts some wholesome mix of gospel and uplifting dance pop. I feel like whole aerobics programs could be structured around this song and its remixes – and probably have been.

When you’re looking for a track where Whitney‘s giving you all that from vocal trills to inspirational lyrics, you really need not look further than ‘Step By Step’.

Rip off them choir robes and get to steppin’ to ‘Step By Step’:

‘I Look To You’

As I wind down this post now and hit play on ‘I Look To You’, I can actually feel tears coming to my eyes thinking about how this really is the last defining ballad Whitney will ever serve and how fitting it is.

I think back to the first time I heard this song and how much it made me think of my mother and the difficult year she had with the divorce. The song made me reflect on how much mum and I leaned on each other during that time and how we, as humans, can share this special ability to lift each other up by just being there.

Right now, my thoughts are with Whitney‘s daughter Bobbi Kristina and I sincerely hope she is surrounded with love and she too has someone to lean on during this horrible time.

The journey hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Whitney, especially from an outsider’s perspective when all you’re fed with are tragic, disturbing accounts of her drug abuse and erratic behaviour.

But I want to believe that for someone who has brought so much joy and so much passion into our lives with her music, that in her lifetime, she would’ve experienced some of that love and happiness in return.

“Take me far away from the battle, I need you to shine on me…” – Rest in peace, Whitney Houston.


Headlines – 20.10.10

Making headlines in pop this week…

Nadine Coyle has uploaded a four-minute album sampler and a remix of her new single ‘Insatiable’ free for all to download. The Girls Aloud warbler seems to be managing her own online previews a lot better than nemesis Cheryl Cole has with her Messy Little Raindrops ‘unlocking tracks’ campaign, which was contravened by her Soundcloud page already offering free – and mind you, effortless – previews.

Having heard snippets from ladies’ albums – it’s safe to say that Cheryl‘s taking more risks with her sophomore and Nadine‘s project is typical of a keen-to-impress debut: hook-intensive and catering to a variety of styles and genres.

Cheryl Cole‘s Messy Little Raindrops will drop on 1 November in the UK, a week before Nuhdeen‘s debut LP – even though Tesco‘s listed that the latter will be due on 1 November, I highly doubt Nuhdeen would want to go head to head with Chezza.

Grab your free downloads of Nadine’s album sampler and Wawa remix of ‘Insatiable’.

Ke$ha is giving away a free download of her new single ‘We R Who We R’ if you sign up to her mailing list in the next 24 hours. TiK ToK, time’s running. Hurry, bitches, hurry. Speaking of ‘TiK ToK’, I remembered when she released the song as a free download on her website last September before the single broke out and ravaged the world.

You can’t hold a good track down and it’s great to see that labels are finally getting their priorities right. It’s great getting paid for your tracks and shit but let’s face it, it’s even better to have your art heard and consumed.

Grab your free download of ‘We R Who We R’.

Eva Longoria has recorded a rap for her MTV EMA promo. That’s right. YOU HEARD ME. The sizzling actress will be hosting this year’s awards and by means of introduction, she’s lathered it all up in a little lyrical flow.

Femmecee Longwhoria‘s rap manages to name check everything from Desperate Housewives and her Latin roots, through to french toast and Maseratis. Highlight: “When I’m talking, let me make it clear. PAY ATTENTION BOYZ. YO! MY EYEZ ARE UP HERE.” I’m getting visions of a Cheryl Cole hip hop track now and it’s not pretty.

The 2011 Grammy submissions have leaked. It’s mind-blowing to see how many submissions are made and which tracks get put forward and for what categories. The actual Grammy nomination shortlist will be announced on 1 December at the 3rd Annual Grammy Nominations Concert. Here’s a quick highlight of some of the submissions. [via Toya’s World]

Record of The Year: Sweet Dreams Medley (Live)
Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals: ‘Telephone’
Best R&B by a Duo or Group: ‘Put It In A Love Song’
Best Contemporary R&B Album: I Am… Yours An Intimate Performance At Wynn Las Vegas.

Lady Gaga
Album of The Year: The Fame Monster
Record of The Year: ‘Bad Romance’
Song of The Year: ‘Bad Romance’
Best Dance Recording: ‘Dance In The Dark’
Best Female Pop Vocal Performance: ‘Bad Romance’
Best Pop Vocal Album: The Fame Monster

Album of The Year: Rated R
Record of The Year: ‘Hard’, ‘Rude Boy’ and ‘Love The Way You Lie’
Song of The Year: ‘Rude Boy’ and ‘Love The Way You Lie’
Best Pop Collaboration: ‘Rockstar 101’ featuring Slash
Best Rap/Sung Collaboration: ‘Hard’
Best Pop Vocal Album: Rated R

Alicia Keys
Album of The Year: The Element of Freedom
Best R&B album: The Element of Freedom
Record of The Year: ‘Unthinkable’, ‘Empire State of Mind’ and ‘Rapture’
Best R&B Song: ‘Unthinkable (I’m Ready)’
Best Female Pop Vocal: ‘Rapture’ (Sex & The City 2 soundtrack)

Whitney Houston
Record of The Year: ‘Worth It’
Best R&B Song: ‘Worth It’

Leona Lewis
Album of The Year: Echo
Song of The Year: ‘Happy’ and ‘I See You’
Pop Collaboration with Vocals: ‘Lost Then Found’ (with One Republic)
Best R&B by Duo or Group: ‘Love Is Your Colour’ (with Jennifer Hudson)

Christina Aguilera
Album of The Year: Bionic
Song of The Year: ‘You Lost Me’
Record of The Year: ‘You Lost Me’
Best Female Pop Vocal: ‘You Lost Me’ and ‘Lift Me Up’
Best Pop Collaboration: ‘Woohoo’ (featuring Nicki Minaj)
Best Dance Recording: ‘Not Myself Tonight’

Kelly Rowland
Record of The Year: ‘Commander’
Song of The Year: ‘Commander’
Best Dance Recording: ‘Commander’

Album of The Year: No Gravity
Best Pop Vocal Album: No Gravity
Record of The Year: ‘Impossible’
Best New Artist: Shontelle

Check Toya’s World for more submission listings from our favourite pop/R&B acts.

Another month, another Pussycat Doll threatens a solo career. Jessica Sutta, from the axed-PCD line up, has released her debut single ‘I Wanna Be Bad’.

It’s just what you’d expect: racy electro pop with a heavy dose of sex kitten rap. The video sees miss thang sauntering in a courtesan stripper outfit, sensually chewing on a teddy bear and meddling with drag queens. You know, just my kind of night.

“Marcia Hines Tops The Charts Again!” Read the subject heading from this Universal Music press release. Now before you hit up your calendar, no it’s not April’s Fools. Believe me, I checked. What Glam Ma Marcia‘s label’s trying to say is that the former Australian Idol judge’s new album of covers – Marcia Sings Tapestry – has gone #1 on the ARIA jazz/blues chart! WAOW. And there I thought the press photo of her rocking one of Sherri Shepherd‘s many daytime weaves was news enough.

Muscles has announced tour dates to promote his forthcoming EP ‘Younger & Immature’, which is out next Friday. Check out the messy fantastic video for his new single ‘Girl Go Crazy’.

I’m trying to figure out which Asian country they shot parts of this video at. Judging by the writings on the signs and sightings of HMV – I’m inclined to say China. [Editor’s note: I know. Well done, Limmy. Were you a private eye in a past life?]

Grab a free download of Muscles’ ‘Girl Crazy Go (Inception Remix)’

‘Survivor’ Playlist

It’s been one of those days and you just need a little pep talk wrapped up in a decent pop tune.

The ‘Survivor’ playlist is a collection of uplifting and empowering songs – use it as a soundtrack for seasons of moving on, and times when you need to pick yourself up and just celebrate life.

Here are some of my favourite ‘Survivor’ songs:

Erik Hassle – Bump In The Road
“If a bird can sing with a broken wing, you learn to bend when the wind blows… this is a bump in the road. Don’t give up.”

Kelis – Lil’ Star
“Just keep trying and trying, it’s just a matter of timing. Though the grinding is tiring, don’t let ’em stop you from smiling.”

Lady Gaga – Dance In The Dark
“You will never fall apart… together we’ll dance in the dark.”

Jennifer Lopez – Mile In These Shoes
“I’m walking tall, I don’t let their hatred test me… my feet pound the ground, as I stomp it out. I dare you to walk a mile in my shoes.”

Kelly Rowland – Shake Them Haters Off
“Wake up in the morning, turn off my alarm and get a stretch and yawn in – start shakin’ haters off!”

Christina Aguilera – Fighter
“It makes me that much stronger, makes me work a little harder, makes me that much wiser. Thanks for making me a fighter.”

Maria Mena – All This Time (Pick-Me-Up Song)
“Think all the mean girls that pulled your hair, are barefoot now and pregnant there. And you write pop songs and get to travel round the world.”

Vanessa Amorosi – This Is Who I Am
“But then I learned, after being burned. To get back up and move straight on. Stop the tears, people move on.”

Jamelia – Got It So Good
“Got to re-adjust your point of view, it’s time to put some faith in you. How your life is surely gonna change…”

Shania Twain – Up!
“When everything is going wrong, don’t worry it won’t last for long… you gotta keep on holdin’ on.”

Sugababes – Sweet & Amazing (Make It The Best)
“Live each day like your last one, cause there’s joy in every second.”

Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Heartbreak (Make Me A Dancer)
“And with each step, I will forget. Forget all of those memories of you…”

Also on the ‘Survivor’ playlist:

Che’Nelle – Feel Good
Sugababes – Thank You For The Heartbreak
Sugababes – Ugly
Sugababes – Stronger
Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Today The Sun’s On Us
Natasha Bedingfield – Unwritten
Madonna – Fighting Spirit
Destiny’s Child – Survivor
Beyonce – Irreplaceable
davidlim – Apres Matin
davidlim – #1
India.Arie – I Am Not My Hair
Mutya – My Song
Paulini – Scarless
Beverley Knight – The Queen of Starting Over
Yolanda Adams – I Gotta Believe
Stacie Orrico – I’m Not Missing You
Annie Lennox & Aretha Franklin – Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves
Young Divas – New Attitude
Pussycat Dolls – I Don’t Need A Man
Christina Aguilera – The Voice Within
Christina Aguilera – Beautiful
Britney Spears – Stronger
Sam Sparro – Pocket
Gabriella Cilmi – Defender
Natasha Bedingfield – Angel
Jason Mraz – Life Is Wonderful
Anjulie – Day Will Soon Come
Delta Goodrem – Brave Face
LeAnn Rimes – Life Goes On
Dido – See The Sun
Toni Collette – Look Up
Dame Shirley Bassey – The Living Tree
Nicole Scherzinger – Happily Never After
Brandy – Right Here (Departed)
Mary J. Blige – Each Tear
Mary J. Blige – No More Drama
Mariah Carey – Through The Rain
Whitney Houston & Mariah Carey – When You Believe
Whitney Houston – I Didn’t Know My Own Strength
Christina Aguilera – Lift Me Up