Father Tony

What Is Left of Whitney Houston?

Filed By Father Tony | September 06, 2009 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Aretha Franklin, Central Park, Etta James, I Look To You, Whitney Houston

I

don't know whom she looked to in the preparation of her new album, but I Look To You ain't much of a looker.

I really wanted to love this album because I love Whitney Houston and knew that she would survive her troubles, but if all we are left with is this empty album, better it would have been had she never sung again.

Misplaced trust and doubtful instincts are probably to blame here. In general, the songs on this album all contain too many words per note. This gives them a desperate and nervous tone. Also, the most gorgeous voice in the world has been humbled by her tough years. It seems to be in the process of transforming itself into the voice of Etta James who also had her tough years. Unlike Etta, this Whitney is not so believable, not a female made wise and cynical by what has befallen her. This is a Whitney still in hiding. I'd have rather heard her scream and miss the notes she used to own (as she did last Monday in Central Park) rather than hear her hobbled and cautious in her choices.

The album's "big" song, Million Dollar Bill is forgettable. It is more like a losing lottery ticket that could have been worth a million dollars but instead is worthless. Odd that Alicia Keyes who professes idolatry for Whitney would have written this for her. See what I mean about bad instincts and choices?

A Song for You could have been the star of the album but falls flat. Why? The speculating about this is exasperating. Surely she couldn't have been pleased with her cover of this great song. Surely she knew the song's potential for her at this point in her career.

I am however looking forward to remixes of For the Lovers, a song that reminds me very much of Donna Summer's recent and wonderful Stamp Your Feet.

Many people will buy this album. In a Park Slope restaurant last Sunday, an unauthorized release was playing as we claimed table, and when I wondered aloud if this was "the new Whitney thing", our breathless twink waiter gushed "Oh yes."

Whitney needs to avoid everyone involved with I Look To You and try it again, looking only inside herself, and maybe at her mother and Auntie Dionne. I'll be waiting.

This review of her performance last week in Central Park is actually too harsh. She seemed nervous as she ran on stage. Justifiably. She dispatched the Million Dollar Mess swiftly. She could barely hit the midrange of I Look To You with her backup girls supplying the intended notes. But an undeniable high point was her My Love is Your Love which showed us that the devolution of a diva is not always a bad thing. She has the whole realm of reggae and soul under her command and that should be her future product. There were hints of Aretha in her delivery.

If this album and her Central Park performance are evidence of her strength, I must assume that she can no longer hit and sustain those notes that roost in the pinnacles of the Chrysler Building. She is no longer Every Woman (Her closing song in Central Park) but she is some really good woman and I'm glad she's back.


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I'm content to look the other way as the Queen of the Cliche Melisma swirls slowly down the drain. What she needs more than anything else is to learn some music. Her success has been an affront to musicians who think before they sing.

Yes, I found it ironic that Father Tony reviewed Queen Melisma's latest album by commenting "the songs on this album all contain too many words per note" --- exactly the musical opposite of the ad infinitum melisma we are used to hearing from Whitney. If true, then her singing style must be quite different indeed.

What's left of Whitney? Bad wigs and former glory.

Regan DuCasse | September 7, 2009 11:45 AM

I don't mean to sound trifling, but Aretha Franklin, Whitney and Liza have something in common that Barbara Cook and Keely Smith and Celine Dion do not...the latter three ladies have little changes in their vocal range and quality of breath.
Even though Cook and Smith are roughly the same ages if not older than Franklin and Minelli.

Smoking is as awful an assault on glorious singing voices as possible. The vocal chords can literally become less able to retain lubricating moisture and expansion of the lungs and air flow through the chords is greatly reduced.

I have listened to these ladies for years. And the difference between singers who smoke and those who don't, is profound and sad.

I love them all. I have worries about other singers whose voices are already changing because of smoking.
Queen Latifah is one, Bonnie Raitt is another.
Raitt's voice is at once husky, but her breathing isn't strong.
Queen Latifah (aka Dana Owens), still somewhat has the crystal tone, but she's losing it because there is a difference in her voice since the last five years or so.

We lost many greats to throat and lung cancer and emphysema like Nat Cole and Sammy Davis, Jr.

I don't understand how singers could pick up a habit so damaging to their voices and throats.

Anyone care to take a flyer on that one?