"Not only did she have an allure but beauty, poise, gentility and an air of refinement, she also was able to transform herself from Pop Princess into an R&B/Gospel singer and into film actress with complete ease"
Was Whitney Houston’s death a suicide? Or can it be accredited to a much deeper conspiracy? Also, can the purchase of trashy magazines be partially to blame? As could also be said of Amy Winehouse and Michael Jackson.
New film ‘Whitney,’ directed by Kevin Macdonald looks at the extremely sad descent of the star. It continues on from last year’s music documentary, ‘Whitney: Can I Be Me,’ co-directed by Nick Broomfield (Kurt and Courtney) and Rudi Dolezal (Freddie Mercury, the Untold Story).
‘Whitney’ distinctly tells the story of two different women. The first, a black pop princess sculpted together by Clive Davis, the founder of Arista Records. America had been waiting for someone like Whitney. And the second, “Nippy,” a pleasant, smartly dressed, educated, shy young woman.
Whitney’s voice was dynamic and held a kind of resonance that was off the stratosphere. She could apply it to multiple genres including Pop, R&B and Jazz and most likely Country and Rock too. Her popularity remained intact throughout the 80′s, 90′s and 2000′s and is still seen as a pop icon today, having set the standard high, opening influential doors up to the likes of Celine Dion and Mariah Carey, Beyoncé and Adele. She gained more consecutive number ones than The Beatles.
In ‘Whitney’ it feels as if we have been allocated a backstage pass into her life, including interviews with musical collaborators; her bodyguard and her friends yet placing its main focus on those turbulent relationships she held with Bobby Brown, whom the film does not blame for her crash ‘n’ burn but leaves you wondering with an air of uncertainty, as to the amount of influence he indeed had over her; Cissy Houston, her Gospel singing mother, whose style she was meant to have taken, according to a book Cissy released in 2013 called ‘Remembering Whitney: My Story of Love, Loss, and the Night the Music Stopped;’ and Robyn Crawford, her longstanding companion, creative director, and questionably lesbian lover, whom she was said to reject, both personally and professionally when Bobby Brown came on the scene.
Their love for the other was meant to go deep, and not be staged for the media but the marriage for Whitney was definitely one of co-dependency, which meant she surrendered her power. They weren’t able to clean up together, therefore, their relationship inevitably turned toxic.
No-one seemed willing to acknowledge the effects that drugs were having on the entertainment industry during the 80s. A stigma is still attached to addiction, and yet it is an illness. No-one is born an addict, therefore it’s important to be empathetic, before you pass judgment.
‘Whitney’ is a tasteful legacy, as opposed to one that is tabloid-esque. After Whitney passed away Rudi Dolezal’s phone didn’t stop ringing but he felt it wouldn’t be appropriate to release anything. The reason he eventually did for ‘Whitney: Can I Be Me?’ with Nick Broomfield, however, was because of the reputation Nick had as a documentary filmmaker.
It also meant that it could be kept closer to the kind of film Whitney would have envisaged being made. The objective was to remain true to the events that happened, yet let the cinema goers leave the cinemas still in love with Whitney.
There is a poignant moment in the film, when Whitney is up on stage with her daughter, Bobbi Cristina. It’s kept in the final edit to echo the fact that neither are still with us. It’s an emotional story; yet in ‘that’ scene we feel the love between them, at the same time we see the inability Whitney perhaps had of being a mother in a conventional way.
Proceeding that the relationship she had with her Bodyguard, who now works as a psychotherapist. In the interview he cannot get across enough the little chance Bobbi Cristina had of survival, whilst growing up in the environment she did. Everything is encompassed within ‘that’ scene. A thousand muted words uttered through visuals.
Whitney, for me, would win hands down but as for style and a Pop sound, Michael Jackson would. Although Stevie Wonder is perhaps less adaptable, in terms of vocal arrangement, he is a genius at knowing his own voice, and I suspect it holds more soul within it.
Whitney will be remembered for the strength in her voice, and her personal approach (melisma). She was capable of holding high notes at the same time she took people’s breath away. She also took every song, and placed her signature on it, as she revealed her heart and soul to the audience.
Not only did she have an allure but beauty, poise, gentility and an air of refinement, she also was able to transform herself from Pop Princess into an R&B/Gospel singer and into film actress with complete ease. And her material will never be out of date, such is the case with Elvis, Michael Jackson and Prince, to name but a few.
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry chose ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ as their first dance at the Royal Wedding; and during an interview Meghan referred to it as her “happy song,” and said she would workout to it.
We should not let Whitney’s use of drugs be what we remember for. She, after all is deemed the greatest singer in the World and no-one has sung the national anthem as stunningly as she did. I suspect there are three people we can refer to as ‘icons of female pop.’ Whitney Houston. Ella Fitzgerald. And I will let you know when I fill in the third.