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  • R.I.P. Whitney Houston
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Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston, one of the biggest pop stars of the ’80s and ’90s, has died, as ABC News reports. The cause and location (UPDATE: location was the Beverly Hilton Hotel) of her death haven’t been reported yet. She was 48, which is just impossibly sad.

Houston comes from a musical family; mother Cissy is a gospel music legend, Dionne Warwick is a cousin. Aretha Franklin was her godmother. She started out singing backup for Chaka Khan before Clive Davis signed her to Arista as a solo artist in 1983. She released her self-titled debut album in 1985, which was a massive success and the beginning of an absolute monster run that kept going through the late ’90s. The version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” that she sang at the Super Bowl in 1991 ended up being released as a pop single that made the top 20, which is ridiculous, and her version of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” sold four million singles and ended up breaking all sorts of pop records. She also acted in big movies like The Bodyguard and Waiting To Exhale. Commercially, she was an absolute juggernaut.

As a singer, Houston, along with sometime rival Mariah Carey is often derided as being the catalyst for soul music’s move away from raw emotion toward cold technique. And she was certainly wasn’t afraid to show off how ridiculously gifted she was as a vocalist. But this interpretation doesn’t really do justice to Houston’s ability to sell a song. Even though her songs often came with some of the cheesy smooth-pop flourishes popular at the time, she had a way of bringing a ballad to a monstrous soul-tugging crescendo. There’s a reason why a song like “I Will Always Love You” moved so many millions, and cold technique isn’t it.

Houston, of course, married Bobby Brown in 1992, and that long and troubled marriage made her total tabloid fodder. She had issues with drugs, and she became notorious later on for acting really weird on Brown’s reality show Being Bobby Brown. The couple divorced in 2007, and Houston’s attempts to return to the pop mainstream since have met with mixed success — though her last studio album, 2009′s I Look To You, sold a ton of first-week copies. We’ll certainly learn more about the circumstances surrounding her death in the weeks ahead, but what a sad early end.

Below, check out some of her videos.

Comments (53)
  1. grew up with this. :(

  2. She was a beautiful person, voice and spirit. Just looking at my Twitter feed, it’s apparent that everyone, no matter what genre of music whether it be noise, rap, hardcore or indie knows a natural talent like Whitney’s isn’t something that even today’s musicians can replicate.

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    • if her death means a younger generation of people is going to start listening to one of the greatest talents of the last twenty years, I think id somehow be ok with it

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      • I can see how my previous comment might be perceived as hating on a great talent. There’s nothing wrong with younger generations appreciating someone who was a great talent before they were born, but I’m facebook friends with about 400 eighteen years olds and my news feed is filled with updates about how sad they are that she’s dead when in reality they are posting just so they can get some “likes.” Disgusting.

        • Sometimes, if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. And I doubt many people here care about your social networking friends and their updates.

          “Fixes bow tie, puts back on Grampa glasses”

        • This seems like a very strange thing to get hung up on in the wake of someone dying. Maybe it’s just me, but I can think of nothing more inappropriate than a grieving contest (“I liked her more than you so you’re not allowed to be sad”). It sounds like your hundreds of 18-year-old friends are simply acting a lot like a bunch of 18 year olds. Your concern for the way they’re acting seems awfully misplaced and pointless.

        • “…but I’m facebook friends with about 400 eighteen years olds…”

          I think we have located your problem.

    • Ha, you think the younger generation is going to BUY music on iTunes?

    • Better to encourage and respect younger kids if they chose to want to listen to a Whitney record at this unfortunate time. Fuck this true fan vs fake fan argument. Her voice was so special and she is iconic. The younger generation’s favorite singers were inspired by Whitney and they should know the amazing things she contributed to pop culture.

    • Nah, I’m with yah Bailey. Some people invest more in grieving celebrities they never met than their own neighbours. Don’t even get me started on the whole Steve Jobs thing. That guy was a dick. People LOVED that dick. FOR no reason. Because they like their phone I guess.

      Anyways, good comment and good point.

      • seconding freshie. it seems to me that whenever a celebrity dies, there’s a massive groupthink that happens online where lots of people feels the need to praise the celebrity as “such an landmark talent of our time,” and acts like they’re genuinely sad about the death. but i highly suspect that lots of these mourners never cared much about the celebrity’s work during their lifetime. take facebook, for example – i had probably 20 friends express sadness over the loss of whitney via statuses yesterday, and i’m pretty damn sure that at least 17 of them probably never gave a shit about her music, or knew any of it other than the bodyguard song. or, consider the upvoting/downvoting culture here. if someone dies and you say something benign and positive, you get upvoted; say anything negative, even if you’re actually putting some thought into your comment, and it’s an automatic downvote for you. not trying to be a dick, but i’m thinking it’s more of a social phenomenon than true sadness.

        • excuse the typos and otherwise bad writing. i really need to start proofing my comments before i post.

          • Oh hey that’s really cool!!!! Its like, it doesn’t matter if I up vote or down vote you, you get to think you’re right either way!!! Neat!!! Awesome!!! Super cool!!!

          • i would have to be a spineless little bitch to believe in my own opinions only after getting some upvotes. actually, i wouldn’t even call them “opinions” under those circumstances; that’s just fishing for the approval of others (internet strangers, no less). so… yeah, you’re right.

        • I agree with your comments and some of those above to a certain extent. However, I have always felt Whitney Houston’s demise from an elegant young woman who was one of the greatest singers of our time, to a drug addict who had difficulties singing the songs that made her famous, is the saddest public downfall we have seen. Her tragic story is well known, regardless of how often you listen to her music.

        • Absolutely. When your true hero dies…like someone who was an inspiration for you personally and meant a lot to how you live, I totally get it. When someone you peripherally knew about dies, and you’re suddenly all introspective and sad about it…mehhhh, I feel like it’s pretty transparent.

  4. Growing up I remember only owning a few VHS movies: Disney flicks and The Bodyguard.

    Grew up listening to the best selling soundtrack of all time.

    RIP

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  6. One of the greatest voices ever. The way she phrases a song and how she smoothed her way to the climax are just ridiculous.

  7. remember taping I Will Always Love You off dallas’s k104 top ten at ten and consequently wearing the tape out. r.i.p. w. houston, hopefully there are no bobby browns where you are going.

    • woozefa  |   Posted on Feb 13th, 2012 0

      the woman made the choices she made. bobby brown didn’t shove anything down her throat, up her nose, or into the pipe. at least, nothing like that was shown on his reality show.

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    • Why couldn’t it have been you?

      • i KNOW right? cuz whitney was SO filling your life full of so much joy and music…well ok maybe not since 1990 but why quibble with details:) btw, if you, your sister, your mama or your infant son died tomorrow, guess wouldn’t have cared in a million years. that crack-lovin’ bitch in that box, TRUTH.

  9. It’s hard to see how Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson, etc. would have come along without her, and her National Anthem rendition is the best of all time. What a voice. What a waste.

  10. My first thought was what kind of idiot would waste all that talent by smoking crack, but I’d have to imagine that being that famous can get weird real fast. Some people can’t handle it, who knows what any of us would do in Whitney’s shoes. Maybe we should go easier on the Lindsay Lohans of the world because 15 years later when they are found dead in some sleazy hotel all those wise cracks probably won’t seem as funny.

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  12. I’ve never purchased any of Whitney’s singles or albums, but her sheer ubiquity in the ’90s was impossible to escape. Fortunately, she had some superb songs and talent to justify that ubiquity. She was a major part of the cultural fabric when I was growing up, and she’ll be missed.

  13. Between the recent Courtney Love/ Frances Bean thread and Whitney Houston dying, I can see that some people are working overtime to give Taking Loads And Loads Of Drugs a bad name.

  14. She was one of the best. That’s all I’m gonna say.

  15. Whitney… I Will Always Love You.

  16. darn. another one bites the dust. you guys can’t tell me you actually listened to her music. why is it when a celebrity dies people always pretend that they were the best thing ever? watch, when tyler dies, you all are going to go on about how goblin was a masterpiece and he changed rap forever. and i can guarantee that.

  17. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Wcx3XG__vaA#!

    Ha muerto mi cantante favorita, y algo de mi ha muerto con ella, descansa en paz, eres una leyenda, la mejor voz de todos los tiempos, tus canciones perduraran para siempre

    DESCANSA EN PAZ DIVA

  18. Watch those album sales come pouring in…

  19. Whitney Houston was clearly one of the very best of the best, which unfortunately today also is strongly correlated with substance and alcohol abuse. I grieve her death especially because at this late stage of her addiction[s] surely she had to realize that she would never again ever, ever recapture that first freebase or crack high hit ever again. At this point she surely knew that one is too many and a thousand are never enough. And even though in N.A. relapse is far more often a part of recovery than in our sister program of A.A., we will all miss her TERRIBLY !!! All the way home !!!

  20. Quick question: Whitney Houston was one of the greatest vocal talents of the past 25 years and her rendition of “I Will Always Love You” is perhaps one of the greatest vocal performances in pop music. But when it comes down to it, what exactly was her musical legacy? I’m not trying insult anyone or to be disparaging, but I’ve heard stuff talking about her lasting impact on pop music that leaves me asking what impact? At her peak, she was a poppier sounding version of her godmother, Aretha, with a bigger voice. How about this question, from a musical standpoint who had the more influential career: Whitney or Janet Jackson? I’d argue that Beyonce and others are much more influenced by the latter. She was a phenomenal talent, but her main legacy seems to be to convince people who couldn’t touch her game that they should over-sing at every spare opportunity.

  21. Sorely missing from this thread are Whit’s 1st performance on late night- the song “Home” from the Wiz (feat. uber-creepy intro fr Clive & Merv): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_8SguJTgHA as well as the chilling isolated (and now viral) vocal track of “How Will I Know”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=TCwa0mymt-U . Was going to stay more reserved on this one, but hell-to-the-no, it’s worth it…

  22. She was a good singer, but I never really liked her music. It’s sad that she led such a troubled life, and I feel sorry for her family. That’s about it. I’m sick to death of most of her songs. I did youtube her national anthem and it really is the best national anthem performance.

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