[From The Guardian]
Colin Paterson sees former megastars losing their shine
Saturday December 14, 2002
In the last week Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey have provided answers to the big
questions. There is now no doubt over what will be clogging up service station bargain
bins for the next year. Both have launched new albums and did so by appearing on US
tabloid TV, spilling what is left of their increasingly tiny guts.
On ABC's Primetime, Whitney admitted to using drugs (although she "makes too much
money to ever smoke crack"), blamed those freakily thin pictures on camera angles and
played a grade one piano version of Yes Jesus Loves Me (all that practice on the imaginary
piano has not paid off).
She also insisted Bobby Brown was no longer controlling, mere seconds before he
interrupted the interview to announce he takes marijuana because he is bipolar (not sure
if he's at the north or south, presumably). Compulsive TV, and 21.3 million Americans
On NBC's Dateline, Mariah explained the reasons for her erratic behaviour last year. Her
striptease on kids' MTV? Tiredness. Rubbing glass into her hands? Tiredness. EMI paying
her $28m not to sing again? Tiredness. Lack of excuses? Tiredness.
Now the megastars have a new problem to deal with. Whitney's spent the last two years
missing appointments, and now her album Just Whitney has missed one with the UK Top 75.
And last Sunday, Mariah entered at the dizzying low of 52 (better than Robson Green and
Martine McCutcheon managed, but six places below Ryan and Rachel O'Donnell's Celtic
Chillout Album). Somehow her cover of Def Leppard's Bringing On The Heartbreak has failed
The casual Christmas buyers that were once their staple have deserted them as they try to
staple their lives back together. Whitney's last single was called Whatchulookinat.
Mariah's album is called Charmbracelet. They may have lost their minds; they have
definitely lost their grammar.
The truth is that the prominence of Whitney's skull bones have left the former beauty
looking like a dinosaur, and musically, she is sounding like one. Big multi-octave
blasters have been conspicuous by their absence in the American charts this year, except
for the blip of their American Idol reality winner Kelly Clarkson. Even Celine Dion has
had to disappear off to Vegas to earn the dementia dollar.
Houston and Carey are fundamentally tied to a style of music that has had its day. Whitney
may be working with Missy Elliott, while Mariah's teaming up with Cam'ron and Jay-Z, but
the public are not interested in an updated sound, only in updates about their private
At least it is only their careers that are in danger. Michael Jackson's life is in danger.
It's the only conclusion to draw from his behaviour over the last fortnight. The infamous
baby-dangling was only the start of it. His LA court appearance on a crutch and waving an
umbrella made him look like a demented Mary Poppins.
Three American megastars have been cruelly exposed on TV in the same week. A comeback is
now beyond Jackson. The question is whether he will make it to 50. With Whitney and
Mariah, that question refers to their positions in the albums chart. Tragically, with
Jackson, it refers to his age.
NEWSFILE: 14 DECEMBER 2002