Whitney, Interesting At Last...
Guardian: Colin Paterson looks on the bright side of Mrs Bobby Brown's
Saturday September 14, 2002
On Tuesday, Channel 4 screens Whitney Houston: The True Story. This looks at the drugs,
drink and Bobby Brown-based hell that has constituted her last few years, charting her
descent into a mind-set so addled that she started copying Moira Stewart's eye make-up.
All Whitney's classics are included: the imaginary piano-playing, calling the president a
heroin user, the accusations of lesbianism (hey, Robyn is a confusing name), being sacked
from the 2001 Oscars for forgetting the words to Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Whitney once
sang the official song of the 1988 Olympics. If she was involved now, the Chinese
weightlifting team would have to keep an eye on their stash.
Her family has not helped matters. It cannot be easy having Bobby "Thumping
Around" Brown as a husband and Dionne Warwick for a first cousin and role model.
Warwick was recently caught with marijuana at an airport. She also works for the Psychic
Network. Surely she should have seen it coming.
But all this behaviour is the reason why, for the first time in her career, Whitney is
interesting. She may have had seven straight US Number Ones in the past, but there is no
mistaking that her new album is a comeback.
All great soul music has been made through adversity - Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Aretha
Franklin. In contrast, Whitney Houston's pop was some of the slickest, whitest music ever
to be made by a black artist - a five-octave voice yes, but oh, those blonde wigs and that
This is why she was booed during the 1989 Soul Train Music Awards. And it is also why
Whitney's best singles were those on her last album, released after her personal life
began to go wrong and she started to rediscover her roots - or at least Lauryn Hill's.
It has been said that Whitney has lost control of her faculties. Her new single is called
Whatchulookinat. She has certainly lost control of grammar. The media-bashing single (out
here later this month) gave Whitney her lowest ever entry on the US charts at 96 and was
gone within a month.
Her ancient version of The Star Spangled Banner is in the Top 30 because of the
anniversary of September 11. Sadly, it is clear which Whitney incarnation the US public
prefers. Seeing her forced to fight will encourage a morbid curiosity - and will also
hopefully mean her work will continue to improve.
A new album, Just Whitney, will follow in November. The collaborations list is
frightening. Who let Tweet get involved? Has Whitney never heard the Birdie Song? While
collaborating with the coolest name in R&B to drop is a bonus, having your comeback
single produced by Bobby Brown is not.
It is hard to believe that Whitney still takes advice from the man who insisted they
called their daughter Bobbi Brown. But as long as she does the bad times should keep
rolling. Amen to that.
[Colin Paterson is a columnist for The Guardian Newspaper]
NEWSFILE: 15 SEPTEMBER 2002