About That Voice...
About that voice...
Thursday, March 18, 2004
BY JAY LUSTIG
"The voice of her time."
Arista Records president L.A. Reid used that phrase in 2001 to describe
Whitney Houston, and to explain why his company had just signed her to a
$100 million contract. She wasn't exactly churning out hits at that point,
and had been making headlines with her erratic behavior, but Arista was
still willing to take a gamble on that voice.
Houston hasn't always chosen the best material to sing, but has always made
the best of it. Her flexible, showy, gospel-influenced style of singing --
sweet and fluttering one moment, guttural and determined the next -- has
strongly influenced a generation of pop divas, including Mariah Carey and
Houston herself has always given her mother Cissy Houston -- a successful
singer in her own right -- a lot of the credit for showing her the way.
"Mom taught me how to sing, the right method . . . how to breathe from my
diaphragm, how to go from my chest voice to my head voice without missing a
breath," Whitney told the Los Angeles Times in 1999. "She also said, 'Listen
to Aretha (Franklin). Listen to Barbra (Streisand). Listen to Gladys
(Knight). Listen to Dionne (Warwick). Listen to Ella (Fitzgerald) and Sarah
(Vaughan), and Dinah (Washington).' So those were my teachings."
Houston's most notable hits include:
-- "You Give Good Love," her breakthrough (1985)
-- "Saving All My Love For You," her first No. 1 (1985)
-- "How Will I Know," which produced one of the most frequently played
videos from MTV's early years (1985)
-- "Greatest Love of All," her greatest tearjerker (1986)
-- "The Star-Spangled Banner," her stirring Super Bowl performance, possibly
the most notable modern version of this song (1991)
-- "I Will Always Love You," her monster hit from the soundtrack of "The
-- "I'm Every Woman," a joyful Chaka Khan cover (1993)
-- "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)," another movie-related smash, from "Waiting To
-- "My Love Is Your Love," Whitney goes hip-hop, with the help of Wyclef
18 MARCH 2004