Whitney Houston and Music Today

I have never been a huge Whitney Houston fan but it was hard to grow up when I did and not be influenced by her powerful vocals. I think there was a side of all of us that hoped she would make it through her demons but as so many others she just couldn’t pull herself out of addiction and its awful vices.  Honestly I was surprised the pang of sadness I felt when I heard the news.

On my mission I volunteered for an AA/NA chapter and was totally blown away by both the organization and the power of addiction.  If my Mormon faith has given me anything, at the very least it has steered me away from those behaviors that often start innocently but become oh so hard in some to give up.

I also learned to be deeply sympathetic towards those who battle with addiction.  These drugs change the addicts brain and it becomes a disease.  Whether it is initially self-inflicted is not an excuse for their behavior or for unsympathetic and unkind thoughts.

My favorite Whitney Houston song is I Have Nothing.  I’ve had in on my playlist for years!  The entire Bodyguard soundtrack was played so much for a while that it was hard to not tire of eventually.  Do you think we get the same burn out on songs that we used to?  There are so many more options to listen to that why listen to a song you are sick of?

Even if Whitney isn’t your favorite, I don’t know how you can deny that she was a powerhouse of a singer.  The length of her notes, the clarity, pitch and pure sound are just superb. In most of her songs she carries key changes without missing a beat and the range is amazing.

I Will Always Love You is basically the Somewhere Over the Rainbow of the 90s. (and props given to Dolly Parton for writing such a memorable song)

Its hard to think of anyone who we can compare to Whitney’s overall appeal.  In fact, the more I think about it, her death is emblematic of the change in the music/movie industry since the 90s.  When I was in high school a teen had 2 choices for new music- the radio or MTV.  (or perhaps the soundtrack to a movie like the Bodyguard or Reality Bites).

Now there are so many outlets to investigate new talent including itunes, youtube, amazon.com, television sponsorship, advertising, satellite radio, pandora, spotify etc.   Mostly I’d say this is a good thing, allowing a wider range of vocalists to be heard and find a niche audience.

Still, the change does demonstrate how in many ways our society is becoming more insular and divided.  In the 90s everyone I know liked Nirvana, Whitney Houston, Jewel, Lauryn Hill, Tim McGraw etc.  If you had nothing in common with a person, odds are you liked whatever popular tunes were being pumped out of the radio.  I don’t think you could say that any more?

The only performer I can think of that is universally enjoyed is Adele. With two amazing albums she has transcended genres creating dance, contemporary and pop hits.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like Adele.

It is also hard to think of a singer like Whitney who is a recognizable acting presence.  Is the era of the all-around diva entertainer no more (and having a reality show does not count, even if it is basically acting)?

The only person I can think of is Jennifer Hudson.  As an oscar and grammy winner she commands attention on both formats but even she doesn’t have the star power of a Whitney Houston. (Maybe now that she’s skinny she will be but that’s for another blog).

As I mentioned in my post about Ingrid Michaelson, artists are forced to sell their music to advertisers, TV shows, and a myriad of other product placements.  The days of the girl singing in the bar or small venue, hoping to be found have been traded for an  american idol appearance,  or youtube following.  Mostly I think this is a good thing but like I said it lacks a certain degree of unity in music that has always existed.

It also forces music to be more image-conscience than ever before.  I wonder if a Bob Dylan or Aretha Franklin could make it today? Would people be drawn to watch a youtube video of these unusual stars by their appearance?  I’m not sure?

I’m afraid far too often singers like Kei$ha (even her name is image conscious) get picked up for outlandish appearances and not for their voice.  Lady GaGa, who can actually sing, chooses to flaunt about in ridiculous costumes just to have her voice heard.  A good voice is not enough without the additional visual factor.

How do you discover new music?  I’m wondering if purchasing cds will go the way of the one hour photo booth (or perhaps it already has).  I never get photos developed unless I’m going to frame them.  I rarely purchase cds.  Even mp3s seem a little silly when you can download albums on spotify for free and listen to an ad every now and then.

What bands/singers from the 90s did you like? Jewel, REM and Dixie Chicks were particular favorites of mine.

Lastly, to those suffering from addiction there is hope.  Please contact your AA/NA chapter.  They have the resources to help you.  It will be a long road but sobriety is possible.  Please don’t rob the world of the talents you can give.  We need you and your gifts.

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