“Didn’t We Almost Have It All?” obviously now becomes a certain piece of dark irony. It was amazing scanning my social network how much of a cultural thud the death of Whitney Houston made. Of course then I put on her classic performance where she turned David Letterman into a pile of goo:
Really this video kind of contained everything – the beauty, the voice, the charisma. Seeing her in this setting was the same sort of chills basketball evaluators could get seeing Shaquille O’Neal at LSU or a film critic seeing Boyz In da Hood. This sort of total package does not come along often – to say the least. I mean seriously – when Simon Cowell was berating American Idol contestants about “star presence” or whatever, he was really describing Whitney.
What is interesting ruminating about her death and the reaction is that, well, the normal sort of thing that comes with somebody dying young does not seem to apply. For instance, when Amy Winehouse passed fairly recently, that death was also rather inevitable. However, she was still only 27, and many people had fucked their lives up royally at that age to pull their shit together. There was definitely the sense that another opus was in her – and possibly a happy life, if she did not die in the meantime. Whitney offered no such promise anymore – her ghastly work on the Bobby Brown reality show gave that game up (as well as underlining the sort of negative stereotype bukaki that set the world up for the Real Housewives of Atlanta) In some ways the fact that she had not been really relevant culturally for nearly a decade was cleansing I think. Her old fans had their chance to give up on her and toss her into the “missed opportunity” pile in 2002. Now her death can be met with an elegiac shrug and some gratitude towards the music that she did produce. (even if we are hearing a bit too much of “I Will Always Love You” compared to the above)
Yeah, she should have been the Streisand for folks my age. Yeah, she had a refinement and perceived “class” that set her apart. But it is a testament to the sheer amount of talent she had that she could more or less squander most of her gifts and potential, and still have a career prolific enough that fans can be nostalgic for something considerable today. She was not an auteur, or a songwriter of note, but that voice – you don’t get that everyday. Fortunately we’ve had a decade to absorb that THAT Whitney was gone forever.