When I tweeted about Whitney Houston’s performance on Good Morning America, I seemed to annoy Nippy Newport fans who thought I was being too harsh on her. I can’t recall what I said exactly, but it was to the effect of “Wow, she really needs to laugh off those cigarettes.”
Then I was met with the, “Oh you’re being too critical. That’s what you critics, writers, overly opinionated relentless types do.” You would have thought I said Whitney needs to be locked up for assaulting my ear drums. I said nothing of the sort, but c’mon nah, ya’ll, did she sound good to that day? Most people would say that she didn’t, though I wasn’t willing to completely write her off as a vocalist.
She will never be able to sing the way she used to. Aging made that a guarantee; the wear and tear to her voice stemming from drug use only sped up the inevitable. It doesn’t take away from her overcoming her struggles. It doesn’t taint her largely well received return to music. It doesn’t even knock her always consistent wig game. All it suggests is that the bulk of us probably don’t want to hear her try to sing “I Will Always Love You” anytime soon.
And that’s fine, so long as she can continue to deliver performances like those above. Though she doesn’t do her trademark belting anymore this performance proves Whitney still has some grit to her voice. Her tone is intact although her range is obliviously shot. Much of that has to do with the fact that she smokes. Even when speaking to Oprah, while I was happy to see her be so forthright about her battle with drugs I couldn’t stop thinking about how much she sounded like an ashtray.
Her charm and energy is what made her performance so enjoyable. She’s able to emote and sometimes that provides a far more entertaining performance than vocal ability alone could provide. That’s why I wish she had made an album more honest that dug a bit deeper. I’m not a fan of those banal ballads from the early 90s. What made those work was her vocal prowess…one that she doesn’t have. Someone made a good point on Twitter yesterday (I talk about Twitter too much…I think I have a problem): Billie Holiday’s voice was completely gone by the time she died, but her music worked because it allowed her to show emotion. I Look To You is a decent offering, but not as powerful as it could have been.
But as long as someone buys her a patch and forces her to go to vocal training to hone her new voice, there is hope. I love the fact that she doesn’t try to guise her diminished voice with a terrible dance routine. Yes, this means you, Mimi. I loves my Mariah, but why does she insist on trying to dance? Whitney knows better, but I will say she’s been lowkey getting it on stage. Kind of like your old auntie who thinks she’s young and tries to learn the dances at every family get together. That’s Nippy.
And of course things could be worse:
Whitney could actually look as bad as she sounded on Good Morning America (but not on Oprah). Tevin Campbell may still have his voice, but dammit if he doesn’t look like Tyrone Biggum. Well, post-crack Tyrone Biggum in pre-pipe Tyrone’s clothes from the ’70s.
Whitney may look like a carbon copy of Auntie Dionne these days, but I’d rather look like I could predict the future for $2.99 a minute than collecting that same amount in spare change in a cup.
So I didn’t mean to throw shade at Whitney for sounding the fool at GMA. I was simply being honest. She’s since proven she still’s better than 90% of the talk-singing tone deaf women who’ve come after her.
I’ll just continue to miss the days where she could kill it. I hope she continues to do interviews, too. I love how she says “you know what I’m saying” so regally. She’s like the classy girl in the hood. The one who sips her Kool-Aid with a straw and only eats ribs in private. I’m not mad at that at all, Nippy. Love you…even though you know damn well “rock cocaine” is crack. But hey, as long as you stop cracking during performances, I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.