Whitney

There are a few singers in history that are the sort-of King Midases of the song world.  Meaning, once they sing a song, gold is gold.  Nobody can touch it with the same magic. They can try.  Some might even come close.  But that’s all.

A few examples, if I may be so bold:

Big Mama Thornton ~ Hound Dog

Etta James ~ At Last

Whitney Houston ~ I Will Always Love you AND the National Anthem.

Seriously.  The National Anthem met its match with Whitney.  Don’t believe me? Even if you completely concur,  Let’s break it down, shall we?

Before I begin, please allow me to preface this section thusly: The National Anthem is a DIFFICULT song to sing.  Octave jumps and note ranges of all-over-the –map, unusual phrasing challenges….outmoded words like “ramparts.”

Now, let’s listen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eS4v431Mlak

Sweet, holy Jeebus: not only does Whitney hit the notes with unwavering accuracy, she does so with such finesse and confidence that the song becomes the epic post-battle cry it was written to be.  When the most that most singers can muster is to belt it out on pitch(sometimes), she takes us on an airy flight path through our very own Star Spangled Banner. She even gives the song a dynamic journey.

Listen again to the second verse where she sings “whose broad stripes and bright stars…”  She brings it down to almost a whisper as if sharing a secret in sweet falsetto.

Then “the rockets’ red glare” explode in our face with pitch perfect belt-licious vocal clarity and pearly white teeth.  And “Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave?”  Only after she slyly smiles in our eyes as if to say ‘I’m killing it juuuuuust for you.”

I invite anyone to respond with a version that comes close to this jewel of a performance.

GOD I wanted to be her so badly after I saw this.

Whitney Houston was the embodiment of all of my singing aspirations.  Her tone, her range, confidence and her infectious smile.  When Whitney sang, she was lifted out of our realm right before our ears and eyes.  And she ALWAYS brought us right up there along with her.  It looked so effortless for her.  I wanted it so excruciatingly much.  I wanted this sort of effortless perfection.

But, who doesn’t?

I didn’t follow Whitney’s personal life after she disappeared from the charts.  I do remember feeling slightly abandoned after she left us for Bobby Brown.  But I knew the potential for her to come back to us was always there.  In my naïve patience, I almost expected it.

Now, she most certainly won’t be back.  Not that I could have done anything about it.  But I would like to think, if I were ever to achieve a certain level of fame, that the voices of the people who really love what I do would help keep me grounded.  Maybe a part of me wishes that I could have shared my admiration with her (by fan mail or a comment on her facebook page) and it may have helped her.   Maybe that’s a bit narcissistic.  Maybe it’s just silly.   It saddens me that someone with the ability to soar so incredibly high ended up so incredibly low.

There’s that moment in the music video for “I Will Always Love You”  when she takes a pause right before the big climax of the final chorus.  In this moment, her eyes are closed as if in prayer or patient anticipation.  Then she opens her eyes, her face lifts and the camera pans out as she belts out the final “And IIiiiiiIIIIIIIIIIEYEyyyeeeee…..”  Each time, I swear I can see the wings unfurl behind her.

I think that’s the image I’m going to keep with me whenever I hear a Whitney song.  That and the smile she gives at the end of the Star Spangled Banner.

She killed it just for us.

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