For the first thirteen years of her career at least (from 1985 to 1998), Whitney Houston was undeniably a vocal beast, with very few others in the music industry who could rival her when it came to having a combination of her tone, fluidity, technique, power, interpretation and soul – especially when it came to ballads. Here are my ten favourite ballads that she released throughout her career:
1) I Have Nothing
One of the most popular songs that people attempt on reality TV talent and singing competitions, I have yet to have heard one version of this song that comes close to Whitney’s – even from other great singers. The emotion, the tone, the technique, the vocal climax in the key change, this song is perfection and Whitney’s live performances of it were some of her best.
2) One Moment In Time
I have no words to describe the epicness and flawlessness of this song and her vocal performance. Except that it is the definition of epicness and flawlessness.
3) I Will Always Love You
This song might be a tad standard, but it’s undoubtedly a timeless classic; she had amazing control over her vibrato and caressed every word and note with such emotion and precision, building up from a soft a cappella intro to the bombastic, almost operatic-like belts towards the end.
4) I Believe In You And Me
Originally recorded by The Four Tops, this song was released from “The Preacher’s Wife” and showed Whitney still had it, even if her vocals had already begun to deteriorate. Her vocals on here are still practically flawless and she once again recorded a cover of a song, made it her own and although the original was good, made everyone forget it and focus on her version.
5) When You Believe (with Mariah Carey)
There have been very few duets that have been recorded or released where two of the world’s best singers and biggest divas come together, but this one is arguably one of the best and most anticipated. Whitney’s rich, warm voice against Mariah’s lighter, angelic voice was a great contrast and they really complemented each other well. Even though this marked the start of a steadier decline in her voice, Whitney still had enough power to stand up against Mariah, who at the time was still in her vocal prime.
6) Saving All My Love For You
Her tone back when she recorded and released this was even purer and lighter than it was during her prime – unaffected by the number of reasons why her voice suffered a decline. This was her second single but her first globally successful one, really putting her on the map and getting her voice out there. And the rest as they, is history.
7) Run To You
This song is quite basic in terms of musicality compared to the others, with a simple melody but it allowed Whitney to take the song, particularly the repetitive chorus, and nurse it, adding her trademark embellishments where necessary, but keeping it clean without overdoing it.
8) I Didn’t Know My Own Strength
Listening to this song is quite bittersweet. On the one hand, she is really feeling every lyric she is singing, but on the other hand, her voice has almost completely worn out – huskier, deeper (now more of a contralto than a mezzo-soprano), tired and more strained. However, this – alongside “I Look To You”, is probably one of her most personal songs that she herself could relate to, even if she didn’t write it herself.
9) I Look To You
Similar to “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength”, this song is another track that cemented itself as another classic Whitney ballad to add to her belt. Although her voice has weakened, her resilience to carry on giving it her all – as suggested in the lyrics – is very much apparent.
10) The Greatest Love Of All
A singer’s back catalogue of ballads wouldn’t be anything without an inspirational song that talks about loving oneself and “The Greatest Love Of All” is Whitney’s, and although she didn’t write it, she delivers it genuine conviction. It’s also another cover in which Whitney surpasses the original.