Archive for spinto soprano

Whitney’s 50th birthday: her 15 best live performances (cover songs)

Posted in Live Performances, Whitney Houston with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 9, 2013 by Ain't No Other Tan

Today would have been Whitney Houston’s 50th birthday, so to mark this date and to commemorate not only the fact that she was such a flawless and consistent live vocalist and performer but also the number of artists she looked up to and was influenced by, I have compiled 15 of her best cover versions of other people’s songs that she performed live (not ones she recorded and/or re-released, except for “A Song For You”, which she performed long before recording it). Whitney was amazing at taking other people’s songs, paying tribute to them and making the song her own with her own vocal styling that was usually always at least just as good as the original, as she proved many a time in her cover versions that she recorded over the years. I’ve just put them all here alphabetically rather than trying to order them according to how good they are and instead of me going on about each one individually, you can just sit and watch them in awe for yourself.

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A Song For You

Whitney sings her version of this classic song, originally by Leon Russell (1991).

And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going (from “Dreamgirls”)

Whitney sings one of the most vocally challenging songs she’s attempted (1994).

Aretha Franklin medley

Whitney singing a medley of songs popularised by her godmother, Aretha Franklin (1997).

Diana Ross medley

Whitney singing a medley of songs popularised by one of her friends, idols and contemporaries, Diana Ross (1997).

Dionne Warwick medley

Whitney singing a medley of songs popularised by her cousin, Dionne Warwick (1997).

Gonna Be Startin’ Somethin’

Whitney singing one of her favourite Michael Jackson songs (1986).

Home (from “The Wiz”)

Whitney singing this song on her first televised appearance in 1983 (above) and again just over a decade later in 1994 (below) – pay attention to the vast difference, maturity and improvement in her overall voice and style in the two versions.

How Long Has This Been Going On

Whitney sings this jazz standard, written by George Gershwin and popularised by Ella Fitzgerald (1995).

I Am Changing (from “Dreamgirls”)

Whitney singing this vocally demanding song at the age of 21 in 1984 (above) and again in 1986 (below) – take note of the maturity of her voice, the improvement in her technique and her trademark style of playing with the notes and melody that had blossomed within those two years.

I Loves You Porgy/Summertime

Whitney sings these classics popularised by Nina Simone (1997).

Love’s in Need of Love Today

Whitey sings her version of this Stevie Wonder song (1994).

Lover Man

Whitney covers this jazz classic popularised by Billie Holiday (1991).

Never Too Much

Whitney mashes the lyrics to this Luther Vandross classic with the melody to “For the Love of You” by the Isley Brothers (1987).

Sweet Thing

Whitney singing (rehearsals) this Chaka Khan classic (1987/88).

(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman

Whitney sings this classic Aretha Franklin song (1994).

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Vocal Spotlight: Higher Love by Whitney Houston

Posted in Live Performances, Music, Songs, Vocal Spotlight, Whitney Houston with tags , , , , , , on May 31, 2013 by Ain't No Other Tan

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“Higher Love” is probably the most famous song of Steve Winwood’s career; released in 1986, the song was an award-winning hit worldwide. There have been a few covers of the song since, but what many people (including myself, surprisingly) don’t know is that Whitney Houston recorded a version of it for her 1990 album “I’m Your Baby Tonight”. Unfortunately, the song was cut from the final track list but was included as a bonus track on the Japanese version of the album. Why? I have no idea.

Since hearing the song I have come to the conclusion that it is one of her finest vocal performances, especially on an uptempo number.

Her version incorporates the dance-pop genre she was delving into in the early 90s (as heard perfectly clear on the album’s lead single “I’m Your Baby Tonight”) as well as harks back to her gospel roots with a choir singing backing vocals, which is quite fitting for the song’s title and lyrical content. Musically, the song is reminiscent of the gospel-influenced “How Will I Know” but with that definite typical 90s post-disco sound.

A lot of covers Whitney has done in the past (“I Will Always Love You”, “I’m Every Woman” and “Step By Step”, for example) have always at least matched or even surpassed the original and “Higher Love” is no exception. I really like the original of this song by Steve (with accompanying vocals by Chaka Khan), but of course Houston’s crisp, well-delivered vocals, immaculate tone and pure soul speaks (or sings, as the case may be here) to me more; you can feel the spirit of the song taking over her as she gets further into it and is singing along with the gospel choir.

It is quite clear from this song and the album that Whitney was in her vocal prime at this time, before the toll of working too much (and other problems) began during “The Bodyguard” tour as she effortlessly belts notes higher and more consistently than she has done on other records.

Houston also performed the song live on tour around the same time and in the video below, although she wasn’t 100% well (reportedly had a cold), she still puts in 100% effort and sounds great.

Whitney’s Ten Best Ballads

Posted in Female Vocalists, Songs, Whitney Houston with tags , , , , on April 22, 2013 by Ain't No Other Tan

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:

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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.