Archive for The Voice

10 ways Christina Aguilera could have a successful comeback

Posted in Christina Aguilera, Female Vocalists with tags , , , , on April 21, 2017 by Ain't No Other Tan

It was about three years ago when we first got wind of a new Christina Aguilera album due to come out and it’s been about 2 years since I last posted a blog, so I thought it’d be fitting for my first post in a while to be about just that.

Poor Christina hasn’t had the best luck so far this decade when it comes to her music career. She’s made more money and more of a name for herself as a coach on The Voice and most recently, a spokesperson for Oreos, than she has as a singer and even her most successful hits have been collaborations with other artists or vocal features on their songs.

Her last two albums were unfortunately not particularly well-received, did pretty badly on the world charts to say the least (although both outsold Britney’s latest effort…) and she did the bare minimum when it came to promotion… And now, she’s recently been infuriating fans because of her lack of interaction with them and a severe lack of any information regarding new music, which she has been “promising” and dropping small tidbits about for the past THREE years.

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There has been no word on a release date (Christina herself has constantly said “later this year”, “next Spring/Summer” or “soon” for a long time now), no word on what musical direction she is taking with the new sound and hardly any word on who she’s working with, although rumours are rife she has a number of big songwriters and producers on it, including old favourites Linda Perry and DJ Premier and new partnerships such as Da Internz and Elle King.

So, will Xtina ever be as successful as she once was? Can she have a fourth BIG era similar to the ones she had in 2000, 2003 and 2006? The answer is debatable and many might not think so, BUT there are certainly a number of things she can do so she can at least not seem like a lazy bitch who no longer cares…

1) DON’T return to The Voice

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Seriously, the number of times she has returned to the show is ridiculous. And unfortunately her reputation on the show has not always been great. Many people have criticised her for things she’s said to contestants, her “feuds” she’s had with her fellow coaches and the fact that she’s spent more time on the show than she has on her own music. She has also promised a number of times she was leaving the show to focus on her music career, rather than helping others who get nowhere after the show even if they win… Then returned! What she needs to do is to stay away from the TV personality side of her career and focus all her attention on herself and her own thing. Sure, there’s no harm in her returning to perform her new material on it, but The Voice as a project has run its course and needs to be abandoned for good.

2) Work with other producers

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Ok, so we’ve established that Christina is said to be working with quite a few big name producers and songwriters – some of whom she’s worked with before. But more names are needed. She’s spoken of her preference for working with well known producers but not ones who are “on trend” and she’s managed to recruit a lot of such people in the past as well as some lesser known ones for Bionic. However, with these producers she needs to get a creative hold back on her music. On Lotus, she seemed to have less writing and producing credits on the tracks than she did previously and many of the finished songs did not gel or resonate with fans, and it may be because it was quite clear she could have been simply given them and recorded them. Perhaps her full heart and soul was just not in some of the songs for this reason? Others have speculated that since she released the album within 2 years of Bionic, this was “rushed” by Christina’s standards as her previous albums were recorded and released 3-4 years apart.

While I can’t really list many other new songwriters and producers she could work with on this album off the top of my head, it would be great to see/hear her work with previous people again like Tricky Stewart, Claude Kelly, Ester Dean, Rob Lewis, Mark Ronson, Rob Hoffman and Heather Holley (both known for helping Christina launch her career), Glen Ballard and Scott Storch, all of whom lent their creative skills to MANY of her hits of different sounds and genres. Christina herself also needs to get back to writing and producing too, as she’s proven she’s a good lyricist and great with melodies and harmonies as well.

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However, one person she needs to steer clear of is Sia. Now, they made some lovely songs  for Bionic and Burlesque and Sia even co-wrote the disco-themed song Telepathy, but this collaboration has had its time. Christina is credited by most for bringing her to a wider audience when they worked on Bionic together and now Sia is off making her own (awful) music, despite saying she wasn’t going to anymore, them reuniting just doesn’t appeal to me and others.

3) Promote GLOBALLY

Do I need to elaborate? Probably not but I will anyway. Christina promoted her first three albums very heavily, performing and touring across the globe and doing a countless amount of PR for them. When it came to Bionic, she started off well, but then as soon as Not Myself Tonight began to nosedive in popularity and the album started to garner negative reactions, she cut promo short after releasing You Lost Me, which could have potentially been a bigger hit than it was. She cancelled promo in the UK but then announced a tour, which was also cancelled not long after. She cited that she needed to start promoting Burlesque, which she did, but timings were not on her side… Or was it because she knew there was no saving it?

Then when it came to Lotus she was STILL on The Voice again, and beyond a couple of “big” performances, most of her appearances were kept to being on The Voice. Her looks and live vocals gained more attention – and none of it positive either – than the music itself and she very quickly gave zero fucks about promoting the album; the lead single didn’t even get a proper performance except for this mediocre mess.

So this time, she really needs to up her game. Many fans blame her record label for not pushing her out there more, and while they may be right to an extent, Christina herself is also to blame. As I said, sure she can go on The Voice and promote her new stuff but that’s it. I’m sure many shows would love to have her on them to interview her and allow her to perform; she has appeared on most US talk shows since then but none for the reason of promoting any new music. And then she needs to reach out to the world as well. Christina is (or was) very popular in the UK, many parts of Europe, South America and Australia and New Zealand but her abandonment of these territories means she is missing big opportunities to reinstate her one glorious status as a global pop star.

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4) Interact with fans

As well as actually putting herself out there promoting her new shit, Christina also needs to rectify the major backlash she faces from fans who hate that she doesn’t interact with them; just take a look at the comments on her Facebook page and replies to her tweets to see how angry people are that she prefers to pointlessly promote Oreo ads than her music. While granted Christina has never been one to like having a strong online presence, her shying away from the outside world doesn’t do her image any good. Nobody is asking her to suddenly sit down and reply to her fans’ comments like so many other celebrities do but if she kept up and did it every so often, there wouldn’t be so many negative comments for her to face in the first place. And it’s unfortunately quite sad that the last time she “spoke” to fans was through a very short “Q&A” when she “promoted” Lotus and it’s a shame that the only times she has ever posted so much is when she told people to vote for her team on The Voice, shared her looks from the show and most recently, posted a bunch of photos from her birthday party.

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Come on, Chrissie, a little more effort for your fans is all they ask!

5) ECLECTIC is the keyword

One big thing Christina has above her own idols, her peers and those who came after her is that she is eclectic. Her versatility as an artist has transcended a vast number of musical genres and sub-genres, including: pop, R&B, hip hop, Latin, jazz, blues, soul, funk, gospel, rock, electro-pop, dance, power ballads, even reggae and most recently disco and country. The likes of Whitney, Mariah, Céline, Beyoncé, P!nk, Britney, Miley, Demi or Ariana have never, with probably Madonna being the only one who has.

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On Stripped, she touched on a number of those genres in her songs and then on Back To Basics and Bionic she focused on a specific group of genres/sub-genres that made up “concept” albums. Back To Basics was praised for its completely new direction and one no other artist was taking at the time, while Bionic was a big risk for her that didn’t quite take off but was appreciated by some.

Some have pondered whether this next album will be more “urban” (due to Pharrell Williams, DJ Premier and Da Internz being involved), which is a sound Christina has done well before and while she has always maintained that she doesn’t repeat things or sounds, there is no harm in revisiting some of them for an album that showcases what she is capable of music-wise. And knowing how long she takes to release an album these days, she may as well cram as much in one as possible – and dedicate a whole album to Latin/Spanish music as she has also promised.

6) Non-sexualised first single

Let’s look back at the past four lead singles from her previous albums: Dirrty from Stripped may now be a club banger classic, but it was extremely controversial (even in the UK where it was a hit) and flopped on the US chart; Not Myself Tonight from Bionic caused a stir for its sexualisation and of course, alleged “copying” of other artists and only had moderate success; and Your Body from Lotus was yet another song about sex and barely made any impact whatsoever. BUT Ain’t No Other Man from Back To Basics was Christina’s first single to reach platinum status in the US since Genie in a Bottle, charted within the top 10 in more countries than the others, received more critical acclaim than them and won her a Grammy. And that’s without it being a sexual song.

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Moral of the story? Don’t try too hard. Christina attempted to justify her reasoning behind Dirrty, which is all quite understandable, but it was clearly too much for some people and by 2010 it was no longer a shocker, nor original. What Christina needs as a first single is one that really puts her back on the map and it doesn’t even have to necessarily be a club banger. A song with more depth and meaning than sex and partying, clever or interesting lyrics, a memorable melody, good beat, great vocals and of course clever marketing are the main ingredients she needs – she just needs to stay clear of sexualisation (but that does not mean she should eliminate this side of her in other songs on the album) and controversy for the sake of making a statement with her return to the scene.

7) Collab with other artists

Christina has recently worked with A Great Big World, Pitbull and Maroon 5 on massive hit songs and also re-recorded a Lady Gaga song with her. Now, these are big names and the results were well received, but what Christina needs this time is others collaborating with her on HER material and the list of possibilities is quite endless: Ed Sheeran (had as a guest mentor on The Voice), Cher (missed a major opportunity in Burlesque), Celine Dion (she wrote a tribute to Christina for Time magazine), Justin Timberlake (old friends), Missy Elliott (again), Demi Lovato (a big fan), Shakira (a fellow Latina who could help with the promotion of her new Spanish album), Ricky Martin (again, and a similar reason as Shak), Gwen Stefani, Miley Cyrus, Alicia Keys (again, but this time a proper collaboration) and Jennifer Hudson (has mentioned a number of times she’d love to).

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With any of these very different artists who are each well respected and/or successful in their own way and with the right songs, things could only be good for both, especially with Christina’s “waning” status – even if her name and vocals did help others recently. It would also help cement her aforementioned reputation for versatility since all the above artists come from various musical backgrounds.

8) Take care of her voice

She’s been known for having a beautiful, big voice since 1999 but the change and decline as well as ups and downs have been quite prominent over recent years. Some have noted that she has the natural vocal beauty and talent but lacks discipline when it comes to keeping a consistently healthy vocal technique, although have also commented that she must have some extra special vocal cords, because there has been no damage to her voice akin to Whitney (dramatic deterioration), Mariah (nodules) or Adele (needed surgery). Now, as she nears 40, she needs to take good care of her voice.

Above: decent vocals, even if supposedly lipped

Hopefully the past few years of little performing has meant she has been able to get some good vocal rest and help, but then again, some performances show little improvement, or if they did once, the following time she seemed to take a step back. Old habits may die hard but with good coaching and putting her own knowledge of how to sing properly (which she’s shown a number of times before that she does know and can), she can at least prevent any further decline or lasting damage.

On top of this, her new material needs to be less vocally demanding and stuff that she can pull off live without the need to lip sync or dodge certain parts (Candyman high note or the bridge in Fighter, anyone?) and will not, in the long run – especially when touring – wear her voice out as her last two tours were cut short due to “illness” and Back To Basics was meant to be a great vocal era for her. This also includes reworking old songs that fit her current vocal state and range, again without needing to resort to lipping and dodging, while keeping them recognisable as well as fresh and exciting.

9) EXPLORE her voice

Even with the above advice on taking care of her vocals, Christina can still explore and experiment with her sound as she has done so before. Her current big vocal pluses are a gorgeous, rich lower register and a pretty, agile falsetto, both of which she does not use to their full potential. In recent performances she has shown off what she can do in these areas, but putting them to good use on new material would be amazing. She’s done it with some songs before so she can do it again. These are also two areas of her voice that get a lot of positive reactions, as her belting is often considered very marmite, which is not helped by her tendency to push the notes or go overboard with them. Her lows and falsettos, however should undoubtedly remain strong and in tact.

Above: great, controlled low notes

Above: nice falsetto runs

It’s also really nice to hear Christina restraining herself on songs. A number of popular fan favourites from albums have been songs that require little to no belting, soft and straight singing that isn’t marred by her growls and excessive runs. And in Bionic she pleasantly surprised many by using auto-tune creatively to change up her trademark style.

10) Get a new hair colour

Christina used to be known for changing her hair more often that she changed her shoes, having had some pretty wacky hairstyles and colours in the past. She recently dyed (or used a wig/extensions), her hair red which went down a fiery storm with fans, but it didn’t last long as she soon when back to platinum blonde, which has been her signature shade since about 2006. She has played about with different looks whilst on The Voice but again, these barely lasted a week and didn’t exactly promise anything long lasting. Auburn/red actually really suits Christina and is something we hope she’ll bring back again for a new record because she has always talked about being someone who loves to reinvent herself, but when there’s no new music, reinventing oneself in a big red chair doesn’t speak any volumes. So she really needs to embrace this era style-wise just as she last did (sort of) for Bionic and definitely did for Stripped and Back To Basics.

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So Chrissie, let’s have it! Have you got what it takes to ensure a comeback that puts you back on the radar AND the charts? Who knows, but third time lucky and hopefully 100% effort will be displayed this time. Let me know your thoughts on what Christina needs to do to get back on top!

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Whitney Houston: the rise, the fall and the legacy of The Voice

Posted in Whitney Houston with tags , , , , on December 24, 2013 by Ain't No Other Tan

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 20.32.56Whitney Houston was undeniably one of the greatest and most influential vocalists – if not the greatest – of all time, but was unfortunately yet another highly successful and well-respected musician who fell victim to the pressures of fame and drug addiction to eventually suffer a very tragic – yet also sadly predictable – fall from grace. We’re all aware of the achievements Whitney, a.k.a. “The Voice” accomplished throughout her lifetime: she sold an estimated 200 million records, had a string of worldwide and record-breaking number one albums and singles, won well over 400 awards, was a talented actress as well as singer, helped bring African-American artists (especially females) to the fore in a formerly white-dominated music industry (particularly on MTV) and influenced a legion of other vocalists who came after her by setting a standard in pop singing. She was well-known for critically-acclaimed performances – many of which she did with no dancing (or even any moving from the spot whatsoever) or no backup dancers, no visual effects and backed by a full orchestra that her powerful voice could be heard above (first video) – and her ability to memorise audiences, as well as take other people’s songs to make them her own with her unique vocal stylings (second video).

But what happened? Why did she allow her once spectacular voice to worsen so much and so quickly? In this blog post I will not only look at the background to Whitney’s career and analyse the varying reasons behind her stark vocal decline, but I will also explain why I will and do defend – with my own subjective opinions, as well as facts and evidence – against those who ignorantly claim she had “lost her star quality, voice or talent”.

1985-1991

whitney-houston-sing_400While I could ramble on forever about what was so brilliant and seemingly flawless about Whitney’s voice, I’ll try and keep this short. She was the perfect combination of a vocalist with an incomparable timbre (yes, that’s subjective but I have yet to come across someone who didn’t like it) – rich and velvety with a slightly metallic and at times almost operatic-like sound to it; a large, even, well-supported and connected range; heaps of emotion and soul; a lot of power and a huge volume output; incredible vocal stamina; a well-controlled vibrato; strong and resonant belts and a full, piercing head register; and she had a host of technical skills and great musicianship that allowed her to do almost anything with her voice. And when she sang live, she was – unlike many others – able to replicate or surpass the same tone, power and range she displayed on record on stage as well. It’s no wonder she earned the simple yet self-explanatory nickname “The Voice”. From 1985 to 1991, Whitney was a force to be reckoned with, with very little in the way of a worthy contemporary rival – even Mariah Carey and Céline Dion, as brilliant as they are in their own right – could not match her in terms of power, the purity of tone, fluidity of lyrical phrasing or consistent live performances.

1992-1994

imageHowever, just like a musical instrument and one’s body or a muscle, if you don’t look after the voice properly, it will start to weaken and decrease in quality. For the first few years of her career Whitney seemed to take good care of herself and her voice (even with smoking and drugs she reportedly began doing in her mid to late 20s) and despite her busy schedule she was able to maintain it well with very few below par performances. But she was often still performing even when she wasn’t 100% well, and when most singers would cancel, she would continue with the show – a factor that would also eventually play a part in her vocal decline.

Then there is the questionable debate as to how technically perfect she was as a vocalist, for she was never formally trained, having only learnt what she knew from gospel church and listening to and imitating her idols (including her mother). Many vocal coaches say that from a vocal pedagogy standpoint, her signature belts were often produced with an unhealthily and incorrectly placed or tense larynx – yet they were (surprisingly) still executed with little to no obvious strain and with so much power, volume and clarity. She was also known for pushing her chest voice dangerously high, where trained singers would mix their voice, but Whitney never learnt how to do this properly and constantly singing like that for so long and particularly during The Bodyguard world tour with very little rest, and of course coupled with smoking and drug use, meant her voice was undoubtedly going to experience problems. She had begun smoking from quite a young age and passed off the outrage by arguing that her mother, cousin Dionne Warwick and Aretha Franklin all smoked as well, and it was revealed not long after her death that Whitney had initially started doing drugs in the 80s – introduced to them by her own brother who said that while he was guilty for getting her into drugs, he claimed that during that time it was “acceptable in society because everyone was doing it”. It was soon to become apparent that the once seemingly perfect athlete of the singing world was not as flawless or innocent as many thought she was.

Even though for the most part of 92-94 her voice was at its peak and probably strongest (it had matured, was richer than a few years earlier and her lower register was more solid too), Whitney’s rigorous schedule took a gradual toll on her health and voice and by 1994 she had developed nodules on her vocal cords – she was unable to take time off to recover and the last thing she probably wanted to do was risk losing her voice completely if she had them surgically removed (like Julie Andrews). It was a double-edged sword and she seemed to choose the more predictable, and maybe even the best option of keeping them (though it must be noted it has never been confirmed whether she did actually keep them or not). She was stressed out – trying to find ways of relaxing and escaping her hectic life, while at the same time was torn between having to live up to the clean-cut, pop princess image that she was marketed as being and branching away from it (this was the same time she had just married notorious bad boy Bobby Brown). The world saw her as nothing less than a superhuman with an otherworldly voice – another huge amount of pressure she had to deal with as many expected her to keep her voice in peak condition and always sound great. And as bad as it might sound, one can almost sympathise with her as to why she turned to smoking and drugs to relieve that stress (though I don’t actually condone it).

1996-2000

whitney1999_2145768i.jpgWhitney’s voice began to show signs of deterioration since recording songs for Waiting to Exhale in 1995; her tone was slightly more gravelly and when singing live there was the odd time when she sounded more and more out of breath or would dodge or crack on higher belts or head voice notes (see video above). However, on The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack (1996) she still seemed to be in great condition – in spite of rumours that she was doing drugs every day around this time – and when she duetted with Mariah Carey in 1998 and released her My Love Is Your Love album her voice, though a bit deeper than it was only a few years before, was largely still in tact and her power was still there even if her performances were not as consistently good (see the performance from 1999 below). Around this time she was definitely more of a mezzo, whereas before she was a darker-voiced soprano.

2001-2008

VH1 Divas Duets: A Concert to Benefit the VH1 Save the Music Foundation - ShowFrom 2001 until 2008, Whitney’s voice was in its most inconsistent and probably worst state – up until 2004 there were times when she still had lots of power and volume and was able to unleash it, despite a much rougher and more strained sound on the higher belts and a limited, diminished head voice range that was once effortless, beautiful and expansive (check out the first video below of her at the 2004 World Music Awards). Rumours were rife about her personal life and her “bitchy” and “volatile” personality yet she was still the star of the show at the World Music Awards. But then between 2005 and 2008, she barely made any public appearances – let alone performances – and that seems to be when the main decline really began as her drug-fuelled life began to engulf her, with there being reports that she completely lost her voice and could barely utter a sound. During this time it was sad and at times, painful to watch or listen to her, especially if you think back to how her voice was just five to ten years before, however that is not to say she could no longer sing at all. In 2008, she performed “I Will Always Love You” (second video below) and while it’s obvious her voice was not in top shape, there are still hints of power, some spine-tingling moments and a nice little bit of head voice in there too.

2009-2012

In 2009, Whitney returned to the big time with I Look To You – it was probably the biggest comeback by a living legend the popular music world had seen (though would have been topped by Michael Jackson if he had survived) – and it seemed her voice had started to recover in parts; her lower register was husky yet stronger than before and some of her mid-range belts still had quite a bit of richness in them – but above all, the self-confidence and passion for singing and music that we knew she had in her was back and obvious to see after the past few years of trying to clean up and get back on track.

Prior to this, hardly anyone seemed to believe she could make a comeback (either to the music scene or just get her life back on track after hitting rock bottom) but she did and the fact that the album sold 5 million copies worldwide, hit No.1 in the US and No.3 in the UK and “Million Dollar Bill” was a Top 5 single in the UK showed that although figures and sales were not on the same scale as material she released 15 years before, she was still able to stir up interest and make an impact. Whitney was certainly no longer a “has-been” and could still draw crowds and sell records purely based on her name and legacy, whether or not people truly enjoyed her new music or whether they were simply interested in listening to and watching her just to see how she now looked and sounded, knowing full well she wasn’t the same person or had the same voice as she used to. And despite mixed reviews of her Nothing but Love World Tour and reports of fans angrily leaving her concerts, nearly all shows were sold out and it grossed US$36 million without doing a leg in America, which would surely have pushed it further up the rankings if she had done one.

2009-ama-awards-showBefore she began touring at the end of 2009, most of Whitney’s public appearances and performances were strong and well-received but when the tour started, her voice began to show more inconsistencies again; on some occasions she was still good despite the circumstances, but her overall physical health was not. So what made her carry on? In my opinion – one name, two words: Clive Davis. Even though I know he should be commended for discovering and mentoring Whitney and helping her to reach international superstardom, as well as for bringing her back to form, I do believe her overly trusting attitude towards him meant it was easier for him to instil his own confidence in her and convince her that she was well enough to keep going even though it was obvious she couldn’t and shouldn’t have. Did he really believe in her that much or was the chance of banking in on what was a potentially big fortune for him just too tempting? And was her love of singing, performing and wanting to entertain her lifelong fans too much for her to keep up with and fulfil? Whatever the reason, Whitney toured until June 2010 – with some forced cancellations – whether she truly wanted to or not, and though she her strength and courage to do so is surprising, it was another factor that aided her second swift downward spiral from her return to the top. And of course, with the backlash from so-called “fans” and critics added to her stress and poor health, it is no wonder she once again couldn’t resist escaping the harshness of reality by unfortunately getting back into drugs as she reportedly did.

However, whether she could “still sing” has always been a debate; nobody’s talent for singing and ear for music disappears just like that. Sure she struggled and her once glorious tone was gone and had changed drastically but when she didn’t attempt to belt or sing too high Whitney was still, for the most part, able to sing in tune, in time and in the right key – and with a vocal range that spanned around 2.5 octaves, this was not a huge loss from her original range of 3 octaves 10 years or more before. While it’s true and needless to say that she was no longer able to sing in the same way she could 15 years before, to say she couldn’t sing at all or any more is a gross over-exaggeration but it was astonishing and good to see and hear how well she could still pull it off after years of abuse. Check out the videos below where her voice sounded more robust and as powerful than it had in recent years for proof.

It should be noted that singing is an art – and while there are of course correct or “healthy” ways in which one should sing, each and every person is entitled to express their art in their own way – and Whitney was always a master of this art. In her final years, from a technical level she was to put it bluntly, really bad, but from an artistic level her lyrical phrasing (even with now limited breath control and stamina), vibrato, use of dynamics and melisma were still skills she could employ and did so very well. And if she wasn’t able to perform a song like the original, she would do something different with it – change the arrangement, key, tempo and play around with the phrasing – like the true and adventurous musician that she was. Other examples of her musicality in her later years include clips of her singing “I Have Nothing” with a fan in Australia and immediately being able to tell the girl was singing in the wrong key after just a few notes, and her helping to mentor the X Factor contestants in 2009 by giving them tips on expressing themselves, melodies and harmonies.

sparkle-whitney-houstonIn 2011 and 2012, Whitney made few appearances in public and didn’t do any major performances but she did get back into acting again by co-starring in Sparkle, released in 2012 after her death (she died only a few months after filming finished). When the film and soundtrack was released, although lead actress Jordin Sparks recorded more songs and was obviously in better voice, it was Whitney’s heart-stirring yet bittersweet version of “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” that was the main scene stealer – though her voice was raspy and a fraction of what it used to be, she could still sing with soul and her distinctive vocal style of phrasing and runs were still there. Her duet “Celebrate” with Jordin also saw Whitney still managing to shine through in spite of the younger singer’s higher and clearer voice, proving that even this older and less vocally capable Whitney cannot be overshadowed. Even her final live performance, where she got on stage with her friend, R&B and gospel singer Kelly Price (with whom she worked with several times) for an impromptu duet to sing a few lines of “Jesus Loves Me”, Whitney’s star power and stage presence prompted the crowd to go wild even though her voice was very coarse and barely audible in the video.

“I rise and fall, yet through it all, this much remains…”

whitneyhoustonilooktoyoupromoIt seems that whenever immensely talented people like Whitney and others fall apart, people are quick to call it “a waste of their talent” and point fingers directly at the superstars themselves, and while most of the time they are partly or mainly to blame for their own downward spiral, we must remember that as soon as they share their wondrous gifts with us they are immediately subject to the pressures of having to live up to their seemingly perfect images. Whitney never seemed to catch a break from touring, performing or recording and though smoking and drugs most certainly played a huge part of her decline, the stress she suffered, the pressure she faced, the hounding media and even her not-so flawless voice in itself was in fact to blame as well. For example Aretha Franklin – a self-confessed chain smoker for many decades – and Chaka Khan, who also battled with drug abuse and alcoholism for many years, are still fantastic singers today despite their past lifestyle choices because their techniques are better and they eventually managed to find the strength to quit their bad habits completely.

At the end of the day, though the quality of Whitney’s voice deteriorated significantly, she was still a great singer and musician. Within 10 years of arriving on the music scene she had created her legacy of numerous timeless pop, R&B and soul tunes with her larger than life voice that quickly went on to become one of the most influential voices of both her time and of all-time. Up until today I have yet to have heard a singer – both professional and amateur – who has sung the likes of “I Will Always Love You” or “I Have Nothing” and displayed the same amount of power and vocal control or the had a quintessential timbre that was as beautiful, soulful and retained the same quality throughout their entire range. Even in her later years there were few singers out there who could match Whitney’s combined mix of both all-round vocal abilities and star quality – including her rivals on the charts from the 90s (Mariah and Céline); Mariah’s voice began to show signs of deterioration in the 2000s and was on and off-point a lot, while Céline’s nasality has always been an acquired taste for most people.

Anyway, thank you for reading this incredibly long post and I hope it helped open your eyes and ears to the many factors that not only made Whitney Houston “The Voice” that she was, but also aided her decline and will also understand or agree with me on why, even after she began to fall, she was still talented and may have squandered or neglected her gift but never lost it.

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).