It happens to us all. Sooner or later, we lose it. And the fall-off can be as unmerciful as a strung-out Eddie Kane struggling to keep it together on some nights-like-this-I-wish-that-raindrops-would-fa-ha-ha-ha-all shit. Sometimes it takes a loving nudge or a rude push to jolt a little reality into an individual who doesn’t have the good sense to know when to exit the big stage. With that said, I will invoke the spirit of the Apollo Theater’s feared tap dancing hook man Sandman Sims and do what must be done: Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey—it’s time to retire. Your voices, once fine-tuned, praise-worthy instruments, are now shot to hell.
Yes, we are well aware that you are two of the most acclaimed female vocalists in the history of pop music. We know that combined you have sold well over 300 million albums worldwide. Whitney, the-around-the-way-girl from East Orange, New Jersey blessed with angelic church-trained voice that propelled your self-titled 1985 release to become the biggest selling debut from a female act (24 million copies and still counting, bitches). Mariah, the mixed Long Island chick with the effortless five-octave range who wrote her own lyrics (gasp!) on a string of multi-platinum offerings starting in 1990—eventually eclipsing Elvis Presley for the most no. 1 singles on the Billboard charts with 18. But your slips are showing ladies.
Seeing you both in your current cringe-inducing state gives me the same sick feeling I experienced as a youngin’ when I saw a heartbreaking, past-his-prime Muhammad Ali get pummeled by Larry Holmes or a geriatric Michael Jordan uniform getting his ankles broken by Allen Iverson. It just ain’t right. No, this is not petty ageism at work. If Eric Clapton is allowed to keep his blues rock-God pass at the grizzled age of 64 while making those annoying ass iPhone commercials, then the comparatively pubescent Whitney, 46, and Mariah, 39, should be able to sing until Tracy Morgan wins an Oscar. Unfortunately, two months has not even passed, and we have already seen proof that it’s time for you both—Ms. Houston and Mrs. Carey-Cannon—to go gently into that good night.
Whitney…I get it. You are a survivor. You withstood much-deserved backlash after releasing some of the most soulless, MOR drivel this side of Susan Boyle (remember when you were booed at the Soul Train Awards in 1989?) You soldiered on and won back your black fans (I’m Your Baby Tonight, My Love Is Your Love) and then dropped the biggest selling soundtrack album in history of mankind (The Bodyguard). You got through your equally self-destructive, drug addled marriage to the “KANG OF R&B” Bobby Brown—a disastrous union that became a tabloid wet dream. When your well crafted, yet over hyped comeback I Look To You was released last year, for a moment Clive Davis had us all forgetting that infamous crack-is-wack interview. But your recent dazed and confused concert performance in Australia was the final verdict. A series of missed and mangled notes and overall strange behavior (Abruptly leaving the stage during songs and slurring your way through a gig is probably not the best way to endear yourself to fans who paid $165 per ticket) displays a woman who evidently still needs to deal with her personal demons instead of headlining a tour. But we're pulling for you Nippy.
As for you Mariah, your continued success post the horrific Glitter has been an enabler of sorts. While it’s easy to place blame on Jermaine Dupri for resuscitating your career with 2005’s Emancipation of Mimi, Janet’s on-again-off-again road dog can’t be blamed for that incessant one-note formula. While no one would ever mistake your live show for an over-the-top Beyonce revue, whispering over pre-recorded vocal tracks just doesn’t cut it. Beyond your questionable penchant for dressing like a horny 17-year prom date in a state of arrested development and a much rumored battle with the bottle (Yo Nick, talk to wifey), the cold, sobering fact is that the soaring vox on 1990’s “Vision of Love” is now overpowered by female rap savior Nicki Minaj on “Up Out My Face.” Given your dubious history on the big screen, it’s kind of cool that you’re getting respectful notice for your role in Precious. Hey, anything’s better than making records with Gucci Mane, right?
Goodnight divas. It’s time to salvage what’s left of your remarkable, legendary careers. At least we've still got Sade. —Keith Murphy
With all apologies due to Mick Jagger, Keith “Murph” Murphy may not be a man of immense wealth, but he does have taste. For over a decade, the Chicago-born journalist has sparred with brazen hip hop moguls (Jay-Z); Hollywood royalty (Quentin Tarantino); political powerbrokers (Rev. Al Shaprton); redemption-seeking pugilists (Mike Tyson); R&B divas (Mary J. Blige); and lyrically great white hopes (Eminem). His work has appeared in such publications and sites as VIBE, Essence, The Root, and KING, and he is a frequent commentator on CNN, Fox News, VH1, and A&E Biography.