Whitney Houston’s 1995 VIBE Cover Story (Page 3)
“Being a sister ain’t being wild,” Houston says. “It ain’t running your voice till you can run it no more.”
Wexler says Houston has a little “lamination” over her soul. “Her voice is purity and drama and it comes from the wellspring of her being. But Whitney doesn’t have the shakin, trembling emotion , the sublimated sex of that gospel feeling. Whitney, like [her cousin] Dionne [Warwick]is more of a cultivated work. I’m suggesting Aretha isn’t cultivated, but she’s informed by a different passion. Aretha’s and Cissy’s church influences are there right out in front.”
And Whitney’s church influences aren’t. But it’s not like she went to the corner and had her pipes white-washed. Houston says she’s giving what she’s got. “Do folks think there’s more to me than what God gave me?” she asks, leaning forward in her chair, getting a little fired up. “Do they have a book on Whitney Houston that says ‘She’s got some more! I know it’s in there!'” She remembers being nervous about singing once in a show, and her mother gave her some advice: “‘Just go out there,’ my mom told me. ‘Go out there, flat-footed, and just sing. Sing.’ That’s what I did.” And it’s what she does still.
Then she slip into a voice that sounds like she’s explaining Legos to Bobbi Kristina. “Soul is singing from where people can feel it. Soul id not what people think it is. Soul is in the essence of you beng. And that’s what I’m giving.”
Houston: I’m a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother. How do you balance this all? How do you do this all? There’s no on to tell you. My strength, I think, is just doing all those things. Being all those things.
VIBE: Singer… actress. You must be tired sometimes.
Houston: Oh, girl, please. Sometimes I feel like saying, “Whitney’s just left the building.” [Laughter] And she’s not coming back. [More laughs] Ever.
People felt Whitney Houston’s cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” One of six song she contrbuted to the soundtrack for 1992’s The Bodyguard, the single remained the No. 1 pop hit for 14 weeks. It swept swept award shows and became the most inescapable songs of the year. Whitney made her acting debut in the film and her performance was panned–but fans paid over $289 million to see her and Kevin Costner have awkward banter, fall in a vague sort of love, and break up for no apparent reason. It was worth though, to see Whitney–glam in a silk scarf and shades–running out to the tarmac to give Costner that good-by kiss. And to hear her sing that song.
She has said that she knew she kind of “hit it” the moment she walked out of the studio, but the reason “I Will Always Love You” sold as many copies as it did is because Whitney gave up some new Whitney. She already had 18 million records behind her, between Whitney Houston (1985), Whitney (1987) and I’m Your Baby Tonight (1990), but there was a newness about “I Will Always Love You” (and to a lesser degree her cover of Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman”). At 29, the woman was coming into her own.
There’s not denying that Houston’s personal life was at a crossroads around the time she recorded one of the biggest-selling songs in music history. Whatever Houston’s prematrimonial days were like, something happened when she got to know Bobby Brown. She reconsidered her other relationship(s), and fell in love with, married and had a child with a man many thought–and continue to think–was absolutely wrong for her. Even if you’re an utter cynic and think the marriage was false and the abby a prop, Whitney was making decisions, taking risks and maybe feeling the power of her money and her career. She was being grown. She had something to sing about.
And she sang. Aside from the Kenny G-like alto sax solo in the bridge, “I Will Always Love You” is perfection. She sings the word bittersweet bittersweetly. And there is a plaintiveness about her delivery– her phrasings evidence of a tense, elegant restraint, like she could scream but chooses not to. Parton’s song is full of the kind of noble sentiments, that delivered with Houston’s usual bombast–as in her 1986 version of George Benson’s “Greatest Love of All”–would have just become another big, melodramatic Whitney ballad. Instead the girl sings, for the first time, like she knows what love is. Not just sex, not just comfort, not just longing, not some urgent combination of the three–but love.