Like any sane person infected with collective panicrity, I searched for Whitney Houston on Youtube. There’s a sobering quality to her mourning, actually. Some of us celebrated Michael Jackson’s with a morbid dance party, Amy Winehouse’s made us energetically growl.
I’m not saying there’s no energy in Houston’s songs – at her peak, her windpipe can power a small, hippie European country. Besides, during the night when the news spread of her death, the gay clubs reportedly only played “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and moved on because what other choice did they have? And she’s one of the cases where drug use or mental duress doesn’t cause productivity so her creative output and her troubles were separate. And in her early years she had the most amazing power ballads, making us react in different ways. We could be annoyed at their ubiquity and dated-ness, we could sing them off-key with a bit of humour. Her lyrics might have told us something about the loss of love but they equally celebrated it. And although I’m proud that I’m known as a sap within my new circle of friends, I could never cry to her songs because they weren’t downbeat enough. That’s also partly because “I Will Always Love You” came out when I was five which was too young for me to realize ‘influential’ and stuff like that.
One the latter sections of Houston’s page contained a link to another about ‘melisma.’ What is that, some sort of disease that afflicted her as a child/this year? No. According to Wikipedia, it’s ‘the singing of a single syllable of text while moving between several different notes in succession.’ Anyway, melisma – click, Mariah Carey’s Vision of Love and it’s apparently unfortunate influence on the vocal stylings of the American Idol generation – click, random girls covering the song and sounding so good it has to be auto tune, click – the official music video, click. Which made me think that was a Rene Magritte music video. The tan walls, the candelabra, the tree in the background that might as well be floating on air. Maybe it’s the spare quality of the visuals that make them seem like they don’t add up. That video is exactly why I need to sleep now.