Happy 30th Anniversary to Whitney Houston’s second studio album Whitney, originally released June 2, 1987.
Didn’t We Almost Have It All?
“We,” being you, me, and some beautiful songbird from Jersey named Whitney?
In 1987, yes, we did.
Whitney is the follow-up, after a monumental debut, from the greatest vocalist ever.
This is not hyperbole.
Find me another singer across pop music history who could sell this material the way Whitney did.
And she gave the people, along with the record company, what they wanted.
Whitney blessed the world with an album that would boast four singles, with each of them traveling to #1 on the Billboard charts. That’s a record of sorts to this day.
This album was everywhere at the time. I recall a night out as a ten-year-old, when my family, little sister included, went out to an Italian restaurant at the height of Whitney-mania. I watched groups of Italian immigrants carry trays out, with little to no command of rudimentary English, popping out of the kitchen while singing in thick accents, “Whoooaaaaah, I wanna dance with somebody” to the crew they were leaving behind in the kitchen, who were singing back at them.
Everybody loved Whitney Houston in 1987.
Everybody should still love Whitney Houston in 2017.
Take yourself away from everything that occurred after this point in time, the tragic way things ended for her, for her daughter and all those other things that made you forget why you ever loved Whitney Houston, which was always her unparalleled ability to SING!
I’m not going to sit here and pretend that the songwriting, eighties production sheen, or any of the rest of the calculated flourishes included on the 10+ platinum Whitney would have been a great musical achievement on their own. In lesser hands it might even, by now, be considered somewhat forgettable. But Whitney Houston is not your run-of-the-mill vocalist. She’s maybe the best to ever do this. Meanwhile, this follow-up album catches her in the midst of true vocalizing and artistic prime.
Whitney will likely not go down as Houston’s greatest album. Even some of its best songs, chiefly the lead single “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me),” sound like a rehash of the greatest hits on her debut, in this case “How Will I Know.”
That being said, it still works, to classic results. Mostly because Whitney Houston was a veritable vocal bull in a 1980’s china shop. No one before or since could take more unremarkable songs, arrangements or production, to greater heights.
And when she’s got real top-flight material? Prepare for takeoff. Whitney’s interpretation of Ron Isley’s “For the Love of You” brings tears to the eyes, as we begin to scratch the surface of what this Newark girl could really do, whenever enveloped by a truly soulful melody and groove.
Every Mariah, Christina, American Idol chick followed the blueprint after this upon watching Whitney drop hits.
And none were ever able to truly scale the heights of this.
Where do broken hearts go?
But I hope Whitney has found her way home.
Either way, I will always love you.
And I still care for thee.
Whitney will live forever.
Enjoy it, and let’s all agree to let the late great Whitney Houston rest in peace.