Tag Archives: Whitney Houston

Soul Man: Revisiting Usher’s “Here I Stand”

After the jump is a slight edit of a review of Usher’s Here I Stand – an album I have tremendous respect for, so much so that I thought was the best black pop album of 2008 –  that I initially wrote for Popmatters.com a few years ago that was never published.

I liked the review so I wanted to share it.

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Bobby Brown – ‘Get Out The Way’

 

I have a tremendous love for Bobby Brown. Don't Be Cruel and Bobby still go hard. And New Edition….I mean…New Edition.  Nothing more need be said.

You know, people joke about Whitney calling him the "King of R&B," but that's mostly because we have forgotten just how huge an artist Bobby was in the late 80s – and how hugely influential his career has truly been. Other than Michael Jackson and Prince, no black male was selling the kind of units Bobby was selling. And no one was doing it – not even Mike or Prince – by helping to create a new genre of black pop (new jack swing). There may not be a "King of R&B" but no other artist is closer to earning that title than Bobby Brown.

But listening to this song just makes you realize that Bobby's instincts are just not as sharp as they were when he was 19.  There is nothing – other than the pleasant realization that his voice, rougher than it was 20 years ago, is still wonderfully expressive – really notable about this song. It sounds both underproduced and overproduced, and ironically, unfinished.

I'd love a Bobby Brown comeback. I'd love it if he had a Santana-like late career renaissance. But this doesn't sound like it.

Whitney 2.0

With the release of this single, “Where You At,” I think it’s clear that Jennifer Hudson is Clive’s new Whitney.

This is awful in every single way. It’s the worst kind of manipulative pop schlock, all sweeping instrumentation, pointless crescendos, and even more pointlessly held notes.

We get it. Jennifer Hudson has a powerful voice.

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On Whitney – Just So We’re Clear

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My girl Erica sent me an email today expressing her hopes that the new Whitney Houston album will give her what she needs from Whitney.

My response (which I think succinctly gets at how I feel bout Whitney):

To be fair, I ain’t never liked her. Or rather, I ain’t never liked what Clive made her. I don’t want I Wanna Dance With Somebody. I don’t even want My Love Is Your Love.

I want Exhale. I want Why Does It Hurt So Bad. I want Heartbreak Hotel. I want My Name is Not Susan.

But here’s the thing. She is working with all the one-trick pony new jacks running around (i.e. the Akon collabo is on the final tracklisting). So what we’re gonna get is what everyone else is doing, but potentially better sung.

Let me be clear: Do. Not. Want.

Frankly – she shoulda took her ass across the border to Philly and had the Soulquarians lace her with some real black shit. Period. The shit that Dre and Vidal did on Usher’s Here I Stand is TRANSCENDANT. I’m sure they could work the same magic. Or Raphael Saadiq. Imagine Whitney, stripped of Clive’s white girl oversinging bullshit, tackling a concoction like I Found My Everything.

Short of that, I ain’t interested. Period. End of discussion.

Extreme? Yea, lil bit. But my feelings about Whitney Houston are like that. Her instrument is damn near peerless, but the best I can say for her body of work is that its inconsistent.  Except Exhale, which I contend is the best thing she’s ever recorded and the best showcase for her interpretive vocal gifts, even the songs I cite above are merely decent.

Like aging divas before her (Mariah and Janet), she’ll chase trendy instead of transcendant.  And people will eat it up because, given what she’s been through, we want her to succeed.

I too would like to see her succeed; my definition of success for her is just different.

Best of the Rest: Shanice’s Don’t Break My Heart

 

Shanice94 Shanice is among a generation of singers that never quite found a suitable home in the industry because the music industry has never quite known what to do with vocalists who can pretty much do anything (see Melba Moore, Phyllis Hyman, Joi Gilliam, Betty Davis, Vesta, Stephanie Mills, and Minnie Ripperton, to name just a few).  Often they get saddled with schlock, as Shanice often was, or they waste their skills on whichever power ballad or trendy-jocking sound they can ride to stardom (see Whitney and Mariah).

This song is more or less a power ballad, written by ‘Face collaborator Daryl Simmons, who doesn’t overdue the sentiment here.  Shanice elevates the song effortlessly.  Great vocalists make the best of power ballads, which tend to be driven more by overblown orchestration than melody or emotion. If you listen, her singing is strong and her phrasing more than does the job of injecting the requisite emotion into the song.  Her gifts have rarely been so well-utilized.

More:
Best of the Rest – Full List
Best of the Rest – Explained