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I Have Nothing (#110 of 2)

The 15 Best Whitney Houston Singles

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The 15 Best Whitney Houston Singles
The 15 Best Whitney Houston Singles

On August 25, Whitney: Can I Be Me will make its TV premiere on Showtime. Nick Broomfield’s documentary focuses largely on Whitney Houston’s tumultuous private life, and at one point a member of the singer’s inner circle suggests that the whitewashed image that was crafted for Houston by her handlers was, in part, responsible for her inevitable self-destruction. It’s no secret that Houston was largely an A&R creation, a traditional vocalist who emerged in the era of Michael Jackson and Madonna, two self-empowered artists who took 360-degree creative control of their careers.

Whitney Houston (1963 - 2012)

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Whitney Houston (1963 - 2012)
Whitney Houston (1963 - 2012)

A couple days had passed since Whitney Houston died, and I was still flipping through the channels looking for her name. If the grotesquely ironic circumstances of her death already seemed banal within a few hours of the news sinking in (thanks in large part to cable TV’s dependably crass repetition of the details), what was it I was still looking for? Some critic or musical collaborator who might confirm her genius and validate my fascination? The gratification of seeing my fan-grief shoved down everyone else’s throats? It seems right to be self-deprecating and embarrassed about my inability to let go of that voice booming out of my speakers, her beautiful image on the TV screen—as I know I must now that this weeklong coverage is mercifully over. But upon learning of her death, my reaction was similar to what Frank O’Hara described in his great roundabout elegy to Billie Holiday: However briefly, I started sweating and stopped breathing.