Exactly how long after a person’s death are you allowed to point out that you never particularly liked them in the first place?
If it is family, the answer is probably never, but I really only knew Whitney as a pop titan, superstar fembot with iron lungs, bad taste in men, and a serious crack addiction. So with apologies to her family, I was never particularly a fan.Whitney with original bad boy and hubby Bobby Brown
Frankly, I don’t really even believe that she’s dead. You see I’m one of those guys that think record executives like Clive Davis and, well, especially Clive Davis, are super evil geniuses willing to sell out friends and family for an extra two dollars and fifty cents, and this death just seems too damn convenient.
Since Clive probably has much better lawyers than I do let’s just refer to him as the record industry, albeit one who hosted a huge pre-Grammy party in the SAME building where Houston had been discovered dead only hours before!
If you are the record industry, you have to be ice cold and look at your assets like a bean counter with no soul. (Did I mention that for a soul singer I never found Whitney Houston to be particularly soulful?) One of your biggest assets used to be Whitney Houston. If we look at Whitney Houston in real estate terms, she was once the biggest mansion in the world. When she sang “The Star Spangled Banner” at the 1991 Super Bowl she was as nice and palatial as Hearst Castle in its heyday.
Unfortunately, that was a little over 20 years ago, and now the castle is more like a dilapidated housing project. There are rats everywhere and everybody wonders if it’s still filled with crack dealers and junkies.
Now if you happened to own this asset, what you need is one of those Michael Jackson Neverland renovations. You know, the one that instantly wipes clean all of the artist’s bad decisions and years of irrelevance and gives them back that “I Will Always Love You” sheen. You all know that it’s true so please don’t kill the messenger, but nothing rejuvenates a dead music career quite like death, and right before the Grammys is an absolute perfect time to begin a marketing assault.
Before last Saturday's tragic news got out, people were likely mocking Whitney as a used up crack I’m not going there, I really don’t want to go to hell that badly, but now all of those same people will be crying, singing tributes, and telling anyone within hearing range how much The Bodyguard changed their life. Don’t look to see who won the lottery tomorrow, because we already know that it was won by the Whitney Houston estate and her record label.
Personally, as a lover of all things human, I really hope that Clive gave Whitney her own island paradise to enjoy, while the rest of us mourn the suspicious timing of her death.
By the end of the week, Whitney will not only be saluted for her amazing vocal talents, but more than likely will be given credit for winning the first Iraq War, the one whose Orwellian nickname has escaped me at the moment.
By the end of the week, there will surely be a live special hosted by Oprah Winfrey and they may even let Bobby Brown back on television. Expect an appearance by no less than our current President Barack Obama, who will reconnect with his base by shedding a tear and remembering something personal and touching that Whitney once whispered into his ear.
I know I’m coming off cold right now, but frankly I wouldn’t be surprised if by today even I was crying my eyes out and watching 24/7 coverage of the Whitney aftermath, switching frantically between E!, CNN, and VH1.
Here’s what will be missing from the coverage: Someone pointing out that despite the fact that Whitney Houston had perhaps the most powerfully gifted vocal instrument of the 20th century, her music, although high on technical proficiency and at a perfect 100 on the level of difficulty chart, was bombastic and overwrought.
With all sympathy to her family and friends, I won’t remember Whitney Houston as a sensitive artist with unparalleled vocal empathy. I won’t even remember her as another sad, crack-riddled cautionary tale.
I’ll remember her at her peak, over-singing the national anthem (and turning a Dolly Parton love song into something over which to be amazed rather than loved). Before the drugs wore down her metallic sheen she was a perfect-looking, passionless robot with guns always set on overkill. Whitney Houston is the winner of every single year of American Idol, but her music always failed to touch my heart, where it should have counted most.
I’ll remember her as a neighbor with the biggest and best stereo in town, who sadly insisted on playing all the wrong records at full volume in the middle of the night. Bring on the posthumous Grammys (an award that is all about selling records and nothing about art) — the queen of pop has left the building.