Thursday, February 16, 2012

Whitney Houston's voice speaks for itself

Columnist reminisces on celebrated singer's legacy

By Alex Domine, A&E Columnist

It was a big day for PLUtonic. We were getting ready to go on stage for our first off-campus performance at Western Washington University. The backstage excitement took a hit when three words appeared on my phone screen: Whitney Houston died.

The celebrated singer was found dead at age 48 in her Beverly Hills Hilton hotel room in Los Angeles, Cali.

I spread the news backstage and I half-expected the concert to be put on hold. That irrationality also quickly passed and was turned into something inspirational for our group to think about before our performance.

We paid an impromptu tribute by playing her 1993 hit “I Have Nothing” on weak iPhone speakers backstage.

The thick orchestration and lyrical passion made me realize why her death left an impact.

Houston was one of the most regarded pop icons of the late 20th century. She rose to international recognition in the mid 80s with her self-titled album “Whitney.”

Rolling Stone received her as “one of the most exciting voices in years.” That impression lasted through musical eras like 80s Motown and brought gospel music into the mainstream with 90s films, “The Preacher's Wife” and “The Bodyguard”.

Her timelessness didn’t come from her corporate success but from the enchantment of a genuine voice on the radio.

The late 20th century was a period where the disparity between musicianship and entertainment grew. Houston was among a select few who were able to let the voice speak for itself while entertainers such as Madonna capitalized off technology and stage presence.

Houston did not directly contribute to our culture with artistic vision, but lent her voice as a representation of what organic entertainment used to be. That representation garnered my esteem for her as performer.

Houston will be remembered with due regard as one of the last surviving entertainers from an era before studio magic.