Today is the second anniversary of Whitney Houston’s death. While there are many great pop singers, I doubt there will ever be another one as universally applauded as Whitney Houston. First and foremost, of course, is her voice. But we're also in a different time where we require our female pop singers to look like they just came from a Maxim cover shoot and be able to dance like a Rockette. Houston was beautiful, but the focus was always on her talent. The only other current pop diva who relies solely on her voice these days, and with good reason given its supremacy, is Adele. As much well-deserved success as Adele has had, it's hard to fathom that she will have the same kind of run as Houston.
Below are five reasons that Houston was so great. While other singers have some of these elements, none possess all five to the degree that Houston did.
*She could sing: That sounds obvious, but you don’t have to be able to sing to be a pop superstar anymore. I won’t name names, but we all can reel off a list of artists who can’t carry a tune in a bucket. When Houston was healthy, her mezzo-soprano was unparalleled in its power and clarity. She never seemed to be showing off like so many other divas because she didn’t need to.
*She had a gospel background: Most of our greatest female singers grew up singing in the church. Not only does that teach them how to sing with others (and harmony), it gives them an overall sense of melody and an understanding of a song’s grandeur, as well as teaches them how to sing with emotion.
*She was believable: No matter whether she was singing about the joys of love or the heartbreak, if Houston was singing it, you believed it. She was almost always convincing, but never more so than when she was hurting, such as on “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” or, of course, “I Will Always Love You,” or “Didn’t We Almost Have It All.”
*She loved singing: There are performers who come alive when they are singing and who are much better to express themselves through song than in any other facet of their lives. Even when she was off her game, singing seemed to be something that still brought her joy and a sense of purpose.
*She knew what worked for her: Yes, Clive Davis deserves credit for picking songs that fit her voice perfectly, but with a few exceptions, like when she tried to get too street, Houston had an unerring sense of what worked for her. When a song hit her sweet spot, it was the perfect marriage of song and singer.