I used to be a big fan of Whitney Houston back in the day - and "by back in the day" I actually mean songs like "All at Once," "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," and "So Emotional." These were songs that brought back happy times when I was 11 and did a lot of dancing in my room, before the hormones made me crazy.
Did I care when somebody on TV explained that "Saving All My Love For You" was a bad song because it was about a woman having an affair with a married man? Of course not. I couldn't care less if Madonna made up her mind and kept her baby... but it's Whitney, dammit, and she could never do anything wrong in my eyes.
It didn't even matter when I was alternating "I'm Your Baby Tonight" and "My Name Is Not Susan" in between my semi-mandatory listenings of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Porch." And it didn't even matter to me that her version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the Super Bowl (posted above) coincided with Operation Desert Storm and all the flag-waving that came with all of that.
It's Whitney, dammit.
Somewhere along the way, though, things just got weird. The whole "crack is wack" debacle was up there with the Michael Jackson trial as tear-jerkingly tragic disappointments to me. If it weren't for Waiting to Exhale and the other movies she'd starred in, I would never be able to look at her as anything other than a shell of her former self.
Maybe I saw it coming when Whitney sat down with Oprah not too long ago, as part of last year's "comeback." I wanted to believe her when she said that the worst was over, and that she'd gotten her life back together. Yet I couldn't help but notice all the pregnant pauses and blank stares that marked her answers, as if she never expected Oprah to ask the same questions that one would do to a friend who keeps saying the same things, over and over again.
I could've made fun of her then, but... it's Whitney, dammit.
Right now the radio stations in Manila are flooding the airwaves with "The Greatest Love of All," "One Moment in Time," and - of course - "I Will Always Love You." But, speaking as someone who has loved Whitney, if not as frequently as I would have wanted, I don't think I would have wanted to remember her just for those songs alone.
Imagine if she'd gotten her life back together, just for a moment, and sang one last song before making her exit. Pick a song to cover: "Someone Like You," maybe, or "If I Were A Boy," or "California King Bed." Could you imagine what she would have done with them, knowing that they were written for somebody else? Win or lose, we would still remember that voice, as it was, and know for sure that she was going home to a place where she could truly rest in peace.
Goodbye, Whitney. We will always miss you.