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Whitney Houston

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Whitney Houston - The Ultimate Collection DVD

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Whitney Elizabeth Houston (born August 9, 1963) is an American pop and R&B singer, actress, film producer, record producer, songwriter, and former fashion model. Her crossover success opened doors for other African Americans, particularly women, to find success in pop music.[1][2]She has been frequently referred to as "The Voice".[3][4] She is known mainly for her "powerful, penetrating pop-gospel voice."[5]

During the 1980s, Houston was one the first black artists to receive regular rotation on MTV in the network's early years during a white male rock dominated time.[6][7] Her debut album became the biggest selling debut album of all time for a solo artist (a record that has since been broken), her follow up album became the first album by a female artist to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200, and she had a record seven consecutive #1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

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Houston continued her success into Hollywood in the 1990s, starting with the box office hit The Bodyguard. The soundtrack would become the best selling soundtrack of all time, and the single "I Will Always Love You" the best selling single by a female artist and 6th best selling song in history of music.[8] She continued the decade with other successful and culturally significant projects before returning to the studio. Houston is the fourth best-selling female recording artist according to the Recording Industry Association of America[9] and is the "The Most Awarded Female Artist of All Time"[10] according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

After Houston married former R&B singer Bobby Brown at the height of her career, rumours of drug and spousal abuse started to affect her career. This led to a decline in her public image and her album sales dropped during the 2000s. Her personal troubles and erratic behaviour would be talked about more than any of her music, regularly appearing in the tabloid press. Houston underwent two drug rehab programs in 2005 and 2006. After a successful second program in 2006, Houston divorced Brown and gained custody of their only daughter. She has since been working on her 7th studio album with music mogul and close friend and mentor Clive Davis, who confirmed that the album will be released in November 2008.[11]

Early life

Whitney Houston was born in a rough neighbourhood in the projects of Newark, New Jersey. She is the third and youngest child of John and gospel singer Cissy Houston.[12] Her mother, along with cousin Dionne Warwick and Godmother Aretha Franklin are all notable figures in the gospel, rhythm and blues, and soul genres. Houston was raised a Baptist, but was also exposed to the Pentecostal church. After the 1967 Newark riots, the family moved to a middle class area in East Orange, New Jersey when she was four.[12] While her mother was away touring with Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin as a backup singer, her father would spend most of the time raising the children. Houston did not have many friends and she was picked on because her face was too light or her hair was too long compared to the other black girls. At the age of eleven, Houston began to follow in her mothers footsteps and started performing as a soloist in the junior gospel choir at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, where she also learned to play the piano.[13] Her first solo performance in the church was "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah". When Houston was a teenager, her parents divorced and she continued to live with her mother. She attended a Roman Catholic single-sex high school, Mount Saint Dominic Academy, where she met her best friend Robyn Crawford, whom she describes as the "sister she never had." Crawford would later become Houston's personal assistant and the two of them would eventually be constantly subjected to lesbian rumours. While Houston was still in school, her mother continued to teach her how to sing.[1] In addition to her mother, Franklin, and Warwick, Houston was also exposed to the music of Elvis Presley, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, and Roberta Flack, most of which would have an impact on her as a singer and performer.[14]

Music career

Early career: 1977–1984

Houston spent much of her teenage years touring night clubs with her mother. In 1977, at fourteen years of age, Houston was featured as the lead singer on the Michael Zager Band's single "Life's a Party". Zager subsequently offered to help obtain a recording contract for the young singer, but Cissy declined, wanting her daughter to finish school first. Then in 1979, at age sixteen, Houston sang background vocals on Chaka Khan's hit single "I'm Every Woman", a song she would later turn into a bigger hit in 1992. In the early 1980s, Houston worked as a fashion model after a

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photographer saw her at Carnegie Hall singing with her mother. She appeared in Vogue Magazine[15] and became one of the first women of color to grace the cover of Seventeen magazine[16] She also appeared in a Canada Dry soft drink commercial. While modelling and touring nightclubs with her mother, she continued her recording career, working with producers Michael Bienhorn, Bill Laswell and Martin Bisi on an album they were spearheading called One Down, which was credited to the group Material. For that project, Houston contributed the ballad "Memories", which Robert Christgau of the The Village Voice called "one of the most gorgeous ballads you've ever heard".[17]

Houston had previously been offered several recording contracts (Michael Zager in 1980 and Elektra Records in 1981). In 1983, Gerry Griffith, an A&R representative from Arista Records, saw her performing with her mother in a New York City night club and was impressed. He convinced Clive Davis, Arista's label head, to take time to see Houston perform at the nightclub. Davis too was impressed after the performance and offered her a worldwide recording contract, which Houston signed. Later in the year, she made her national televised debut alongside Davis on the The Merv Griffin Show.

Houston signed with Arista in 1983 but did not began work on her album immediately. Arista put forth the deal to make sure no other label signed the singer from under them. At first, Davis had a hard time finding material for Houston to record. Many major producers passed on her.[18] Houston first recorded a duet with Teddy Pendergrass entitled "Hold Me", which appeared on his album, Love Language. The single became a Top 5 R&B hit, and would also appear on her debut album.

Debut: 1985–1986

With production from Michael Masser, Kashif, Jermaine Jackson and Narada Michael Walden, Houston's self-titled 1985 debut album was released in February 1985. Rolling Stone Magazine praised the new talent, calling her "one of the most exciting new voices in years"[19] while The New York Times called the album "an impressive, musically conservative showcase for an exceptional vocal talent."[20] After the dance-funk single "Someone For Me" failed to chart in both the US and UK, the album initially sold modestly and failed to make an impact. The plan was to first appeal to a black audience, hence the release of the next single, the soulful ballad "You Give Good Love", which peaked at #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 while going #1 on the R&B Charts.[18] As a result, the album began selling and climbing the charts while Houston continued promoting the album touring night clubs in the US. With success on the R&B Charts, Davis wanted Houston to crossover to a broader audience. She began performing on popular night shows that usually weren't open to many black acts.[6] The jazz-pop ballad "Saving All My Love for You" was released next and would become Houston's first #1 hit single in both the US and the UK. She was now an opening act for singer Jeffrey Osbourne on his nationwide tour. The next single, "How Will I Know", also peaked at #1 and would introduce Houston to the MTV audience. This would make the singer one of the only African American female artists to receive heavy rotation on the network.[16] By 1986, a year after its initial release, Whitney Houston topped the Billboard 200 album chart and stayed there for 14 consecutive weeks.[21] The final single, the black pride anthem "Greatest Love of All" became Houston's biggest hit after peaking #1 and remaining there for three weeks. Houston had established a cross-over base and was now able to headline her own tour thus embarking on The Greatest Love Tour. The 89 day tour was the sixth highest grossing tour of the year.[22] The album had become an international success, selling over thirteen million copies in the United States alone —making it the best-selling debut album of all time by a female artist. To date, the album has sold approximately 25 million copies worldwide.[23]

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At the 1986 Grammy Awards, Houston was nominated for three awards including Album of the Year. Despite being the front runner, Houston was ineligible for Best New Artist due to her previous duet recordings in 1984.[24] Still, she won her first Grammy award for 'Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female' for "Saving All My Love for You". At the same award show, Houston performed her Grammy-winning hit; the performance won Houston her first and only Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program. Houston also won two American Music Awards and an MTV Video Music Award, while "Greatest Love of All" would receive a Record of the Year nomination at the 1987 Grammys. Houston's debut is currently listed as one of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time[25] and on The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame's Definitive 200 list.[26] Whitney Houston's grand entrance into the music industry was listed as one of the 25 musical milestones of the last 25 years according to USA Today.[27]

Continued success: 1987–1991

Houston’s second album, Whitney, was released in June 1987. Following the same formula as her debut, the album featured productions from Masser, Kashif and Walden again, as well as Jellybean Benitez. Many critics complained that the material was too similar to her previous album and also felt that Houston was holding back her gospel roots for mainstream pop music.[6] Rolling Stone said, "the narrow channel through which this talent has been directed is frustrating."[28] Still, it became the first album in history by a female artist to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 in the U.S. and the UK album chart, as well as topping the charts in several countries around the world. The album's first four singles, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)", "Didn't We Almost Have It All", "So Emotional", and "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" all peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100—which brought her a total of seven consecutive Hot 100 number-one hits; breaking the record of six previously shared by The Beatles and The Bee Gees. The album's fifth, and final single, "Love Will Save the Day" also peaked in the Top 10 on the Hot 100. However, unlike her previous album, neither song topped the R&B Charts. Whitney was certified nine times platinum in America, and has sold approximately 20 million worldwide.

At the Grammy Awards in 1988, Houston was nominated for three awards including Album of the Year, winning her second Grammy for 'Best Female Pop Vocal Performance' for "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)". She then embarked on the worldwide The Moment of Truth tour. In the same year, she recorded a song for NBC's coverage of the 1988 Summer Olympics, "One Moment in Time", which peaked at number five in the U.S., while reaching number one in the UK and Germany.

With the success of her first two albums, Houston was a crossover superstar. However, many black critics complained that her music was "too White" and that she was selling out.[6] Some noted that her singing on record lacked the soul that was present in her concerts.[15] At the 1989 Soul Train Music Awards, when Houston's name was called out for a nomination, the audience booed her.[29] Houston spoke of the criticism and said "If you're gonna have a long career, there's a certain way to do it, and I did it that way. I'm not ashamed of it."[15] However, the pop singer decided to take a more urban direction in her music. I'm Your Baby Tonight, Houston’s third studio album, was released in November 1990 and featured productions from Babyface and Antonio Reid, Luther Vandross, and Stevie Wonder. For the album, Houston was given more control; she was co-executive producer along with Clive Davis. The two would work together for the rest of Houston's albums in the 90s. The album showed Houston's versatility on a new batch of tough rhythmic grooves, soulful ballads and up-tempo dance tracks.

The album peaked at number three on the Billboard 200 and went on to be certified four times platinum in the U.S., selling ten million worldwide. The first two singles, the new jack swing "I'm Your Baby Tonight" and the soul ballad "All The Man That I Need" each hit number one on both the pop and R&B singles charts respectively. The third and fourth singles: "Miracle", and "My Name Is Not Susan" peaked at numbers nine and twenty, respectively —the fifth single, "I Belong to You", peaked in the Top 10 on the R&B charts, while yet another single, the duet with Stevie Wonder entitled, "We Didn't Know", made the R&B Top 20. Though sales of the album were down drastically compared to her previous efforts, the album was well received by critics. Rolling Stone felt it was her "best and most integrated album".[30]

Houston performed "The Star Spangled Banner" at Super Bowl XXV in January 1991. Her recording of the song was released as a commercial single, reaching the top twenty on the U.S. Hot 100, and making her the only artist to turn the national anthem into a chart hit. (Ten years later, the song was re-released after the September 11, 2001 attacks, this time peaking becoming a Top 10 hit.) Houston donated her share of the proceeds to the American Red Cross. This legendary performance of the national anthem was named number one in the NFL's 2003 list of Top 25 greatest moments in NFL history. VH1 also listed it as the 12th greatest moment that rocked TV.[31]

In 1991, Houston embarked I'm Your Baby Tonight World Tour, which Rolling Stone poll voters voted "Worst Tour of the Year."[32] The tour didn't sell out as much as her previous tours. She then performed for the Welcome Home Heroes Concert in Norfolk Virginia for the returning soldiers from the Gulf War. The concert was televised on HBO and subsequently released as a home video. All proceeds went to charity.[33]

Hollywood success: 1992–1998

 

In November 1992, Houston made her big screen debut, opposite Kevin Costner, in The Bodyguard, which became a huge success at the box office thanks in large part to the accompanying soundtrack. Houston recorded six songs for the film's adjoining soundtrack album, which featured productions from David Foster. The soundtrack's lead single was a cover of the Dolly Parton country hit "I Will Always Love You". Some, including Foster, were sceptical that the song would fare well at radio due to its slow, acapella beginning.[34] Still, the label took the risk and released it as the first single and it became Houston's biggest hit. It peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for a then-record-breaking 14 weeks and topping the charts in nearly every other country including the big markets of the UK, Germany, France and Australia. The song has sold approximately ten million copies worldwide, making it the best selling single by a female solo artist. The soundtrack debuted at number 1 and remained there for twenty consecutive weeks.

The follow-up singles "I'm Every Woman", a Chaka Khan cover, and "I Have Nothing" both peaked in the top five. The album was certified 17x platinum in the United States[35] with worldwide sales of forty-two million,[36] and went on to become the best-selling soundtrack album ever. Houston won three Grammys for the project including two of the Academy's highest honours, Album of the Year and Record of the Year. Entertainment Weekly said the two cover songs are "artistically satisfying and uncharacteristically hip" while the rest is generic.[37] Rolling Stone said it is "nothing more than pleasant, tasteful and urbane.".[38] Following the success of the project, Houston embarked on another expansive worldwide tour in 1993, which concluded in 1994 when the HBO televised "Concert For A New South Africa" making Houston the first artist to perform in the newly apartheid-free country. With total capacities of over 200,000 and a home video subsequently released, all proceeds went to charity.[39]

In December 1995, Houston co-produced, with Babyface, the critically acclaimed cultural phenomenon Waiting to Exhale: Original Soundtrack Album. Though Babyface originally wanted Houston to record the entire album, she declined. Instead, she "wanted [it] to be an album of women with vocal distinction" to go along with the film's strong women message.[40] As a result, the album featured a range of contemporary R&B female recording artists including Aretha Franklin, Toni Braxton, Brandy, and Mary J Blige. Houston herself contributed three songs including the smash "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)". After debuting at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, the song spent a record 11 weeks at the #2 spot. Houston also contributed two other songs: the top 10 hit "Count on Me", a duet with friend Cece Winans and the top 30 hit, "Why Does It Hurt So Bad".

The album debuted at #1, has since been certified seven times platinum in America, and has sold thirteen million worldwide,[36] according to her official site. The soundtrack received strong reviews. Entertainment Weekly said "the album goes down easy, just as you'd expect from a package framed by Whitney Houston tracks....the soundtrack waits to exhale, hovering in sensuous suspense"[41] and has since ranked it as one of the 100 Best Movie Soundtracks.[42] Newsday called it "the most significant R&B record of the decade."[43]

In late 1996, Houston recorded, and co-produced with Mervyn Warren, the gospel The Preacher's Wife: Original Soundtrack Album, six of the songs were recorded with the Georgia Mass Choir at Greater Rising Star Church in Atlanta. Unlike Houston's previous soundtracks, The Preacher's Wife featured Houston on 14 of the 15 tracks including a collaboration with gospel legend Shirley Caesar.

The soundtrack sold six million copies worldwide and scored pop hits with "I Believe in You and Me" and "Step by Step", becoming the largest selling gospel album of all time. The album received mainly positive reviews. Some critics, like USA Today, noted the presence of an emotional depth not always heard in her previous recordings.[44] The UK Times said "To hear Houston going at full throttle with the 35 piece Georgia Mass choir struggling to keep up is to realise, at last, what her phenomenal voice was made for."[45]

In 1997, Houston performed the 3 night HBO televised "Classic Whitney" concert in Washington DC. The concert saw Houston perform her hits as well as covering classics by idols Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Billie Holliday and Diana Ross.[46] Later that year, Houston starred in the remake of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella with fellow singer Brandy. Though no soundtrack was made, Houston sang "Impossible" with Brandy, and "There Is Music In You".

Back to the studio: 1998–2001

After spending much of the early and mid 1990s working on films, with their adjacent soundtrack albums as an outlet for new music, Houston's first studio album in eight years, the critically acclaimed My Love Is Your Love was released in November 1998. Though originally slated to be a greatest hits album with a handful of new songs, recording sessions produced enough new material for a full-length studio album. Recorded and mixed in only six weeks, it featured production from Rodney Jerkins, Wyclef Jean and Missy Elliott.

The album had a more funkier and edgier sound than past releases and saw Houston handling urban dance, hip hop, reggae, mid-tempo R&B, torch songs, and ballads all with great dexterity. The album's first single, the Academy Award-winning "When You Believe" (a duet with Mariah Carey for 1998s The Prince of Egypt soundtrack) didn't do as well as expected and only reached the Top 20 in the U.S. As a result, the album debuted at #13.[47] However, the next three singles, "Heartbreak Hotel", which featured Faith Evans and Kelly Price; "It's Not Right but It's Okay", which won Houston her sixth Grammy Award, and "My Love Is Your Love" all reached the U.S. Top 5 and became international hits. The album's fifth single, "I Learned from the Best", peaked inside the U.S. top forty, at number twenty-seven. All singles, except "When You Believe", also became number one hits on the U.S. Dance/Clubplay Chart.

The album went on to be certified four times platinum in the U.S., with worldwide sales of ten million. The album gave Houston her strongest reviews ever. Rolling Stone said Houston was singing "with a bite in her voice that she's never come close to before"[48] and The Village Voice called it "Whitney's sharpest and most satisfying so far".[49] In 1999, Houston participated in VH-1's Divas’ Live '99, alongside Mary J. Blige, Tina Turner, Cher. The same year, Houston hit the road with her worldwide 70 date My Love Is Your Love tour.

In April 2000, Whitney: The Greatest Hits was released. The double disc set peaked at number five on the Billboard Top 200, and reached number one on the UK chart. While the ballads were left unchanged, the album is notable for featuring house/club remixes of many of Houston's past up-tempo songs, in place of their original version. Also included on the album were four new songs: "Could I Have This Kiss Forever" (a duet with Enrique Iglesias), "Same Script, Different Cast" (a duet with Deborah Cox), "If I Told You That" (a duet with George Michael), and "Fine", all of which failed to crack the Billboard Top 40.

Along with the album, an accompanying DVD was also released of the music videos to Houston's greatest hits. The greatest hits album was certified triple platinum in the U.S., with worldwide sales of ten million. The same year, Houston performed on the televised special commemorating Arista Records twenty-fifth anniversary. Houston was then the first ever recipient of the BET Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution towards black music. In August 2001, Houston signed the biggest record deal in music history with Arista/BMG. She renewed her contract (worth $100 million) to deliver six new albums on which she would also earn royalties. Within weeks Houston's rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" would be re-released after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The single peaked at #6 on the singles chart.[47] Houston would donate her portion of the proceeds.

Commercial decline: 2002–2005

In December 2002, Houston released her fifth studio album, Just Whitney. The album included productions from then-husband Bobby Brown, as well as Missy Elliott, and Babyface, while marking the first time Houston did not produce with Clive Davis. It received mostly poor reviews upon release.[50] Rolling Stone said the album "only shows an artist vainly trying to reach for what her future once could have been"[51] while The San Francisco Chronicle said the album "shows signs of life, but not enough to declare a resurrection."[52]

The album debuted at #9 on the Billboard 200 albums chart with the highest opening week sales of any album she had ever released. However, all of the singles, the media bashing "Whatchulookinat", "One of Those Days", and "Try It on My Own" failed to reach the top forty on the Hot 100 singles chart and the album quickly fell off the Billboard Top 200. Just Whitney would be certified platinum in the U.S. with cumulative worldwide sales of over three million, Houston's lowest sales of any studio album.

In late 2003, Houston released One Wish: The Holiday Album, a specialty album of traditional Christmas songs. Houston produced the album with Gorden Chambers and Mervyn Warren. Some, like Slant Magazine, noted a decline in her voice[53] while The New York Times praised the "lavish swoops, the sultry whispers, the gospel asides and the meteoric crescendos."[54] The single "One Wish" reached the Top 20 on the Adult Contemporary Chart as the album sold approximately 400,000 copies in the U.S. It eventually became Houston's lowest selling album and the first not to achieve gold status in the U.S..

In 2004, Houston embarked on an international tour, the Soul Divas Tour with Natalie Cole and cousin Dionne Warwick in Europe, before embarking on solo dates in the Middle East, Russia, and Asia. In September 2004, she gave a surprise performance at the World Music Awards, in tribute to long time friend Clive Davis. Houston received a thunderous standing ovation for her performance. After the show, Davis and Houston announced plans to go into studio to work on a new album.[55] However, no further updates would surface and no album was released due to Houston's drug problems.

New beginnings: 2006–present

After a successful rehabilitation period in 2006, Houston divorced Bobby Brown and gained full parental custody of their daughter, Bobbi Kristina. The singer began recuperating her career in the public eye by attending the various high profile events. Houston recorded the song "Family First" with Dionne Warwick and Cissy Houston for the soundtrack Daddy's Little Girls. In March 2007, Clive Davis announced that the singer would be heading in to the studio to record her first studio album in 4 years. Though the release date and title are yet to be determined, reported producers include will.i.am,[56] Ne-Yo,[56] R. Kelly,[56] and John Legend[57] among others.[58]

In the meantime, Arista released The Ultimate Collection in October 2007. The compilation included, for the first time, all of Houston's hit singles on one CD. It debuted at #5 in the UK, with sales of 37,228 and peaked at #3. The compilation was not released in the U.S. and also included a bonus DVD of music videos.

In December 2007, Houston performed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to positive reception.[59][60][61]Clive Davis later announced at Billboard's Music & Money Symposium in New York that Whitney Houston's forthcoming album is going to be released around the holiday season. Davis blames the delay on the creative process, saying he and Houston were unwilling to rush out an album of substandard tracks. Davis states "We're not going to compromise who she is to fit into today's hip-hop radio market. The public wants Whitney material."

Film and television career

During the early-mid 1980s, as Houston was trying to launch a music career, she auditioned for acting roles; including the part of Sondra Huxtable on The Cosby Show, which eventually went to Sabrina Le Beauf. In 1984, Houston appeared on an episode of Gimme a Break, and an episode of Silver Spoons in 1985.

With the huge success of her first two albums, movie offers came from Robert De Niro, Quincy Jones, and Spike Lee, though she felt the time wasn't right.[62] Houston’s first film role was in The Bodyguard, released in 1992 and co-starring Kevin Costner. Houston plays Rachel Marron, a star who is stalked by a crazed fan that hires a bodyguard to protect her. The film was successful at the box office, grossing more than $121 million in the U.S. and $410 million worldwide thanks in large to the success of Houston's soundtrack to the film. It is currently among the top 100 highest grossing films worldwide[63] and USA Today listed it as one of the 25 most memorable movie moments of the last 25 years.[64]

The movie is also notable for not mentioning or explaining its interracial aspect. Houston's mainstream appeal allowed people to look at the movie colour-blind.[65] Still, controversy arose as some felt the film's ads intentionally hid Houston's face to hide the film's interracial aspect. In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine in 1993, the singer commented that "people know who Whitney Houston is—I'm black. You can't hide that fact."[14] Despite the film's success, the reviews were mixed, and Houston received a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Actress. The Washington Post said Houston is "doing nothing more than playing Houston, comes out largely unscathed if that is possible in so cockamamie an undertaking"[66] and The New York Times said she lacked passion with her co-star.[67]

In 1995, Houston starred alongside Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, and Lela Rochon in the film Waiting to Exhale, about four African-American women struggling with relationships. Houston plays the lead character Savannah Jackson, a TV producer who moves to Phoenix to find a new man, but ends up in love with a married man. It marked Houston's first time portraying a character who isn't a singer. The movie and its soundtrack struck a chord with African American women and is considered a cultural classic. After opening at #1 and grossing $67 million in the U.S. at the box office and $82 million worldwide, it proved that a movie targeting black audiences can cross over to a white audience and make money, while paving the way for other all black movies such as How Stella Got Her Groove Back and the Tyler Perry movies that have become popular in the 2000s.[68][69][70]

The film is also notable for its portrayal of black women as strong middle class citizens as oppose to their usual stereotypes.[71] The reviews were mainly positive for the ensemble cast. The New York Times said "Ms. Houston has shed the defensive hauteur that made her portrayal of a pop star in "The Bodyguard" seem so distant."[72] Houston was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress In A Motion Picture, but lost to her co-star Basset.

In 1996, Houston starred in the holiday comedy The Preacher's Wife, with Denzel Washington. She plays a gospel-singing wife of a Reverend. Despite the success of Waiting To Exhale, the movie's star power, and Disney's high budget, many predicted the movie would not be a success due to its all black cast.[73] The movie was a moderate success, earning approximately $50 million at the U.S. box offices.[74] Still, the movie gave Houston her strongest reviews so far.

The San Francisco Chronicle said Houston "is rather angelic herself, displaying a divine talent for being virtuous and flirtatious at the same time" and that she "exudes gentle yet spirited warmth, especially when praising the Lord in her gorgeous singing voice."[75] Houston won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress In A Motion Picture for the role, her first award for her acting.

In 1997, Houston co-produced and starred in (along with Brandy, Jason Alexander, Whoopi Goldberg, and Bernadette Peters) a made-for-television remake of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. Houston played the Fairy Godmother. Houston was initially offered the role of Cinderella in 1993, but other projects intervened and CBS lost interest.[76] The film featured a multiracial cast and Houston said the ultimate message was that "African-American girls and women are princesses just as much as White girls and those of other ethnicities, and that they too can fulfil their dreams."[77] An estimated 60 million viewers tuned into the special giving ABC its highest TV ratings in 16 years.[78]

In 2005, husband Bobby Brown starred in his own reality TV program Being Bobby Brown (on the Bravo network), which provided a view into the domestic goings-on in the Brown household. Though it was Brown's vehicle, Houston was a prominent figure throughout the show. The series featured Houston at her lowest moments and many wondered why she took part in it.[79] Slant Magazine said "it's just an excuse to get [Whitney] on camera while she's ripped out of her mind."[80] Hollywood Reporter said it was "undoubtedly the most disgusting and execrable series ever to ooze its way onto television"[81] and The Washington Post said "Their lives seem sad much of the time, yet never rise to the status of tragedy."[79] Despite the train wreck nature of the show, the series gave Bravo its highest ratings in its time slot.[82] The show was cancelled after the first season due to low demand after the couple split and Houston no longer appeared in the show.[83]

Of late, Houston has served as an executive producer of many successful Hollywood films including the Disney films The Princess Diaries, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, and the Disney made-for-television films The Cheetah Girls and The Cheetah Girls 2: When in Spain.

Personal life

Marriage to Bobby Brown

Throughout the '80s, Houston was romantically linked to American football star Randy Cunningham and actor Eddie Murphy, whom she dated.[62] She was also romantically linked to her long-time friend and female assistant Robyn Crawford, but continuously denied the lesbian rumours.[14] Houston then met R&B singer Bobby Brown at the 1989 Soul Train Music Awards. After a three year courtship, the two were married on July 18, 1992. Many were surprised at the pairing and felt that the New Edition singer would be a bad influence on Houston. Brown had numerous run-ins with the law and already had 3 kids with different women while Houston was considered a good church girl.[14]

Many felt that the marriage was an attempt for Houston to get street credibility after being under fire from black critics.[84] Despite their differences in image, Houston gave birth to their child, daughter Bobbi Kristina Houston Brown on March 4, 1993 after a miscarriage the year before.[85] Throughout the 90s Brown continued to get in trouble with the law including sexual harassment, drunk driving, assault charges and even jail time[86] while Houston suffered another miscarriage in 1996.[87] In the 2000s, Brown continued to find trouble while the drug rumours began for Houston. In December 2003 Brown was arrested and charged with battery after an altercation with Houston after it was reported that he hit her.[88]

With a history of infidelity, scandals, drug and alcohol arrests, and marital problems, Houston finally filed for separation from Brown in September 2006 following trips to rehab. The following month, on October 16, 2006, Houston filed for divorce from Brown.[89] On February 1, 2007 Houston asked the court to fast track their divorce.[90] The divorce became finalized on April 24, 2007, with Houston granted custody of the couple's daughter.

On April 26, 2007, Brown filed court papers with the Orange County Superior Court to set aside the divorce judgement that ended his marriage to Houston. In the filing, he claims the marriage was ended under false pretences and sought child support, possible spousal support, and a change in the judgement that gave full custody of their daughter to Houston. The papers also claim that Brown was essentially homeless at one point and severely depressed during that time.

A court hearing was set for June 2007.[91] At the court hearing on January 4, 2008, Brown failed to show up at the scheduled court date. As a result of this, the judge dismissed his appeal to overrule Houston's custody terms, leaving Houston will full custody and Brown with no custody or spousal support.[92] Brown also was fired by his lawyers after a "breakdown of communication", leaving him without an attorney.

Drug and health issues

Though Houston was seen as a good girl with a perfect image in the '80s and early '90s, during the late '90s many noted a change in her behaviour. She was often hours late for interviews, photo shoots, rehearsals, and cancelled concerts and talk-show appearances.[93][94] With the missed performances and weight loss people began to wonder if something was wrong while rumours began that there was drug use with her husband. On January 11, 2000, airport security discovered marijuana in the luggage of both Houston's and husband Bobby Brown's luggage at a Hawaiian airport, but the two boarded the plane and departed before authorities could arrive.

Charges were later dropped against her and Brown as she later pleaded no contest to a possession charge and was ordered to pay £2,100 to a youth-orientated anti-drug program in place of community service,[95] but rumours of drug usage among the couple would continue to surface. Two months later, Clive Davis was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Houston was scheduled to perform and honor the man that helped launch her career, but she cancelled ten minutes before the show.[96] Shortly after, Houston was scheduled to perform at the Academy Awards but was fired from the event by musical director and long time friend Burt Bacharach.

Though her publicist cited throat problems as the reason for the cancellation, many speculated it was drugs. In Steve Pond's book "The Big Show: High Times And Dirty Dealings Backstage At The Academy Awards", it was revealed that "Houston's voice was shaky, she seemed distracted and jittery, and her attitude was casual, almost defiant" and that while Houston was to sing "Over The Rainbow", she would start singing a different song.[97] Houston herself would later admit to being fired.[84] In an interview with Jane Magazine, Houston reportedly arrived late, seemed unfocused, had trouble keeping her eyes open, and played an imaginary piano.[94] Later that year, Houston's long time executive assistant and best friend Robyn Crawford resigned from Houston's management company.[96]

The next year, Houston made an appearance at Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Special. Her shockingly thin frame further spurred rumours of drug use, anorexia, and bulimia. Her publicist said "Whitney has been under stress due to family matters, and when she is under stress she doesn't eat."[98] The singer was scheduled for a second performance the following night but cancelled without explanation.[99] Shortly after, rumours began that the troubled singer had died of a drug overdose. The rumour was quickly denied by Houston's camp.[98]

In late 2002, Houston did an interview with Diane Sawyer.[84] During the prime time special, the defiant and erratic Houston spoke on various topics including her rumoured drug abuse and marriage to Bobby Brown. When Sawyer showed Houston the photo of her appearance at the Michael Jackson Show, the singer replied "Well, that's a bad shot."[84] She was asked about the ongoing drug rumours and replied "First of all, let's get one thing straight. Crack is cheap.

I make too much money to ever smoke crack. Let's get that straight. Okay? We don't do crack. We don't do that. Crack is wack."[84] The line would become infamous. Houston admitted to using various substances at times and that she partied. When asked if Brown ever hit her, she replied, with Brown by her side "No, he's never hit me, no. I've hit him, in anger."[84]

Houston entered drug rehabilitation facilities in March 2004, but the following year appeared in Brown's reality TV series displaying more erratic behaviour. In March 2005, Houston re-entered the same drug rehab successfully completing the program. Though odd reports surface that the singer is still using drugs, her record label insists that Houston is off the drugs.[100] Recently, the singer has slowly been making her way back into the public eye looking healthy and clean.

John Houston dispute

In 2002, Houston became involved in a legal dispute with her father, and one-time manager, John Houston. Houston sued his daughter for $100 million (but lost); stating that she owed his company previously unpaid compensation for helping to guide her career, as well as for helping to manage the various controversies that had surrounded it in recent years.[101] Both of them appeared on television and disputed the other's claims.[84]

Discography

Studio Albums

  • 1985: Whitney Houston
  • 1987: Whitney
  • 1990: I'm Your Baby Tonight
  • 1998: My Love Is Your Love
  • 2002: Just Whitney
  • 2003: One Wish: The Holiday Album
  • 2008: Whitney Houston's forthcoming album

Soundtracks

  • 1992: The Bodyguard
  • 1995: Waiting to Exhale
  • 1996: The Preacher's Wife

Compilations

  • 2000: Whitney: The Greatest Hits
  • 2001: Love, Whitney
  • 2004: Artist Collection: Whitney Houston
  • 2007: The Ultimate Collection

Videos/DVDs

  • 1986: Number One Video Hits
  • 1991: Star Spangled Banner
  • 1991: Welcome Home Heroes
  • 1994: Concert for a New South Africa
  • 1997: Classic Whitney Concert
  • 1999: VH1 Divas Live '99
  • 2000: The Greatest Hits
  • 2000: Fine
  • 2002: Whatchulookinat Video/Whatchulookinat Behind-the-Scenes Footage/Love to Infinity Megamix Video
  • 2004: Artist Collection: Whitney Houston

Filmography

  • 1992: The Bodyguard
  • 1995: Waiting to Exhale
  • 1996: The Preacher's Wife
  • 1997: Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella

Tours

  • 1986: The Greatest Love Tour
  • 1987: The Moment Of Truth Tour
  • 1991: I'm Your Baby Tonight Tour
  • 1993: The Whitney Houston Tour
  • 1999: My Love Is You Love Tour
  • 2004: Soul Divas Tour

Whitney Elizabeth Houston (born August 9, 1963) is an American pop and R&B singer, actress, film producer, record producer, songwriter, and former fashion model. Her crossover success opened doors for other African Americans, particularly women, to find success in pop music.[1][2]She has been frequently referred to as "The Voice".[3][4] She is known mainly for her "powerful, penetrating pop-gospel voice."[5]

During the 1980s, Houston was one the first black artists to receive regular rotation on MTV in the network's early years during a white male rock dominated time.[6][7] Her debut album became the biggest selling debut album of all time for a solo artist (a record that has since been broken), her follow up album became the first album by a female artist to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200, and she had a record seven consecutive #1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Houston continued her success into Hollywood in the 1990s, starting with the box office hit The Bodyguard.

The soundtrack would become the best selling soundtrack of all time, and the single "I Will Always Love You" the best selling single by a female artist and 6th best selling song in history of music.[8] She continued the decade with other successful and culturally significant projects before returning to the studio. Houston is the fourth best-selling female recording artist according to the Recording Industry Association of America[9] and is the "The Most Awarded Female Artist of All Time"[10] according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

After Houston married former R&B singer Bobby Brown at the height of her career, rumours of drug and spousal abuse started to affect her career. This led to a decline in her public image and her album sales dropped during the 2000s. Her personal troubles and erratic behaviour would be talked about more than any of her music, regularly appearing in the tabloid press. Houston underwent two drug rehab programs in 2005 and 2006. After a successful second program in 2006, Houston divorced Brown and gained custody of their only daughter. She has since been working on her 7th studio album with music mogul and close friend and mentor Clive Davis, who confirmed that the album will be released in November 2008.[11]

Early life

Whitney Houston was born in a rough neighbourhood in the projects of Newark, New Jersey. She is the third and youngest child of John and gospel singer Cissy Houston.[12] Her mother, along with cousin Dionne Warwick and Godmother Aretha Franklin are all notable figures in the gospel, rhythm and blues, and soul genres. Houston was raised a Baptist, but was also exposed to the Pentecostal church. After the 1967 Newark riots, the family moved to a middle class area in East Orange, New Jersey when she was four.[12] While her mother was away touring with Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin as a backup singer, her father would spend most of the time raising the children. Houston did not have many friends and she was picked on because her face was too light or her hair was too long compared to the other black girls.

At the age of eleven, Houston began to follow in her mothers footsteps and started performing as a soloist in the junior gospel choir at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, where she also learned to play the piano.[13] Her first solo performance in the church was "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah". When Houston was a teenager, her parents divorced and she continued to live with her mother. She attended a Roman Catholic single-sex high school, Mount Saint Dominic Academy, where she met her best friend Robyn Crawford, whom she describes as the "sister she never had." Crawford would later become Houston's personal assistant and the two of them would eventually be constantly subjected to lesbian rumours. While Houston was still in school, her mother continued to teach her how to sing.[1] In addition to her mother, Franklin, and Warwick, Houston was also exposed to the music of Elvis Presley, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight, and Roberta Flack, most of which would have an impact on her as a singer and performer.[14]

Music career

Early career: 1977–1984

Houston spent much of her teenage years touring night clubs with her mother. In 1977, at fourteen years of age, Houston was featured as the lead singer on the Michael Zager Band's single "Life's a Party". Zager subsequently offered to help obtain a recording contract for the young singer, but Cissy declined, wanting her daughter to finish school first. Then in 1979, at age sixteen, Houston sang background vocals on Chaka Khan's hit single "I'm Every Woman", a song she would later turn into a bigger hit in 1992. In the early 1980s, Houston worked as a fashion model after a photographer saw her at Carnegie Hall singing with her mother.

She appeared in Vogue Magazine[15] and became one of the first women of colour to grace the cover of Seventeen magazine[16] She also appeared in a Canada Dry soft drink commercial. While modelling and touring nightclubs with her mother, she continued her recording career, working with producers Michael Bienhorn, Bill Laswell and Martin Bisi on an album they were spearheading called One Down, which was credited to the group Material. For that project, Houston contributed the ballad "Memories", which Robert Christgau of the The Village Voice called "one of the most gorgeous ballads you've ever heard".[17]

Houston had previously been offered several recording contracts (Michael Zager in 1980 and Elektra Records in 1981). In 1983, Gerry Griffith, an A&R representative from Arista Records, saw her performing with her mother in a New York City night club and was impressed. He convinced Clive Davis, Arista's label head, to take time to see Houston perform at the nightclub. Davis too was impressed after the performance and offered her a worldwide recording contract, which Houston signed. Later in the year, she made her national televised debut alongside Davis on the The Merv Griffin Show.

Houston signed with Arista in 1983 but did not began work on her album immediately. Arista put forth the deal to make sure no other label signed the singer from under them. At first, Davis had a hard time finding material for Houston to record. Many major producers passed on her.[18] Houston first recorded a duet with Teddy Pendergrass entitled "Hold Me", which appeared on his album, Love Language. The single became a Top 5 R&B hit, and would also appear on her debut album.

Debut: 1985–1986

With production from Michael Masser, Kashif, Jermaine Jackson and Narada Michael Walden, Houston's self-titled 1985 debut album was released in February 1985. Rolling Stone Magazine praised the new talent, calling her "one of the most exciting new voices in years"[19] while The New York Times called the album "an impressive, musically conservative showcase for an exceptional vocal talent."[20] After the dance-funk single "Someone For Me" failed to chart in both the US and UK, the album initially sold modestly and failed to make an impact. The plan was to first appeal to a black audience, hence the release of the next single, the soulful ballad "You Give Good Love", which peaked at #3 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 while going #1 on the R&B Charts.[18] As a result, the album began selling and climbing the charts while Houston continued promoting the album touring night clubs in the US. With success on the R&B Charts, Davis wanted Houston to crossover to a broader audience.

She began performing on popular night shows that usually weren't open to many black acts.[6] The jazz-pop ballad "Saving All My Love for You" was released next and would become Houston's first #1 hit single in both the US and the UK. She was now an opening act for singer Jeffrey Osbourne on his nationwide tour. The next single, "How Will I Know", also peaked at #1 and would introduce Houston to the MTV audience. This would make the singer one of the only African American female artists to receive heavy rotation on the network.[16] By 1986, a year after its initial release, Whitney Houston topped the Billboard 200 album chart and stayed there for 14 consecutive weeks.[21]

The final single, the black pride anthem "Greatest Love of All" became Houston's biggest hit after peaking #1 and remaining there for three weeks. Houston had established a cross-over base and was now able to headline her own tour thus embarking on The Greatest Love Tour. The 89 day tour was the sixth highest grossing tour of the year.[22] The album had become an international success, selling over thirteen million copies in the United States alone —making it the best-selling debut album of all time by a female artist. To date, the album has sold approximately 25 million copies worldwide.[23]

At the 1986 Grammy Awards, Houston was nominated for three awards including Album of the Year. Despite being the front runner, Houston was ineligible for Best New Artist due to her previous duet recordings in 1984.[24] Still, she won her first Grammy award for 'Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female' for "Saving All My Love for You". At the same award show, Houston performed her Grammy-winning hit; the performance won Houston her first and only Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program.

Houston also won two American Music Awards and an MTV Video Music Award, while "Greatest Love of All" would receive a Record of the Year nomination at the 1987 Grammys. Houston's debut is currently listed as one of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time[25] and on The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame's Definitive 200 list.[26] Whitney Houston's grand entrance into the music industry was listed as one of the 25 musical milestones of the last 25 years according to USA Today.[27]

Continued success: 1987–1991

Houston’s second album, Whitney, was released in June 1987. Following the same formula as her debut, the album featured productions from Masser, Kashif and Walden again, as well as Jellybean Benitez. Many critics complained that the material was too similar to her previous album and also felt that Houston was holding back her gospel roots for mainstream pop music.[6] Rolling Stone said, "the narrow channel through which this talent has been directed is frustrating."[28] Still, it became the first album in history by a female artist to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 in the U.S. and the UK album chart, as well as topping the charts in several countries around the world.

The album's first four singles, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)", "Didn't We Almost Have It All", "So Emotional", and "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" all peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100—which brought her a total of seven consecutive Hot 100 number-one hits; breaking the record of six previously shared by The Beatles and The Bee Gees. The album's fifth, and final single, "Love Will Save the Day" also peaked in the Top 10 on the Hot 100. However, unlike her previous album, neither song topped the R&B Charts. Whitney was certified nine times platinum in America, and has sold approximately 20 million worldwide.

At the Grammy Awards in 1988, Houston was nominated for three awards including Album of the Year, winning her second Grammy for 'Best Female Pop Vocal Performance' for "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)". She then embarked on the worldwide The Moment of Truth tour. In the same year, she recorded a song for NBC's coverage of the 1988 Summer Olympics, "One Moment in Time", which peaked at number five in the U.S., while reaching number one in the UK and Germany.

With the success of her first two albums, Houston was a crossover superstar. However, many black critics complained that her music was "too White" and that she was selling out.[6] Some noted that her singing on record lacked the soul that was present in her concerts.[15] At the 1989 Soul Train Music Awards, when Houston's name was called out for a nomination, the audience booed her.[29] Houston spoke of the criticism and said "If you're gonna have a long career, there's a certain way to do it, and I did it that way. I'm not ashamed of it."[15] However, the pop singer decided to take a more urban direction in her music. I'm Your Baby Tonight, Houston’s third studio album, was released in November 1990 and featured productions from Babyface and Antonio Reid, Luther Vandross, and Stevie Wonder.

For the album, Houston was given more control; she was co-executive producer along with Clive Davis. The two would work together for the rest of Houston's albums in the 90s. The album showed Houston's versatility on a new batch of tough rhythmic grooves, soulful ballads and up-tempo dance tracks. The album peaked at number three on the Billboard 200 and went on to be certified four times platinum in the U.S., selling ten million worldwide. The first two singles, the new jack swing "I'm Your Baby Tonight" and the soul ballad "All The Man That I Need" each hit number one on both the pop and R&B singles charts respectively. The third and fourth singles: "Miracle", and "My Name Is Not Susan" peaked at numbers nine and twenty, respectively —the fifth single, "I Belong to You", peaked in the Top 10 on the R&B charts, while yet another single, the duet with Stevie Wonder entitled, "We Didn't Know", made the R&B Top 20. Though sales of the album were down drastically compared to her previous efforts, the album was well received by critics. Rolling Stone felt it was her "best and most integrated album".[30]

Houston performed "The Star Spangled Banner" at Super Bowl XXV in January 1991. Her recording of the song was released as a commercial single, reaching the top twenty on the U.S. Hot 100, and making her the only artist to turn the national anthem into a chart hit. (Ten years later, the song was re-released after the September 11, 2001 attacks, this time peaking becoming a Top 10 hit.) Houston donated her share of the proceeds to the American Red Cross. This legendary performance of the national anthem was named number one in the NFL's 2003 list of Top 25 greatest moments in NFL history. VH1 also listed it as the 12th greatest moment that rocked TV.[31]

In 1991, Houston embarked I'm Your Baby Tonight World Tour, which Rolling Stone poll voters voted "Worst Tour of the Year."[32] The tour didn't sell out as much as her previous tours. She then performed for the Welcome Home Heroes Concert in Norfolk Virginia for the returning soldiers from the Gulf War. The concert was televised on HBO and subsequently released as a home video. All proceeds went to charity.[33]

Hollywood success: 1992–1998

In November 1992, Houston made her big screen debut, opposite Kevin Costner, in The Bodyguard, which became a huge success at the box office thanks in large part to the accompanying soundtrack. Houston recorded six songs for the film's adjoining soundtrack album, which featured productions from David Foster. The soundtrack's lead single was a cover of the Dolly Parton country hit "I Will Always Love You". Some, including Foster, were sceptical that the song would fare well at radio due to its slow, acapella beginning.[34] Still, the label took the risk and released it as the first single and it became Houston's biggest hit.

It peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for a then-record-breaking 14 weeks and topping the charts in nearly every other country including the big markets of the UK, Germany, France and Australia. The song has sold approximately ten million copies worldwide, making it the best selling single by a female solo artist. The soundtrack debuted at number 1 and remained there for twenty consecutive weeks. The follow-up singles "I'm Every Woman", a Chaka Khan cover, and "I Have Nothing" both peaked in the top five. The album was certified 17x platinum in the United States[35] with worldwide sales of forty-two million,[36] and went on to become the best-selling soundtrack album ever. Houston won three Grammys for the project including two of the Academy's highest honours, Album of the Year and Record of the Year. Entertainment Weekly said the two cover songs are "artistically satisfying and uncharacteristically hip" while the rest is generic.[37] Rolling Stone said it is "nothing more than pleasant, tasteful and urbane.".[38]

Following the success of the project, Houston embarked on another expansive worldwide tour in 1993, which concluded in 1994 when the HBO televised "Concert For A New South Africa" making Houston the first artist to perform in the newly apartheid-free country. With total capacities of over 200,000 and a home video subsequently released, all proceeds went to charity.[39]

In December 1995, Houston co-produced, with Babyface, the critically acclaimed cultural phenomenon Waiting to Exhale: Original Soundtrack Album. Though Babyface originally wanted Houston to record the entire album, she declined. Instead, she "wanted [it] to be an album of women with vocal distinction" to go along with the film's strong women message.[40] As a result, the album featured a range of contemporary R&B female recording artists including Aretha Franklin, Toni Braxton, Brandy, and Mary J Blige. Houston herself contributed three songs including the smash "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)".

After debuting at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, the song spent a record 11 weeks at the #2 spot. Houston also contributed two other songs: the top 10 hit "Count on Me", a duet with friend Cece Winans and the top 30 hit, "Why Does It Hurt So Bad". The album debuted at #1, has since been certified seven times platinum in America, and has sold thirteen million worldwide,[36] according to her official site. The soundtrack received strong reviews. Entertainment Weekly said "the album goes down easy, just as you'd expect from a package framed by Whitney Houston tracks....the soundtrack waits to exhale, hovering in sensuous suspense"[41] and has since ranked it as one of the 100 Best Movie Soundtracks.[42] Newsday called it "the most significant R&B record of the decade."[43]

In late 1996, Houston recorded, and co-produced with Mervyn Warren, the gospel The Preacher's Wife: Original Soundtrack Album, six of the songs were recorded with the Georgia Mass Choir at Greater Rising Star Church in Atlanta. Unlike Houston's previous soundtracks, The Preacher's Wife featured Houston on 14 of the 15 tracks including a collaboration with gospel legend Shirley Caesar. The soundtrack sold six million copies worldwide and scored pop hits with "I Believe in You and Me" and "Step by Step", becoming the largest selling gospel album of all time. The album received mainly positive reviews. Some critics, like USA Today, noted the presence of an emotional depth not always heard in her previous recordings.[44] The UK Times said "To hear Houston going at full throttle with the 35 piece Georgia Mass choir struggling to keep up is to realise, at last, what her phenomenal voice was made for."[45]

In 1997, Houston performed the 3 night HBO televised "Classic Whitney" concert in Washington DC. The concert saw Houston perform her hits as well as covering classics by idols Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Billie Holliday and Diana Ross.[46] Later that year, Houston starred in the remake of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella with fellow singer Brandy. Though no soundtrack was made, Houston sang "Impossible" with Brandy, and "There Is Music In You".

Back to the studio: 1998–2001

After spending much of the early and mid 1990s working on films, with their adjacent soundtrack albums as an outlet for new music, Houston's first studio album in eight years, the critically acclaimed My Love Is Your Love was released in November 1998. Though originally slated to be a greatest hits album with a handful of new songs, recording sessions produced enough new material for a full-length studio album. Recorded and mixed in only six weeks, it featured production from Rodney Jerkins, Wyclef Jean and Missy Elliott.

The album had a more funkier and edgier sound than past releases and saw Houston handling urban dance, hip hop, reggae, mid-tempo R&B, torch songs, and ballads all with great dexterity. The album's first single, the Academy Award-winning "When You Believe" (a duet with Mariah Carey for 1998s The Prince of Egypt soundtrack) didn't do as well as expected and only reached the Top 20 in the U.S. As a result, the album debuted at #13.[47] However, the next three singles, "Heartbreak Hotel", which featured Faith Evans and Kelly Price; "It's Not Right but It's Okay", which won Houston her sixth Grammy Award, and "My Love Is Your Love" all reached the U.S. Top 5 and became international hits. The album's fifth single, "I Learned from the Best", peaked inside the U.S. top forty, at number twenty-seven. All singles, except "When You Believe", also became number one hits on the U.S. Dance/Clubplay Chart. The album went on to be certified four times platinum in the U.S., with worldwide sales of ten million.

The album gave Houston her strongest reviews ever. Rolling Stone said Houston was singing "with a bite in her voice that she's never come close to before"[48] and The Village Voice called it "Whitney's sharpest and most satisfying so far".[49] In 1999, Houston participated in VH-1's Divas’ Live '99, alongside Mary J. Blige, Tina Turner, Cher. The same year, Houston hit the road with her worldwide 70 date My Love Is Your Love tour.

In April 2000, Whitney: The Greatest Hits was released. The double disc set peaked at number five on the Billboard Top 200, and reached number one on the UK chart. While the ballads were left unchanged, the album is notable for featuring house/club remixes of many of Houston's past up-tempo songs, in place of their original version. Also included on the album were four new songs: "Could I Have This Kiss Forever" (a duet with Enrique Iglesias), "Same Script, Different Cast" (a duet with Deborah Cox), "If I Told You That" (a duet with George Michael), and "Fine", all of which failed to crack the Billboard Top 40.

Along with the album, an accompanying DVD was also released of the music videos to Houston's greatest hits. The greatest hits album was certified triple platinum in the U.S., with worldwide sales of ten million. The same year, Houston performed on the televised special commemorating Arista Records twenty-fifth anniversary. Houston was then the first ever recipient of the BET Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution towards black music. In August 2001, Houston signed the biggest record deal in music history with Arista/BMG. She renewed her contract (worth $100 million) to deliver six new albums on which she would also earn royalties. Within weeks Houston's rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" would be re-released after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The single peaked at #6 on the singles chart.[47] Houston would donate her portion of the proceeds.

Commercial decline: 2002–2005

In December 2002, Houston released her fifth studio album, Just Whitney. The album included productions from then-husband Bobby Brown, as well as Missy Elliott, and Babyface, while marking the first time Houston did not produce with Clive Davis. It received mostly poor reviews upon release.[50] Rolling Stone said the album "only shows an artist vainly trying to reach for what her future once could have been"[51] while The San Francisco Chronicle said the album "shows signs of life, but not enough to declare a resurrection."[52]

The album debuted at #9 on the Billboard 200 albums chart with the highest opening week sales of any album she had ever released. However, all of the singles, the media bashing "Whatchulookinat", "One of Those Days", and "Try It on My Own" failed to reach the top forty on the Hot 100 singles chart and the album quickly fell off the Billboard Top 200. Just Whitney would be certified platinum in the U.S. with cumulative worldwide sales of over three million, Houston's lowest sales of any studio album.

In late 2003, Houston released One Wish: The Holiday Album, a specialty album of traditional Christmas songs. Houston produced the album with Gorden Chambers and Mervyn Warren. Some, like Slant Magazine, noted a decline in her voice[53] while The New York Times praised the "lavish swoops, the sultry whispers, the gospelly asides and the meteoric crescendos."[54] The single "One Wish" reached the Top 20 on the Adult Contemporary Chart as the album sold approximately 400,000 copies in the U.S. It eventually became Houston's lowest selling album and the first not to achieve gold status in the U.S..

In 2004, Houston embarked on an international tour, the Soul Divas Tour with Natalie Cole and cousin Dionne Warwick in Europe, before embarking on solo dates in the Middle East, Russia, and Asia. In September 2004, she gave a surprise performance at the World Music Awards, in tribute to long time friend Clive Davis. Houston received a thunderous standing ovation for her performance. After the show, Davis and Houston announced plans to go into studio to work on a new album.[55] However, no further updates would surface and no album was released due to Houston's drug problems.

New beginnings: 2006–present

After a successful rehabilitation period in 2006, Houston divorced Bobby Brown and gained full parental custody of their daughter, Bobbi Kristina. The singer began recuperating her career in the public eye by attending the various high profile events. Houston recorded the song "Family First" with Dionne Warwick and Cissy Houston for the soundtrack Daddy's Little Girls. In March 2007, Clive Davis announced that the singer would be heading in to the studio to record her first studio album in 4 years. Though the release date and title are yet to be determined, reported producers include will.i.am,[56] Ne-Yo,[56] R. Kelly,[56] and John Legend[57] among others.[58]

In the meantime, Arista released The Ultimate Collection in October 2007. The compilation included, for the first time, all of Houston's hit singles on one CD. It debuted at #5 in the UK, with sales of 37,228 and peaked at #3. The compilation was not released in the U.S. and also included a bonus DVD of music videos.

In December 2007, Houston performed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to positive reception.[59][60][61]Clive Davis later announced at Billboard's Music & Money Symposium in New York that Whitney Houston's forthcoming album is going to be released around the holiday season. Davis blames the delay on the creative process, saying he and Houston were unwilling to rush out an album of substandard tracks. Davis states "We're not going to compromise who she is to fit into today's hip-hop radio market. The public wants Whitney material."

Film and television career

During the early-mid 1980s, as Houston was trying to launch a music career, she auditioned for acting roles; including the part of Sondra Huxtable on The Cosby Show, which eventually went to Sabrina Le Beauf. In 1984, Houston appeared on an episode of Gimme a Break, and an episode of Silver Spoons in 1985.

With the huge success of her first two albums, movie offers came from Robert De Niro, Quincy Jones, and Spike Lee, though she felt the time wasn't right.[62] Houston’s first film role was in The Bodyguard, released in 1992 and co-starring Kevin Costner. Houston plays Rachel Marron, a star who is stalked by a crazed fan that hires a bodyguard to protect her. The film was successful at the box office, grossing more than $121 million in the U.S. and $410 million worldwide thanks in large to the success of Houston's soundtrack to the film.

It is currently among the top 100 highest grossing films worldwide[63] and USA Today listed it as one of the 25 most memorable movie moments of the last 25 years.[64] The movie is also notable for not mentioning or explaining its interracial aspect. Houston's mainstream appeal allowed people to look at the movie colour-blind.[65] Still, controversy arose as some felt the film's ads intentionally hid Houston's face to hide the film's interracial aspect. In an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine in 1993, the singer commented that "people know who Whitney Houston is—I'm black. You can't hide that fact."[14] Despite the film's success, the reviews were mixed, and Houston received a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Actress. The Washington Post said Houston is "doing nothing more than playing Houston, comes out largely unscathed if that is possible in so cockamamie an undertaking"[66] and The New York Times said she lacked passion with her co-star.[67]

In 1995, Houston starred alongside Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, and Lela Rochon in the film Waiting to Exhale, about four African-American women struggling with relationships. Houston plays the lead character Savannah Jackson, a TV producer who moves to Phoenix to find a new man, but ends up in love with a married man. It marked Houston's first time portraying a character who isn't a singer. The movie and its soundtrack struck a chord with African American women and is considered a cultural classic. After opening at #1 and grossing $67 million in the U.S. at the box office and $82 million worldwide, it proved that a movie targeting black audiences can cross over to a white audience and make money, while paving the way for other all black movies such as How Stella Got Her Groove Back and the Tyler Perry movies that have become popular in the 2000s.[68][69][70]

The film is also notable for its portrayal of black women as strong middle class citizens as oppose to their usual stereotypes.[71] The reviews were mainly positive for the ensemble cast. The New York Times said "Ms. Houston has shed the defensive hauteur that made her portrayal of a pop star in "The Bodyguard" seem so distant."[72] Houston was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress In A Motion Picture, but lost to her co-star Basset.

In 1996, Houston starred in the holiday comedy The Preacher's Wife, with Denzel Washington. She plays a gospel-singing wife of a Reverend. Despite the success of Waiting To Exhale, the movie's star power, and Disney's high budget, many predicted the movie would not be a success due to its all black cast.[73] The movie was a moderate success, earning approximately $50 million at the U.S. box offices.[74] Still, the movie gave Houston her strongest reviews so far. The San Francisco Chronicle said Houston "is rather angelic herself, displaying a divine talent for being virtuous and flirtatious at the same time" and that she "exudes gentle yet spirited warmth, especially when praising the Lord in her gorgeous singing voice."[75] Houston won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress In A Motion Picture for the role, her first award for her acting.

In 1997, Houston co-produced and starred in (along with Brandy, Jason Alexander, Whoopi Goldberg, and Bernadette Peters) a made-for-television remake of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. Houston played the Fairy Godmother. Houston was initially offered the role of Cinderella in 1993, but other projects intervened and CBS lost interest.[76] The film featured a multiracial cast and Houston said the ultimate message was that "African-American girls and women are princesses just as much as White girls and those of other ethnicities, and that they too can fulfil their dreams."[77] An estimated 60 million viewers tuned into the special giving ABC its highest TV ratings in 16 years.[78]

In 2005, husband Bobby Brown starred in his own reality TV program Being Bobby Brown (on the Bravo network), which provided a view into the domestic goings-on in the Brown household. Though it was Brown's vehicle, Houston was a prominent figure throughout the show. The series featured Houston at her lowest moments and many wondered why she took part in it.[79] Slant Magazine said "it's just an excuse to get [Whitney] on camera while she's ripped out of her mind."[80] Hollywood Reporter said it was "undoubtedly the most disgusting and execrable series ever to ooze its way onto television"[81] and The Washington Post said "Their lives seem sad much of the time, yet never rise to the status of tragedy."[79] Despite the train wreck nature of the show, the series gave Bravo its highest ratings in its time slot.[82] The show was cancelled after the first season due to low demand after the couple split and Houston no longer appeared in the show.[83]

Of late, Houston has served as an executive producer of many successful Hollywood films including the Disney films The Princess Diaries, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, and the Disney made-for-television films The Cheetah Girls and The Cheetah Girls 2: When in Spain.

Personal life

Marriage to Bobby Brown

Throughout the '80s, Houston was romantically linked to American football star Randy Cunningham and actor Eddie Murphy, whom she dated.[62] She was also romantically linked to her long-time friend and female assistant Robyn Crawford, but continuously denied the lesbian rumours.[14] Houston then met R&B singer Bobby Brown at the 1989 Soul Train Music Awards. After a three year courtship, the two were married on July 18, 1992. Many were surprised at the pairing and felt that the New Edition singer would be a bad influence on Houston. Brown had numerous run-ins with the law and already had 3 kids with different women while Houston was considered a good church girl.[14]

Many felt that the marriage was an attempt for Houston to get street credibility after being under fire from black critics.[84] Despite their differences in image, Houston gave birth to their child, daughter Bobbi Kristina Houston Brown on March 4, 1993 after a miscarriage the year before.[85] Throughout the 90s Brown continued to get in trouble with the law including sexual harassment, drunk driving, assault charges and even jail time[86] while Houston suffered another miscarriage in 1996.[87] In the 2000s, Brown continued to find trouble while the drug rumours began for Houston. In December 2003 Brown was arrested and charged with battery after an altercation with Houston after it was reported that he hit her.[88]

With a history of infidelity, scandals, drug and alcohol arrests, and marital problems, Houston finally filed for separation from Brown in September 2006 following trips to rehab. The following month, on October 16, 2006, Houston filed for divorce from Brown.[89] On February 1, 2007 Houston asked the court to fast track their divorce.[90] The divorce became finalized on April 24, 2007, with Houston granted custody of the couple's daughter.

On April 26, 2007, Brown filed court papers with the Orange County Superior Court to set aside the divorce judgement that ended his marriage to Houston. In the filing, he claims the marriage was ended under false pretences and sought child support, possible spousal support, and a change in the judgement that gave full custody of their daughter to Houston. The papers also claim that Brown was essentially homeless at one point and severely depressed during that time. A court hearing was set for June 2007.[91] At the court hearing on January 4, 2008, Brown failed to show up at the scheduled court date. As a result of this, the judge dismissed his appeal to overrule Houston's custody terms, leaving Houston will full custody and Brown with no custody or spousal support.[92] Brown also was fired by his lawyers after a "breakdown of communication", leaving him without an attorney.

Drug and health issues

Though Houston was seen as a good girl with a perfect image in the '80s and early '90s, during the late '90s many noted a change in her behaviour. She was often hours late for interviews, photo shoots, rehearsals, and cancelled concerts and talk-show appearances.[93][94] With the missed performances and weight loss people began to wonder if something was wrong while rumours began that there was drug use with her husband. On January 11, 2000, airport security discovered marijuana in the luggage of both Houston's and husband Bobby Brown's luggage at a Hawaiian airport, but the two boarded the plane and departed before authorities could arrive.

Charges were later dropped against her and Brown as she later pleaded no contest to a possession charge and was ordered to pay £2,100 to a youth-orientated anti-drug program in place of community service,[95] but rumours of drug usage among the couple would continue to surface. Two months later, Clive Davis was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Houston was scheduled to perform and honor the man that helped launch her career, but she cancelled ten minutes before the show.[96] Shortly after, Houston was scheduled to perform at the Academy Awards but was fired from the event by musical director and long time friend Burt Bacharach. Though her publicist cited throat problems as the reason for the cancellation, many speculated it was drugs.

In Steve Pond's book "The Big Show: High Times And Dirty Dealings Backstage At The Academy Awards", it was revealed that "Houston's voice was shaky, she seemed distracted and jittery, and her attitude was casual, almost defiant" and that while Houston was to sing "Over The Rainbow", she would start singing a different song.[97] Houston herself would later admit to being fired.[84] In an interview with Jane Magazine, Houston reportedly arrived late, seemed unfocused, had trouble keeping her eyes open, and played an imaginary piano.[94] Later that year, Houston's long time executive assistant and best friend Robyn Crawford resigned from Houston's management company.[96]

The next year, Houston made an appearance at Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Special. Her shockingly thin frame further spurred rumours of drug use, anorexia, and bulimia. Her publicist said "Whitney has been under stress due to family matters, and when she is under stress she doesn't eat."[98] The singer was scheduled for a second performance the following night but cancelled without explanation.[99] Shortly after, rumours began that the troubled singer had died of a drug overdose. The rumour was quickly denied by Houston's camp.[98]

In late 2002, Houston did an interview with Diane Sawyer.[84] During the prime time special, the defiant and erratic Houston spoke on various topics including her rumoured drug abuse and marriage to Bobby Brown. When Sawyer showed Houston the photo of her appearance at the Michael Jackson Show, the singer replied "Well, that's a bad shot."[84] She was asked about the ongoing drug rumours and replied "First of all, let's get one thing straight. Crack is cheap. I make too much money to ever smoke crack. Let's get that straight. Okay? We don't do crack. We don't do that. Crack is wack."[84] The line would become infamous. Houston admitted to using various substances at times and that she partied. When asked if Brown ever hit her, she replied, with Brown by her side "No, he's never hit me, no. I've hit him, in anger."[84]

Houston entered drug rehabilitation facilities in March 2004, but the following year appeared in Brown's reality TV series displaying more erratic behaviour. In March 2005, Houston re-entered the same drug rehab successfully completing the program. Though odd reports surface that the singer is still using drugs, her record label insists that Houston is off the drugs.[100] Recently, the singer has slowly been making her way back into the public eye looking healthy and clean.

John Houston dispute

In 2002, Houston became involved in a legal dispute with her father, and one-time manager, John Houston. Houston sued his daughter for $100 million (but lost); stating that she owed his company previously unpaid compensation for helping to guide her career, as well as for helping to manage the various controversies that had surrounded it in recent years.[101] Both of them appeared on television and disputed the other's claims.[84]

Discography

Studio Albums

  • 1985: Whitney Houston
  • 1987: Whitney
  • 1990: I'm Your Baby Tonight
  • 1998: My Love Is Your Love
  • 2002: Just Whitney
  • 2003: One Wish: The Holiday Album
  • 2008: Whitney Houston's forthcoming album

Soundtracks

  • 1992: The Bodyguard
  • 1995: Waiting to Exhale
  • 1996: The Preacher's Wife

Compilations

  • 2000: Whitney: The Greatest Hits
  • 2001: Love, Whitney
  • 2004: Artist Collection: Whitney Houston
  • 2007: The Ultimate Collection

Videos/DVDs

  • 1986: Number One Video Hits
  • 1991: Star Spangled Banner
  • 1991: Welcome Home Heroes
  • 1994: Concert for a New South Africa
  • 1997: Classic Whitney Concert
  • 1999: VH1 Divas Live '99
  • 2000: The Greatest Hits
  • 2000: Fine
  • 2002: Whatchulookinat Video/Whatchulookinat Behind-the-Scenes Footage/Love to Infinity Megamix Video
  • 2004: Artist Collection: Whitney Houston

Filmography

  • 1992: The Bodyguard
  • 1995: Waiting to Exhale
  • 1996: The Preacher's Wife
  • 1997: Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella

Tours

  • 1986: The Greatest Love Tour
  • 1987: The Moment Of Truth Tour
  • 1991: I'm Your Baby Tonight Tour
  • 1993: The Whitney Houston Tour
  • 1999: My Love Is You Love Tour
  • 2004: Soul Divas Tour

References and Notes

Wiki Source

Comments
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