Saturday, 11 February 2012

Whitney Houston

It's as if Whitney, in her heyday (and bete-noire-for-the-pop-cultural-left day), more than MJ, hinted at some kind of post-racial America. Only Diana Ross had got so deep into Middle America's heart before her, and the fact that Whitney's break was amid a reversion to reactionary politics rather than the context of the Civil Rights Act meant that there seemed far less radicalism hidden beneath the gloss. But the Star Spangled Banner at Super Bowl '91, right in the middle of the Gulf War, was a genuine moment of emotional unity in America, and in its own way it might be a step on the road to Obama's eventual victory. It was also, in many ways, the beginning of the end for Houston herself. She'd gone so far, gone to so many places where once she could never have gone, touched so many lives that would once have had no room for her, that she was bound to be judged by impossible standards. And when that happens to someone who had come so far, it's the surest possible road to the other extreme. "My Love is Your Love" is as special as it is because it makes no attempt to hide what she'd been through, that the voice of the huge hits was fucked, and still holds out hope for redemption, rejuvenation. Failing to live up to Middle America's impossible dreams could still, at that moment, have been the start of a new beginning. Sadly, it wasn't. Sadly - and think of this with The Sun on the racks - the world that had made her what she was could only destroy her in the end.