(The Diary of a Pop Defender)
IS LOUIS WALSH DEAD? You may have shouted at Sky News on Sunday morning as you watched Ronan Keating and Jamie ‘Afro’ trying to emote via satellite with their dead eyes blinking, surrounded by studio gubbins (they’re musicians don’t cha know) It seemed like Louis would never utter another misguided/offensive comparison again. Had the creator of hokey-cokey pop fallen off this mortal coil?
Unfortunately for Kelly Rowland and lovers of exciting pop music, the periwinkle faced one is still with us. It turns out Jamie and Ronan were paying their respects to Whitney Houston. Yes really. An X-Factor reject who once happened to see her have a wardrobe slip live on stage was going through it minute by minute like it was the Kennedy assassination, as if this one, slightly manic performance was the culmination of her career and it was destroyed because (in the words of Jamie) ‘she didn’t do a full dress rehearsal like you’re supposed to’ that’s right Jamie, this whole ‘no full dress rehearsal’ madness was a bleak look inside her fragile psyche , a sartorial depiction of her mental state and yet she somehow managed to have a two decade spanning career…I bet you do all the dress rehearsing you like at the Dog n’ Duck karaoke night.
As for the human fog-horn of bland that is Keating, he was about as insightful as a pube- encrusted sponge, running through the usual check-list of sympathies:
I’m in shock she was such an inspiration (on Boyzone? REALLY?) She was the artist of her generation etc until he ran out of steam and began to name check songs like he was trying to remind himself of her back catalogue.
It was a miserable showing for such an exceptional artist. It shouldn’t have been like this, musical nobodies groping for platitudes. It shouldn’t have been about the half-whispered Oprah interview, the Whitney and her imaginary piano article, Diane Sawyer pointing out her skeletal frame, ‘crack is whack’, growling ‘you low down dirty bitch’ at Wendy Williams, Being Bobby Brown, Enquirer stories of paranoia and photos of dishevelled living spaces.
This darkness usurped everything we wanted Whitney to be. It’s a common modern occurrence to feast on the downfall and decaying of a once great artist but with Whitney it was as if someone was wrenching into our childhoods and crushing our innocent infatuation, turning the happiness and blind admiration into something putrid and ugly.
We genuinely wanted the girl with the golden notes to triumph. She had steered us through the 80s and 90s with a steady stream of strong, fresh, note perfect ballads that shook the foundations of houses and caused many a pounding on the ceiling when the hairbrush singing sent parents demented (honorary mention – adulterer anthem Saving All My Love) Contrary to popular belief Whitney was not solely responsible for the throat screeching trend of hanging on to EVERY SINGLE NOTE. For the most part her voice rang so clear and controlled that there was no time for this affectation until the dreadnought of ballads I Will Always Love You boomed its way into the charts and the repertoire of mascara streaked misery vultures round the world. Let’s not forget Whitney was also responsible for some of the best uplifting shimmy-pop too. Who hasn’t felt a heart throbbing thrill when the 808 blasts into life at the start of I Wanna Dance With Some Body ? It all but commands you to strut to the dance floor and who could deny the awe inspiring vocals on the intense almost violent, hormonal stew of How Will I Know?
Whitney gave us all these incandescent moments and more so when she did return from a press induced exile with Million Dollar Bill it was almost a celebratory moment, we held our breath and waited for the spectacular comeback that would choke all the tacky naysayers. Sadly that moment never arrived.
Mired in a murky mess Whitney disappeared from our lives leaving behind only the crumbs of nostalgia. Her legacy is not just to be confined to Christina, Mariah, Adele, Jennifer Hudson land of the big belters it is there in the cool steel of Rihanna, the giant choruses of Gaga, the pop tongue twisters of Nicki Minaj and the power of the undeniable force of nature that is Beyonce. Let’s keep that Whitney alive, the one that once made flawless vocals seem effortless, the voice who made the best of pop dreams come true.