Whitney Houston

Arista Records, 1987


REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


The thing about Arista that’s always been so annoying is the way that it tries ever so hard to be something for everybody. The fact of the matter is, Arista has always been a stuffy record label clearly designed with your parents in mind. Their material is dreadfully yawn-inducing, especially for teenagers like myself who were sadly disappointed by ‘80s albums released by Billy Ocean and this lady, Whitney Houston.

As Whitney’s sophomore effort, Whitney is nothing more than a pale imitation of her debut record. Arista president Clive Davis wasn’t about to tamper with a successful formula, so he opted for the safer route where the material was just more of the same. Having said that, the first half of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Whitney is very solid. It’s got a nice mix of upbeat dance songs (the #1 club play hits “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and “So Emotional”) and smooth, flawless ballads (such as the overlooked gem “Just The Lonely Talking Again”).

Unfortunately, that is where the newness wears off and the excitement comes to a screeching halt. In the second half, we have to do all we can to stay awake for five – yes, that’s FIVE – more slow songs. And they all sound the same! How “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” got to #1 is beyond me, since it can barely be distinguishable from another #1 “Didn’t We Almost Have It All.” Guess we all were fooled back then. Something like that would simply not be allowed to happen today.

Even though there are two other upbeat tracks to be found on Whitney (“Love Will Save The Day” and “Love Is A Contact Sport”), they are so manic that it borders on the ridiculous. Almost as ridiculous as the cover photo of Whitney, with her fright-wig ‘do and wild-eyed “I’m about to crack” smile. Yes, this album proved to be another mega-selling blockbuster for Whitney and Arista, but it still feels like a hastily put together rush-release. Even the much ballyhooed duet with her mother Cissy, “I Know Him So Well,” is something of a mediocre after-thought.

What is so heartbreaking is how innocent this album sounds now. You gotta wonder if Whitney could pull off a full comeback with how much public scrutiny she’s been under for the last fifteen years during her drug-addled marriage to bad boy Bobby Brown. Would she be able to dust off and sing these songs again in a believable way? Poor Clive ain’t getting any younger, but he’s trying his damnedest to make sure Whitney is clean and sober enough to make the commitment to another album and tour.

As time capsules go, Whitney is a fascinating document that clearly explains just how on top the world she was back in 1987. It also serves as a stark reminder just how far she has fallen. Goes to show, it could happen to the best of us.

Rating: D+

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© 2009 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Arista Records, and is used for informational purposes only.