If you were around during the 80s and 90s, you would be hard-pressed to name a Whitney Houston hit that wasn’t associated with a life memory. She not only possessed a once-in-a-lifetime voice, but her songs are unforgettable and a part of the soundtrack of our lives. Whitney was exceptionally beautiful, poised and confident; part of a generation of pure talent who didn’t need flashy lights and intricate choreography to keep you transfixed. Her mezzo-soprano voice, impeccable stage presence and strong catalog of hits did all of her heavy lifting. If there was ever a gold standard for what a diva was supposed to be, Whitney Houston was it.
I wasn’t just your average fan. Long before Eminem coined the moniker, I was a Whitney “stan” and proud of it. From the time I was in middle school, I was a walking human encyclopedia of all things Whitney. I could easily rattle off her Billboard chart history and list of awards. I knew the lyrics of little-known album cuts like “Love is a Contact Sport” and “Thinking About You” just as well as classics like “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” and “I Will Always Love You.” It was nothing for me to throw in random Whitney-isms while singing along to other people’s songs, complete with her signature register changes, lightning-fast runs and “My Lord’s.” I even portrayed her on the hit web-series Got 2B Real. Musically speaking, she was and continues to be my everything. In this contest, there is no second-place prize.
So, the devastation I felt on the night she passed was undeniable and inescapable. Looking at the scrolling news tickers on the cable news networks, I couldn’t accept the finality of the end date affixed to the timeline of her incredible life. The fact that the words “Whitney Houston” and “dead” appeared side-by-side seemed like a cruel joke, especially as she had just wrapped production on the film Sparkle and was gearing up for a major comeback.
Her death absolutely gutted me. A full year later, it still hurts. In a 1988 hit, she asked us a hauntingly enigmatic question: Where do broken hearts go? Just about every day since February 11, 2012, I’ve wished like hell that I had the answer. But I am certain of a few things: She is missed. She is loved. And she will never be forgotten as one of the greatest singers the world has ever known.
May she rest in peace.