For those of you who know me (or follow my ramblings on Twitter), you will be aware that I enjoy listening to the odd bit (!) of the late, great Whitney Houston, so probably aren’t surprised by my dedicating a blog post to the sadly departed music legend. (You’re probably more surprised that I have resurrected this blog)
Since yesterday marked the two-year anniversary of her untimely passing, I thought this week an appropriate time to look back at some of the highlights from Nippy’s back catalogue, taking a moment to appreciate some of her lesser known gems.
1. ‘Take Good Care of My Heart’
Whitney Houston (1985)
Found on her eponymous and timeless début album, ‘Take Good Care of My Heart’ is one of the few tracks that didn’t see a single release. Joining Whitney for this wonderful song is Jermaine Jackson (the one who went on the notorious Celebrity Big Brother series with Jo S Club and Jade Goody), whose soft and warm voice complements Whitney’s performance perfectly. While it faced stiff competition from the likes of ‘How Will I Know’ and ‘Saving All My Love for You’, it really is a shame it never got a single release as it’s definitely one of my all-time favourite Whitney numbers, not just an album highlight.
2.’Love Is a Contact Sport’
Her imaginatively named sophomore album contains my next choice. Unlike some of her fellow divas, Whitney was always just as comfortable delivering songs that made you want to shake your derriere as she was performing power ballads that allowed her to flex her arguably peerless voice. Just like the rest of the brilliant upbeat numbers on album #2, ‘Love Is a Contact Sport’ is an irresistible song that deserves to be heard by as many people as possible.
I’m Your Baby Tonight (1990)
Hands-down my favourite album Whitney ever released, her third studio album did reasonably well commercially but, beyond ‘All the Man I Need’, often gets overlooked – a clear travesty. Moving in a more urban direction, I’m Your Baby Tonight still had the big ‘Whitney ballads’ that were her bread and butter, but she really shone on the more mature and spiky upbeat numbers where she was chastising her lovers rather just pining after them. Along with ‘My Name is Not Susan’, ‘Anymore’ was where Nippy got her sass on as she belted out: ‘If you believed in me, you wouldn’t mess around / It’s not like I don’t know you been with every girl in town’. Whitney at her finest.
4. ‘Higher Love’
I’m Your Baby Tonight: Japanese Edition (1990)
Proving (!) that I’m Your Baby Tonight is her best album by this list including two tracks from it, ‘Higher Love’ is the next gem from her back catalogue and is more hidden than most. Not only was it just an album track, it was only an album track on the Japanese release of this album. A cover of the Steve Winwood 1986 hit, it was eventually left off the main issue of the album, and to this day isn’t even available on iTunes or the like. WTAF.
Below is the live version of the song because it’s worth reminding ourselves just how effortless her vocal was during her prime, which was arguably the early-to-mid 90s.
5. ‘Dancin’ On the Smooth Edge’
Exhale (Shoop Shoop) EP (1995)
Like her friend and fellow diva, Mariah Carey, Whitney recorded plenty of fantastic ballads but my next choice is definitely one of her lesser known offerings. Found on the EP version of her single ‘Exhale (Shoop Shoop)’ lifted from the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack, ‘Dancin’ on the Smooth Edge’ is a delightfully lush and romantic number that goes on for over 6 minutes but I could happily hear it last longer. Strangely relegated to b-side status, this track at the very least deserved to be on the official soundtrack album.
6. ‘I Bow Out’
My Love is Your Love (1998)
Along with the masterpiece ‘I Learned from the Best’, ‘I Bow Out’ is the second of three contributions from Diane Warren on Nippy’s fourth album, My Love is Your Love. A classy R&B-infused ballad, ‘I Bow Out’ finds an exasperated Whitney dismissing a lover: ‘You’re just a stage I went through / Now you’re just fadin’ from view, yeah / It’s time for a change of scene’. With a neat little key change and some big notes, this is a definite highlight from the album.
7. ‘One of Those Days’
Just Whitney… (2002)
Arguably not the deepest of cuts as it was actually a single, but ‘One of Those Days’ comes from the oft forgotten fifth studio album, the surprisingly great Just Whitney…. The associated video is perfect for the mellow and happy tone of the song, which shows a smiley Whitney just chilling out and hanging with her girlfriends. It’s an ideal mid-tempo jam to soundtrack your summer days.
8. ‘For the Lovers’
I Look to You (2009)
From her final album, ‘For the Lovers’ was crying out to be a single but sadly never got the nod, perhaps because Whitney got caught up in producing her final feature film, the ill-fated Sparkle. Clearly her voice is a shadow of its former self at this point, but with some carefully written melodies and perhaps some technical jiggery-pokery, ‘For the Lovers’ once again finds Whitney on top dancefloor-filling form.
While I’m saddened by her untimely passing, at least we all have a wonderful back catalogue to listen to…not to mention some excellent gifage. Rest in peace, Whitney – we will always love you. ♥