Wednesday, September 23, 2009

She sounds like she lived this

I have been listening to Whitney Houston's new CD, I Look to You. She's back and I'm glad.

Her voice is deeper than I remembered, but still lush and gorgeous. She doesn't hold notes forever and ever like she did on songs like "I-ee-I-ee-I Will Always Love You," but that's OK because that showboating annoyed me. Her performances here seem more real and tempered, even enhanced, by what she's been through. For example, here are the lyrics to one of my favorite songs on the CD, "Nothin' But Love:"

I could hold on to pain but that ain't what my life's about
I ain't blaming nobody if I ain't got my stuff worked out
I got love for my self, ain't gonna regret anything I've done

I just wanna sing my song, ain't got nothin but love

Or how about "I Didn't Know My Own Strength:"

I crashed down, and I tumbled
But I did not crumble

I got through all the pain
I didn’t know my own strength
Survived my darkest hour

My faith kept me alive

I picked myself back up
Hold my head up high

I was not built to break

I didn’t know my own strength

I recall an interview with Margaret Mitchell in which she said Gone with the Wind is really about who survives and who doesn't. It's an interesting question: who is "built to break" and who isn't? Ms. Mitchell believed that Ashley was not a survivor, nor Scarlett's father, Gerald. Yet even though their styles were very different, Scarlett, Rhett and Melanie all had enough intestinal fortitude to make it no matter what. (After all, it wasn't war or hunger or deprivation that brought Melanie down, it was that her body just quit on her.)

When I was in high school, I was obsessed with Marilyn Monroe. To me, she seemed the perfect feminist cautionary tale -- "Look what happens when you live for men!" I still admire her beauty and talent, but I've outgrown her when it comes to heroines. The ladies I look up to now are the ones who weren't "built to break."

That's why I'm enjoying this CD so much. Whitney sounds like she's been to hell but she's learned from it and ain't going back.


  1. Substance always wins over flash in the long run.

  2. I saw parts of her interview on Oprah and a few other interviews where she performed. She sounds like she's lived a lot.