Saturday, February 11, 2012

Whitney Houston: When The Night Falls

"When the night falls, the loneliness calls"
Poor Whitney Houston. Unlike her song, she actually did have it all before she threw it away. Regardless of her buffoonery in recent years, or the fact that she paved the way for banshees like Celine Dion and Michael Bolton, Whitney had talent. And exuberance, which is what I responded to when I was too drunk to fuck or care about what the deejay was playing. Yeah, I wanted to dance with somebody...feel that 1987.

When the world today turned from Syrian massacres and yahoo Republicans to all things Whitney, I was reminded of WB Yeats' poem, "The Stolen Child":
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand
Not his best by a long shot, but one of his most popular. Such is the way of the world. Popularity, as Boy George knew, not only breeds contempt; it also accelerates the dissemination of schmaltz. The world may not be any "more full of weeping" than it is full of joy, but a maudlin tear sure makes the news cycle spin. We in that amorphous bubble called "the public," or more aptly, "the audience," lap it up. Of course, it's always better when some genuine despair is thrown in like a crack habit or a televised meltdown.

(Whitney Houston in 2001 @ Michael Jackson's 30th Anniversary Concert)
Those who've had loved ones tangled up in addiction's amphetamine embrace know the futility of convincing them of their disease. It's like watching a train wreck in slow motion - the death drive is overwhelming. If that's what happened to Whitney Houston, it's sad, but not surprising. At least the Grammy Awards are tomorrow - the full parade of celebrity grief will be on display and the audience will be faithfully tuned in, anticipating a glitzy, Cirque du Soleil-style catharsis.

We live in an age of cheap sentiment and Whitney Houston occupied that sweet spot where art collides with decor and becomes schmaltz. Her aesthetic was the embodiment of sentimentality and melodrama, as deep as a Hallmark-card kiss, as sweet as a saccharine-coated melody. She's forever linked in my mind with trips to the mall or the muzak that accompanies elevators to vague, pastel-stained offices containing nothing more than isolated cubicles of despair. There lingers her song. May she rest in peace.

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