Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Whitney Houston - complexity of black and white

Dear Christian brothers and sisters. First let me explain the choice of my title. In my opinion it simply describes her supposed personality and her stormy life. About her being a complexity of black and white - her father was a white American while her mother Cissy was African American and she was critized for "not being black enough". Also looking back at her life, she had her black (dark) and white (light) sides also from spiritual ankle: She began as an innocent young woman from a gospel choir and though she was claimed to be God-fearing until the last day of her life, she was infamously taken by drug addiction and alcoholism.
I also think that for once it would be refreshing to concentrate only on her music, to enjoy it and write about it, because media is currently full of enough negative stories and rumours about her and we should also try to see the goodness in her which indeed is her music. I also think that we should wait until her mother Cissy Houston will pen and publish an appropriate biography about her daughter telling no more or less than the truth and this has been confirmed to happen. Cissy Houston is being quoted by the New York Times as saying:" I want to stop the lies, it's going to be the bad. It's going to be the good." So this time I'll entirely leave her personal life and even details of her career ignored and just offer you a review of The Preacher's Wife (1996) soundtrack, her most famous gospel album and the highest-selling one in the world.

Before I continue I have a message to my readers: I haven't been around my blog for long time but now I've found lots of inspiration and reasons to keep this up. Also since that I haven't been around for so long time I've missed some comments on my views that have been mostly positive and I appreciate it, but today I also came to realize that there have been some misunderstandings and negative response that I'd like to correct. Please do read some of my previous, older blog posts placed under label "tolerance" so you realize that I'm not here to judge and being narrow-minded. The ones that I've written yet are mainly about cultural and racial tolerance but now there seems to be a necessity to me to express my tolerance more clearly towards different worldviews and religions.
To begin with, my boyfriend has no religion and neither has one of my best friends and I respect it. Christianity is about tolerance and forgiveness as I've expressed before. After all we can't know for sure whether the Jewish, the Christians or Muslims or atheists are right. These worldviews are just our opinions and choices that feel good for us. We shouldn't go to faith wars or other judgements because it doesn't change anything, it's useless. Let's allow happiness for each other. Also, if you read my very first blog post you'll see that I've actually been an atheist for the most of my current life and received Jesus only in 2007 so I do understand also non-believers, I do remember my past :).
Also now that I'm writing about someone as complex as Whitney I truly want to avoid misunderstandings! Yes, the Bible obviously judges drugs and alcoholism but it isn't mortal people's business to judge Whitney, there's no use for that, human is powerless over universe's might. Only God can do that whether He chooses, but Christianity is a religion of forgiveness and I frankly believe that Whitney might be forgiven as well as she likely had faith. After all in Whitney it's only music that should matter for us and we should enjoy it and leave the speculation over her personal life. I'm also glad to admit that though I'm a believer myself I'm far from perfect and I truly am a sinner . I'm sober but from Christianity's ankle I've commited sin in other ways and I should watch my tongue :). Jealousy is my second biggest sin but I'm working so hard on my weaknesses and dreams to overcome this sin in order to be happy with myself. I hope that my long explanation satisfies the ones who had wrong perceptions.
I will be also very surprised if after this post I get any hate-mail because in my opinion I even talk(ed) beautifully and respectfully about Houstons and if I manage to attract any new readers, they should check out some of my very first blog posts because I've clearly said that I see spreading tolerance as one of the missions of this blog. I'm also a member of the Red Cross movement so judgement is out of my values. There's got to be moral in order to the world to stay in order, but Christian moral is moral of humanity. Also if we find something against our moral and values instead of judging we should look into our own imperfection and most importantly make sure that we won't do the same acts that we're judging about. Let others do whatever they want as long as it's not against the law (and now I'm talking about mortal people's laws written by governments). Does this make any sense to you? I hope that after this I can talk freely in my next posts without any need of explaining my views anymore. Just don't make any hasty conclusions anymore, please! I'd like to concentrate on my subjects free from any need to convince anyone because this wasn't the original idea behind my blog: The original idea was just to express myself and talk about everything that I like, that's all. To soften a little, constructive criticism is of course welcome regarding my writing but if there will be any more judgement which is a whole different thing, I'll delete the opportunity to comment because I really don't want to correct anybody's hasty conclusions anymore. It takes so much space from my actual issues and I really want to keep the handling of my issues as high quality as until now. The quality of my work mustn't decrease.     

The Preacher's Wife Original Soundtrack Album (1996)

Also now that I'm moving on to my actual subject, the review, there's one more misunderstanding that I'd like to correct and that I found from the comments. I have never said in any way in any of my few album reviews until now that spiritual or gospel music would be made by God or come straight from God. No, NO, no. Gospel and spiritual music is made by mortal very talented people who just express their views and experiences on God and spirituality through their creative work and those views could be as well wrong or right.Also when I say that I can relate to the message that an artist wants to forward and I say that I find comfort in it, those artists just by chance have similar experiences and views as I have. As you can see, here I am explaining this with the same principle as I did on the worldviews above. Nobody knows the secret behind universe and the answer behind life and being. It feels really stupid and hilarious that I even have to correct someone on this subject. One of my best friends is an atheist as I said and she checks this blog out sometimes but she has never said anything this hilarious about me that I'd interpret faith in this extreme, crazy way. I don't even think that it has ever crossed her mind that I'd think in this way.
For secular readers who maybe by accident stop by this blog, I can also tell that my taste of music and movies is a lot wider than my blog lets you understand. To be honest, my mp3 contains currently more secular music than gospel so I don't differ from you as much as you might think. Actually, you can find a blog post from here from the year 2010 telling about Shakira whose hips a strict believer would find satanic, but I have more her albums than anybody else's. I also admire Ziggy Marley and many other mainstream or secular artists though I'm currently mostly into soul and R&B (I even read Rolling Stone!). 
You have to realize that I decided to establish a spiritual blog so I only publish here posts that suit to that concept but my own personality is a lot wider than this concept. So you see here just a part of me. There are many kind of Christians, many differents churches and lifestyles but you'll see that mine is one of the most laid-back ones. I also have to remind any new reader or any atheist stopping by that I see mainly Christians, especially Christian women as the target group of my blog, but as you can see from the list of my followers, there are also men reading this and possibly someone representing Jews and Muslims as well.  I'm very glad about the variety of members coming from different backgrounds because it shows that I've succeeded in my mission in some level but the same time my blog hasn't been meant to attract atheists in any way, at least not if the purpose of stopping by here is judgement.   

I feel like taking a deep breath after all this explaining, it feels so vain... Now I'll finally move on to music. Whitney recorded and co-produced with Mervyn Warren this album including six gospel songs with Georgia Mass Choir that were recorded at the Great Star Rising Baptist Church in Atlanta. One of these sings songs was "I Love The Lord" that begins with sweet, rather silent piano notes and Whitney begins with silent, melismatic notes, little by little lifting her smooth voice, casting some high runs, continuing with melismatic low notes until the high notes return along with the orchestra and Georgia Mass Choir joining in. The whole arrangement is really smooth and peaceful. The song ends with strings and orchestra section with a typical impression of soundtrack music.

So Whitney sang in this album also few songs without Georgia Mass Choir or any other collaboration joining in but I rather wouldn't comment on each song of this album because the songs after all sound pretty similar together and to my ears this is strongly a ballad album filled with quite many slow songs that actually make the whole entity pretty lame and boring but it doesn't mean that this album would be entirely worse or that I wouldn't appreciate "The Voice". Even the ones recorded with Georgia Mass Choir sound pretty similar and the main sound of this album is really soft and you maybe even could fall asleep with it. The collaborations with other artists spice up this album giving it at times those few welcome upbeat songs that may appeal more to younger listeners. Those few upbeat songs whether with or without collaborations barely manage to save the spirit of the album from not being as boring as it could be.
"My Heart Is Calling" is a smooth R&B ballad sung by Whitney by herself and it's one of my favourites with soft, sleepy, humming background vocals. This is one of the slow songs but I'd name this anyway as one of the refreshing pieces that may appeal to younger listeners of my age as well. I think the song may sound even a little bit retro, a little bit 80s but it's very comfortable.

Whitney duetted in the album also with Shirley Caesar in the song "He's All Over Me". This album became the highest selling gospel album in the world by selling six million copies worldwide. Its two singles were "I Believe In You And Me" and "Step By Step" which was originally written by Annie Lennox."Step by Step" is an uplifting, upbeat song which begins with introduction that I'd describe as eternal, giving me an imagination of heaven or light blue summer sky. The song is a disco beat in my opinion giving you courage to believe in your dreams and keep fighting for them though there might be tribulations in the way. A very sunny and positive song, one of the most dear ones for me in the album. "I Believe In You And Me" was a luxurious ballad with full of hope and tender feelings towards your sweetheart. The trumpet brings the luxurious spirit to the song that I mentioned. Whitney sings some parts of it a cappella and her voice is simply amazing in the top moment of the song, "I believe in miracles.../".

Her mother Cissy Houston who has been known as a gospel singer had also her star moment in the album as she joined Hezekiah Walker And The Love Fellowship Crusade Choir in the song "The Lord Is My Shepherd". When I hear this song beginning it feels to me like a traditional hymn and I'm really not a hymn person but prefer more contemporary takes on gospel music. It begins with the choir singing silently and then Cissy Houston continues with her voice that at first seems to bear resemblance to that of Whitney's but then I'd actually compare it to Mahalia Jackson's. But when I listen to the song further it makes me take all my previous words back and I see it as a deeper, more mature version of Whitney's, her casting rather high notes. And actually when I listened to the song further and further, the sound world reminds in some funny way about The Sound Of Music. This song is my least favourites in the album because of too many high voices at once.

I think the smoothest, most R&B oriented song in the album is the massive collaboration "Somebody Bigger Than You And I" with Bobby Brown, Faith Evans, Monica, Johnny Gill and Ralph Tresvant. It begins with Bobby Brown rapping and continues with Whitney's beautiful, expressive, bright, at times high vocals. Then Bobby Brown continues singing with his voice that obviously divides opinions. In my opinion his voice is pretty good and soulful, a pretty usual sounding male voice in soul music, but I'd describe it also chaste, rough and maybe even breaking or broken... Well, drugs obviously influenced his voice as well but this is my one last comment that I grant for Bobby Brown. I honestly don't know if it's Johnny Gill or Ralph Tresvant that continues after Brown's sung part but I have to say the difference is huge: Would it be Tresvant or Gill, he's able to sing some really high notes though he has this low baritone of a male gospel singer. Soon after that Faith Evans continues with her unique, colourful vocals... shade of her voices is changing constantly. Then Monica continues the rest of the verse with her velvety, high vocals as I like to describe them. Her voice is also deep and in my opinion it has clearly darker shade than in Whitney's voice, there's a clear contrast which is obvious. Then once again there's a male voice and I can only guess whether it's Tresvant or Gill as I don't know their music (I'd be glad to hear in the comments below who is who)... In my opinion his voice sounds rather feminine in the end of the verse and otherwise I'd describe it maybe a little bit nasal and bouncy. His voice is really interesting because I can hear also roughness in his runs. Then the cycle of voices starts spinning around and I find it useless describing the voices of the collaborators again as I already did. Anyway, the female voices including Whitney sing the backing vocals through the song. The lyrics of this song make me see this as more or less a children's song. "Who Would Imagine A King" featuring The Nativity Choir is clearly a children's ballad and Whitney sang it to children in the movie's scene.

GRADE: 7, 5 out of 10 because this album is after all good and it has obvious historical value but always when reviewing some piece of work we have to try to see its position among other ones with similar concept and now I have to say that regardless the acclaim and mostly positive feedback this album has received, it doesn't manage to bring out very much new approach or unique ideas for gospel music. The concept of this album seems to be somewhere between Mary Mary's Thankful and Aretha Franklin's One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism so it brings out only things that we've already seen. Also, though Whitney co-produced this album that's not enough creative control over her work from my ankle to grand her an 8 or 9.          


  1. I read this post with interest. As bloggers, whatever you write will be brilliant to some and not so brilliant to others. Some posts will bring you good comments and others may not. There are also people out there who have one intention, and that is to 'troll' others for no apparent reason. They will in no doubt hate whatever you do. You have choices as to whether you wish to respond or whether you wish to delete or even switch to 'comment moderation'.

    I say, be honest with yourself and do the best that you can and don't allow anyone to put you off, otherwise you may end up trying to please so many different people that you are not happy with what you are doing.

    If someone doesn't like your posts then they don't have to continue reading, at a flick of a button they are free to leave. On the other hand, even if they write in disagreement, it doesn't mean they hate you, it only means they just don't agree with that specific point.

    Sister Mary, continue the good work.

    1. Umm... the specific person I'm talking about in this post clearly asked me to turn an atheist and "behave as a proper Scandinavian." You say this isn't hatred?

  2. Ah, let me clarify the point I was making when I stated "even if they write in disagreement, it doesn't mean they hate you". I was referring to people who are not in agreement with points you write in a post, or those who oppose your views.

    Yes, it is a different matter when someone begins to make 'personal' attacks against you, which has nothing to do with your topic.

    1. Thank you :). My point really was in this post crossing the line between this acceptable disagreement that you also stated and the one of "personal" attacks against you. I meant you can disagree but you can disagree respectfully without going offensive and if you go offensive you'd better just leave my forum and read some other blog planned for your own target group, in this case one that suits better for atheists :).

  3. good posting about Whitney Houston - complexity of black and white