What more is there to say? Houston's funeral is in an hour (and will be televised). Until then, some music.
WHITNEY HOUSTON AND NATALIE COLE - "I SAY A LITTLE PRAYER"
Much has been written about Houston's music-industry succession--her mother was more-prolific-than-you-think gospel singer Cissy Houston, her godmother was Aretha Franklin and her cousin was Dionne Warwick. This is a Warwick track, sung by Whitney (who'd also done background vocals for her, long ago) and similarly storied Natalie Cole. It's impeccably sung, of course, but it's even more impressive as a demonstration of just how entrenched she was in the industry that made her a star--and, sadly, sent it later back to earth.
LINDA RONSTADT - "I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU"
This is the reinterpretation of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" that almost, sort of, maybe became canonical until Whitney Houston and The Bodyguard completely destroyed it, on the charts and in public memory. It's included here not to bring Houston down any pegs--the last thing that's needed--but to bring the song up. Any song that can withstand this many interpretations is probably really good, cultural context or no.
WHITNEY HOUSTON AND MARIAH CAREY - "WHEN YOU BELIEVE"
This song, though, requires cultural context, which should be obvious--it's Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. Together, they practically represent a past musical era. The names alone justify the track.
WHITNEY HOUSTON - "IT'S NOT RIGHT, BUT IT'S OK (THUNDERPUSS MIX)"
But if you need proof of Houston's continued relevance, this will do. This mix is still played on radio, even now and even before radio stations would start playing Houston en masse; the last time I heard it was the last time I listened to radio regularly, last April. It's a song that marks lyrical maturity for Houston--when before did she let herself become this indignant, had so much gravitas accumulated? The mere word "pack" has more than so many lesser singers. It's also a song that
WHITNEY HOUSTON - "I HAVE NOTHING"
But sometimes, all you need is a voice. So many people have covered this track, smeared it over with their own interpretations and copies of copies; when was the last time you really heard the original?
For tributes via mashup, click NEXT.
GIRLS ON TOP - "I WANNA DANCE WITH NUMBERS"
The trick is simple: colder track (by Kraftwerk) and warmer vocal (you know by whom.) The contrast is spectacular; this was one of the first Houston mashups, long before the Internet was paved too thick with them, and it works because there's a point, one we'll see happen again.
LMC FT. U2 - "TAKE ME TO THE CLOUDS ABOVE
We played this for our staff on Monday, right when the news had almost sunk in but possibly not completely. This is another mashup -- U2's "With or Without You" and "How Will I Know," which you'll see will be sampled a lot, that's older; between subject matter and scope, it's no less than celestial. It would've been a fitting tribute even if none was needed.
JANE DOZE - "YOUNG HEARTS WANNA BEAT ON THEIR OWN"
This mashup also serves as a fantastic tribute even when one wasn't needed--it made our top 100 list last year, purely on sound. Have you ever thought Houston's music just wasn't relevant, was somehow too old-fashioned? Then how does "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" slot so perfectly with songs that are so perfectly 2011?
ZOOASH - "DANCING IN HOUSTON"
Now let's narrow it down to one artist. Or, more specifically, two. Sure, this is a Robyn mashup, which seems too trendy, too on-point to be meaningful, but there's more here. The Robyn/Whitney Houston comparison's been written about a bit lately; both turn nerves or other feelings like that into joy by virtue of their backing tracks. Specifically, "Dancing On My Own" is sort of like the flip side of "How Will I Know," what happens when you find out the answer is "how will I know if he really loves me? Oh wait." It's also one of the most gorgeously produced dance-pop tracks of the past few years, shot through with twinkles and shimmer much like Houston's '80s equivalents.
WHITNEY HOUSTON - "HOW WILL I KNOW" (VOCALS ONLY)
But speaking of. There are three reasons the vocal-only track of "How Will I Know" became such a widespread meme so soon after Houston's passing. The first is the same reason anything becomes a meme (look at this cool ____!) and isn't relevant here. The second, though, is how starkly it renders the emotions behind the dance-pop, which sounds immaculate but sometimes gets in the way. the third, of course, is Whitney's voice. Some things are forever.