I’ve been on television a few times this week discussing the many chart and sales records held by the late Whitney Houston. There is no denying that numerical accolades help define an artist’s legacy, but so does the way their music affects people as they go about their every day lives. Here are five Whitney Houston songs that are significant in my musical journey:
5. “Million Dollar Bill”
Though I’ve been introducing music videos on television for over 10 years, up until a couple years ago I had never introduced a clip from Whitney Houston (my past VJ duties were mostly in the genre of rock). When Houston released I Look To You in 2009, her music video, “Million Dollar Bill,” was featured on the VH1 Top 20 Video Countdown. I remember giving Whitney an abundance of praise, although at the time it was popular to take jabs at her “train-wreck” lifestyle. A rep from Houston’s record label got in contact with me the following week and complimented my segment. I’m proud of the fact that I never took a cheap shot at either Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston during my time on television. When you get to their level, there is a certain amount of respect that’s earned, no matter what may unfold in their private lives.
4. “I Will Always Love You”
Though pop music was not my genre of choice in the ‘90s — especially since there was a band called Nirvana making its mark on pop-culture — I still wasn’t able to ignore the greatness of “I Will Always Love You.” As I entered college, I found it a testament to Houston’s one-of-a-kind voice, that many jocks, college-radio geeks, and hip-hop diehards proudly had The Bodyguard soundtrack on display in their dormitory CD racks.
In honor of Bob Dylan‘s career and to raise funds for Amnesty International comes Chimes Of Freedom, an album full of covers of classic Dylan songs by contemporary artists. We already love Miley Cyrus’ cover of “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” and now we’re really getting into Rise Against‘s heavy metal cover of “The Ballad Of Hollis Brown.” The metal genre fits the angry mood of the track perfectly, and the folksy guitar riffs remain true to the Dylan style. The video shows the plight of farmers and rural workers in America, with written statistics and actual sound bites from the weathered faces on the screen. It’s a call to arms — and Rise Against’s rendition really gets to the bottom of the frustrated and desperate emotions depicted in the documentary style video.
We absolutely loved Jason Mraz‘s new video for “I Won’t Give Up” and now we’re loving his live performance of the song on Letterman. Mraz played a stripped down version of the song, strumming his guitar along with one female back up singer who added dynamism to the lyrics. Emotionally charged as always, Mraz’s performance didn’t fail to convey the romantic sentiment of the song. The live performance was perfect in every way, from Mraz’s gentle vocal to the emphatic emotion he played out.
Back in the late eighties, MTV broadcast a series of concerts called Live At The Ritz, which aired on Saturday nights and were filmed at the famous concert venue in New York City’s East Village. A number of notable acts appeared on the program (The Cult and The Smithereens are two examples), but there’s only one episode of the show that is considered canon-worthy: Guns N’ Roses‘ February 1988 visit to the intimate rock club. It’s an incredible time capsule of GNR performing while at the peak of their powers, having just released the stone classic Appetite For Destruction and having not yet succumbed to the jealousy, in-fighting and substance abuse that eventually tore the group apart. The concert is especially memorable because it was filmed just before the band graduated to stadium-sized shows; Watching the videos, it’s remarkable to witness the palpable sense of electricity that existed that night between the band and their rapturous audience.
Now, I don’t need to tell you that the Guns N’ Roses of 1988 bares little resemblance to the Guns N’ Roses of 2012. But you know what? That’s perfectly okay with us, in a whole “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” sort of way. (Translation: I, too, bare little resemblance to the 1988 version of me, and I’d bet you dollars to donuts that the same is true of you.) It’s true that the only constant between the two eras is one W. Axl Rose, but when news broke late last month that he would be taking Guns N’ Roses out on a rapidfire mini-tour of club-sized venues, rock and roll fans instantly snapped up tickets for a chance to re-connect with Axl in a way that has not been possible since the Reagan era.
In a nod to the famous concert that took place there 24 years ago, New York City’s Webster Hall rechristened itself as The Ritz for last night’s Guns N’ Roses concert (for one night only). The set time was billed only as starting “after 10 p.m.” and, true to form, the band didn’t take the stage until 11:54 p.m. The crowd didn’t seem to mind in the slightest, though; it was as if everyone in the audience stepped through a time portal as they entered the venue and were instantly granted the stamina (and alcohol tolerance) they had back in ’88. The crowd was well-lubricated and excited to connect with the mysterious enigma and consummate showman that is W. Axl Rose, so no one gave a rip about either the wait OR the fact that the band’s first song was “Chinese Democracy” and not their traditional show opener, “Welcome To The Jungle” (that song came second).
Have you been watching VH1′s 100 Greatest Women In Music? If you haven’t tuned in yet, it’s not too late! And if you have, you know what we mean when we say don’t miss the last two episodes, airing tonight and tomorrow. Tonight’ episode will count down from number 40 (Nicki Minaj) to 21 (Celine Dion), and to put you in the mood we’ve got a great video playlist featuring all the lovely ladies you can expect to see on air tonight. So get listening and watching — these are some of the most talented, inspiring ladies in pop history, and you don’t want to miss out on reliving their awesome legacy.
Don’t forget to watch the100 Greatest Women In Musicspecial, brought to you by Summer’s Eve, on VH1 each night this week at 10 p.m. ET/PT. #40-21 will air tonight, Thursday, 2/16 and the final episode, #20-#1 will air on Friday, 2/17.
According to Twitter, it was all about Adele in the Tweetverse on the night of the Grammys. While the chart dominating singer took home six awards, Twitter exploded with a tirade of Adele related posts, and Twitter has reported that people sent 10,901 Tweets per second as she won Record Of The Year. That’s a lot of Tweet love. Twitter also reported that “Grammys” was mentioned in over 5 million Tweets between midday and midnight on the day of the event, and that the most Tweeted about artists behind Adele included Chris Brown, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and Whitney Houston. It’s an interesting mix of the night’s biggest winner, the most controversial, and the bereaved, which in turn have made up the biggest pop culture stories of the week.
She went on to give comment on “Stupid Hoe,” saying, “I’m pretty sure I feel the same way everybody else feels about it now. If you have to make a song called ‘Stupid Hoe’, you must be a stupid hoe.” We’re not the arbiters of what makes a good diss, but isn’t turning someone’s insult against you back on them sort of… school yard? Either these two ladies are very silly for carrying on this ridiculous verbal war, or they’re very savvy — at least for Lil’ Kim, who is making a comeback into the music scene right now, a beef with the hottest female rapper in the world is stirring up a world of publicity. Although we think a duet would have done the trick just as nicely.
We’re going to sound like a broken record saying this, but the truth is the truth and there’s no way around it — Gotye and Kimbra sound just as impeccable live as they do on record. And we should know — we got to witness the pair playing live for us in an intimate setting at our Times Square offices when they came to visit last week. While You Oughta Know artist Gotye played solo songs from his new album, Making Mirrors, and even an old favorite, “Heart’s A Mess,” we were blown away by “Somebody That I Used To Know,” featuring the dexterous vocals of Kimbra.
The pair gave us a compelling, moving experience in the intimate setting. While playing live with his band, tinkering with the menagerie of instruments surrounding him, the impresario Gotye crooned the lyrics, vocally gymnastic in the ease with which he switched from a whisper to a shout. When Kimbra joined him for her verse, emotions were high, as the two breathed life into the heartbreaking lyrics, giving real import to the occasion.
If you’ve got a sentimental heart, then Jason Mraz‘s new video for “I Won’t Give Up” is probably going to to resonate with you. Set in a semi-hazy, color saturated world, the video features dusty imagery of several different characters who seem in some way lost, or searching. Close up shots reveal a doe eyed child, the mascara stained cheeks of a beautiful young woman, the deeply creased face of a benevolent old man, the prosthetic leg of an army veteran, amongst others. Between these complex souls Mraz strums his guitar and croons the lyrics, “I won’t give up on us / even if the skies get rough / I’m giving you all my love.” The emotional climax of the video occurs as each character finds a friend — someone who loves them and who they can lean on during their hardship. It’s a poignant, hopeful video for a beautiful love song.
Unsurprisingly, Whitney Houston‘s untimely death last weekend has lead to a surge in album sales for the legendary performer, with her Greatest Hits compilation selling enough copies in just one day to steamroll the charts and land itself at number six on the Billboard 200 Album chart. Except that Billboard doesn’t acknowledge the would-be chart topper because of its age, so despite killer sales, the album wont actually appear on the chart. Selling 63,853 copies in one day, the album did make it to number one on Billboard’s Catalogue Album list (with her self-titled debut album making it to number five, also on this list), so the soaring sales haven’t gone entirely without recognition.
To put Houston’s posthumous sales in perspective, NY Daily News compares her numbers to Paul McCartney‘s Kisses On The Bottom, which sold 74,100 copies to debut at number five on the Billboard 200 chart. But McCartney had a full week to amass these numbers — Houston’s last minute sales bump was the product of one day, as Sunday night is the cutoff for Nielsen SoundScan’s stats, and we tragically lost Houston on the Saturday night. It’s expected that these big sales will just keep growing for the late Houston over the next week as fans continue to grieve and show support.