the Buzz for February 2012


Jessie Baylin — “Love is Wasted On Lovers” (from Little Spark) — Love Is Wasted On Lovers - Little Spark

A scintillating cross between the big-throated brilliance of Adele and the lighthearted, charmingly tinny whimsy of She & Him’s Zooey Deschanel, Baylin scores a quietly rollicking ringer from her terrific third album with a bittersweet ode to the ones who got — and/or almost certainly will get — away.


Whitney Houston — “One Moment in Time”
(from Whitney: The Greatest Hits) — One Moment In Time - Whitney - The Greatest Hits

Of course, I am glued this morning to CNN and its coverage of Whitney Houston’s funeral in New Jersey, which I pray is going to be a classy and tastefully handled affair. (I say pray because Piers Morgan is slated to be the lead anchor once the service heads into full swing, and he loves little more than kicking up a shitstorm of sensationalism and then swaddling it in whatever the British equivalent of aw shucks humility is.) Needless to say, Whitney’s family and friends — and, surely, her music — are in my thoughts today. (By the by, please keep my sister and nephew-to-be in your thoughts on this day: she is five months into what has become a less-than-ideal pregnancy, and she and that beautiful baby need all the great karma and energy we can send them this weekend.)



Whtiney Houston — “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength”
(from I Look to You) — I Didn't Know My Own Strength - I Look to You

“…we are focusing on Whitney Houston because of talent and tragedy. I think most of talent this morning. Many of us, when asked what talent we wish we had, we say the ability to sing. Whitney Houston had one of the great voices, but we never know how to answer the question: What is your responsibility to a gift like that? How do you cherish it, how do you nourish it, how do you give it wings to fly? Perhaps only those with the gift can answer those questions. Whitney Houston had it, and in thinking about her dream and her death, I am reminded of what Ernest Hemingway said of his friend Scott Fitzgerald in A Moveable Feast: ‘His talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly’s wings. At one time, he understood it no more than the butterfly understood it, and he did not know when it was brushed or marred. Later, he became conscious of his damaged wings, and of their construction, and he learned to think and could not fly anymore, because the love of flight was gone, and he could only remember when it had been effortless.’

— the extraordinary Charlie Rose, speaking to his own (and my, and presumably all of our) conflicted emotions on the riveting life and tragic death of the one and only Whitney Houston, on Monday’s CBS This Morning. (Fair warning: I’m indeed still in a Whitney mood — if not a full-on Whitney daze — and that’s likely to be the case for at least the next few days, so if you take issue with that, you should likely avoid the Buzz for the next week or so.)



EDITOR’S NOTE: I originally published this post on October 1, 2009, to celebrate the release of Whitney Houston’s long-awaited comeback album
I Look to You, and in light of yesterday’s tragic news, I can think of no more appropriate eulogy or tribute — particularly from and on a website that was designed for just such a purpose — than to revel one more time, with all the gratitude my soul can hold, in some truly great music. Need proof positive that the simple act of opening your mouth and belting out a magnificent melody (with perfect pitch, natch) is enough to transform, to CHANGE, the whole damn world? Keep reading.


Sherry Ann and I have this thing between us that we lovingly call “The Whitney Houston Rule,” which came to exist in the winter of 1998 when Miss Whitney became positively livid with the Recording Academy — not because they failed to nominate her soundtrack for The Preacher’s Wife for any major Grammys, but because they nominated her in what she perceived to be the wrong categories.  See, Whitney considered Wife to be the gospel album she had long dreamed of making, and while it was indeed top-heavy with selections from the God-is-love songbook, it also contained a handful of viable radio singles, enough to keep the boys at Hot 97 happy, and so the Academy deemed that the album was only eligible for the R&B categories, a decision which so enraged Whitney that she proceeded to embark on a nationwide press tour announcing her immense dissatisfaction over the news and proclaiming that she would not be showing up to that year’s ceremony to accept any awards she might win.  (The single funniest moment of this madness was when she appeared on Entertainment Tonight and slapped a deluxe diva diatribe — “I’m sick of work bein’ done and people not recognizin’ it!!” — upside poor Bob Goen’s head.  To this day, over a decade later, whenever either Sherry Ann or myself wish to give voice to something which frustrates or annoys us, we always preface it by cooing, Whitney-style, “No, Bob…”; and, to this day, the audio of Whitney’s hilarious hissyfit can be found on my iPod, where it continues to stay in pretty heavy rotation.)



Whitney Houston — “I Have Nothing”
(from The Bodyguard [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]) — I Have Nothing - The Bodyguard (Original Soundtrack Album)

Whitney Houston — “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)”
(from Whitney) — I Wanna Dance With Somebody - Whitney

So sorry for the Buzz’s unplanned hiatus over the past couple of weeks; I have been dealing with a massive home improvement project that has consumed what has felt like every waking moment of the past number of days, and am just now getting my head back above water. I fully intended to spend last night writing up my annual Grammy predictions, but that all fell apart with the tragic announcement that the incredible Whitney Houston has passed on from this plane. I’m still a bit speechless and dumbstruck by the enormity of this news — and even though Sherry Ann used to endlessly mock me for my devotion to her stellar and staggering music, she very sweetly texted me last night to make sure I was okay. All I can say is that my love for this wondrous woman’s brilliant body of work is well-documented on this very website — indeed, I’ll be moving the playlist I wrote in honor of Whitney in 2009 to celebrate the release of her most recent studio album back to the front page later this afternoon, as a tribute (however meek) to the music that has served on the frontlines of the soundtrack of my entire life — and even though I am utterly devastated by the unbearable notion that we’ve likely already heard all we ever will from her (though you can bet that, starting first thing this morning, the Arista vaults will be combed from top to bottom for any and every b-side, outtake, and demo the gal ever laid down on tape), I find more than a little comfort in the fact that her work will stand for eternity, and that the best of those tremendous tunes will still be a source of delight and debate a century from now. (“I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” in particular, turns twenty-five years old this summer, and yet remains, in its own way, as perfect and as timeless a pop song as “Billie Jean,” as “Time After Time,” as “Faith,” as “Bye, Bye, Bye” or “Babylon.” The deceptively innocent passion seeping through the crystal-clear high notes, the ebullient joy springing forth from that iconic nervous chuckle… Christ, where do broken hearts go, indeed.) (As for those aforementioned Grammys, which figure to be the most suspense-free awards ceremony in recent memory, look for it to be a coronation night for Adele, who would appear to be the shoo-in to end all shoo-ins for Album, Record, and Song of the Year. As for Best New Artist, I smell a hot race between The Band Perry and Bon Iver, and since the latter also managed to break into most of the other major categories, my guess is that they’ll nose ahead in a photo finish.)