2013 is knocking on our front door like a late Christmas caroller who got drunk on eggnog and lost track of time. Before we welcome the new year, though, these final days are ideal for reflection on all of the events of 2012, specifically the loss of Whitney Houston. However, instead of mourning, we’ll celebrate her life by ranking her 10 best live performances!
Before being ravaged by the longterm effects drug abuse, smoking and natural ageing, Houston’s golden instrument stood as a monument of Pop music. There was no question that the diva raised the bar to near unreachable heights for every female singer who followed in her footsteps, thanks to the melodrama of her performances and a thunderous voice that shook audiences across the globe.
Of course, ranking Houston’s best showings seems impossible but I decided long ago never to walk in any blogger’s shadow so I made it happen. After sifting through hours of footage of sweating, towel-waving, lip-quivering and her mean side glances, my shortlist of Houston’s 10 best performances is now complete!
So, plug in those new headphones you got for Christmas or turn up the volume on your speakers, and watch Houston’s best live performances below:
10. “Bridge Over Troubled Water (with CeCe Winans)”
Regardless of how successful she became as a Pop music singer, Houston never lost touch of her Gospel roots. She never hesitated to boast to fans about her love of the Lord and often shared the stage with several of her longtime friends, such as CeCe Winans.
Houston and Winans were true sisters in song. In fact, the tones of their voices were astonishingly similar and their emotional Vh1 performance of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” perfectly exemplified their bond.
9. “The Star Spangled Banner”
During Houston’s performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the 1991 Super Bowl, viewers instantly realised that they were witnessing a historic moment. Despite the rendition being lip-synced, hearing Houston’s voice boom from the speakers as jets flew overhead and the US national flag graced the sky at the tail end of the Cold War was enough to move even the greatest cynic to applause.
Still, this list is about live performances, so Houston’s equally powerful rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Welcome Home Heroes concert should suffice. Some clear, powerful vocals and perfect pitch is good enough to make the cut, right?
Clive Davis was the guiding force behind Houston’s career and he made it his life’s mission to spread the word about the woman he called “the greatest singer in the world.” So, just imagine his excitement when he introduced us to the young Houston for the first time on The Merv Griffin Show in 1983.
Standing with the poise of an artist twice her age, Houston dazzled her future fans with a rendition of “Home”. Just imagine how many of Diana Ross’ servants were battered with diamond-studded microphones when she saw a much younger diva, who had both the looks and the talent, to make her version of the classic tune seem – dare I say it – mediocre.
7. “One Moment in Time”
Before Mariah Carey and Celine Dion battled on the charts for Barbra Streisand’s former schmaltz queen title, Houston was the indisputable champion of cheese. Yet, no matter how corny the lyrics, her enormous instrument made us enjoy the songs.
For instance, Houston cheered athletes to victory with “One Moment in Time” and made us all believe we could fly when she belted it live at the 1989 Grammy Awards. Forget about backup dancers and fancy light shows because Houston’s voice didn’t need the support of such gimmicks.
6. “The Greatest Love of All”
“The Greatest Love of All” was first recorded by George Benson in 1977 but true to form, Houston made it an even bigger hit for herself. Her version of the tune undoubtedly inspired Carey’s “Hero” and every self-help anthem by R. Kelly,
Diane Warren Beyonce and Alicia Keys that followed.
Houston performed “The Greatest Love of All” at the 15th Arista Records anniversary special and it was in that moment that she claimed the title of the industry’s leading singer. Kelly Rowland once commented that this performance influenced her career but I’m still trying to figure out exactly what she learned.
5. “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”
Houston wasn’t just a balladeer; she was also a brilliant uptempo singer. Everybody enjoyed her 1980s dance hit “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and watching her rock the crowd at the Arista anniversary show made us love it even more. Few people can improve on their studio recordings and the young Houston was certainly in that league.
4. “I Will Always Love You”
“I Will Always Love You” was simple Country song by Dolly Parton but when Houston laid her vocals on the David Foster-rearranged track, it was elevated to legend status. Hundreds of karaoke singers around the globe have tried to imitate her vocal stylings but the dramatic key changes and tightly knit runs made that impossible.
Every time Houston performed “I Will Always Love You”, she made subtle changes to the arrangement and this was typified by her appearance at the 1994 World Music Awards. Just scan the crowd to see Kenny G and Prince getting lost in her voice, which kept them from falling asleep during the long show.
3. “Lover Man”/”All the Man that I Need”
My favourite performance by Houston was at the 1991 Billboard Music Awards where she sang a medley of “Lover Man” and “All the Man that I Need”. She was bobbing her neck and swishing her hair as she roared over the crowd. Additionally, the fact that she looked like a giant disco ball and my then 3-year old self loved shiny objects, didn’t hurt.
2. “I am Changing”
Now this is a performance that only true Houston fans would know! “I am Changing” was famously sung by her good friend Jennifer Holiday in the Dreamgirls play but she couldn’t resist singing her own version during her 1986 The Greatest Love World Tour in California.
Demonstrating her ability to keep people hooked on her every note, Houston extended “I am Changing” into an overdramatic affair of high belting and ad-libs. Pay close attention to the song and you will actually hear some of the highest notes that she ever produced live!
1. “I Loves You, Porgy”/”And I Am Telling You”/”I Have Nothing”
We have finally arrived to the top of the our list and it’s truly a performance deserving of the pole position. Houston was the biggest Pop star on the planet in 1994 and with a sea of other singers aiming for her spot, she issued a reminder of her greatness with a medley of “I Loves You, Porgy”, “And I Am Telling You” and “I Have Nothing” at the American Music Awards.
For almost 10 minutes, Houston cooed and belted without missing a beat. The level of stamina that her voice had was incredible and there are less than 10 singers in the history books with the ability to sing like that. I hope you enjoyed the show!
What other Houston performance should have been added to the list? Which of those listed above was the best? Share your opinions and take part in our poll below!