I Will Always Love You: The Powerful Ballad That Changed Music
In fact, you could say that Houston’s vocal performance was, at times, a little too influential. Voice coaches Carrie and David Grant, who have worked with contestants on UK talent shows Pop Idol and Fame Academy, as well as artists such as Demi Lovato and the Spice Girls, say Houston’s most famous songs have become a rarely attainable gold standard. “Almost every singer we taught or auditioned for about five years wanted to master I Will Always Love You or The Greatest Love of All or I Have Nothing,” Carrie Grant told BBC Culture. “The most of [them] should have tried something a little easier – a lot of singers have been devastated trying to do Whitney!”
David Grant believes that Houston’s influence “cannot be underestimated” because “for most female singers she was the voice of her generation.” Although she rose to prominence primarily for singing pop, soul and R&B music, Grant points out that you could still hear her “gospel roots” in her performance. gospel singer Cissy Houston, a longtime backing vocalist for Aretha Houston as well as a Grammy-winning artist in her own right, Whitney honed her vocal skills in the gospel choir at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey. “Even though they had the [vocal] riffs, a lot of those who followed her couldn’t reflect that story,” Grant told BBC Culture.
Bringing R&B to the mainstream
I Will Always Love You remains Houston’s best-selling single, but she had already enjoyed seven years of worldwide success by the time she released it. Between 1985 and 1987, she scored a record seven consecutive number ones on the Billboard Hot 100 with songs such as Saving All My Love for You, I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me) and So Emotional. “Whitney was the standard bearer for a line of great R&B singers, from the 60s with Dionne Warwick and Aretha Franklin to the 70s with Gladys Knight and Patti Labelle”, explains David Grant. “But what she did was bring R&B to a bigger market than any of them had. Without Whitney, there probably wouldn’t have been a mass market for Mariah. Carey, Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé or Jennifer Hudson.”
Houston’s crossover success as an artist capable of singing pop, soul, rock, R&B, and dance music was unprecedented at the time, but not necessarily popular in all quarters. She was reportedly booed by members of the public at the 1989 Soul Train Awards, a ceremony honoring the best in soul, R&B and hip-hop music. Houston addressed that incredibly awkward moment in a 1991 interview on The Arsenio Hall Show, saying, “I think I got a lot of flak about ‘I sing too white’ or ‘I sing…white’ or something. like that.” She added defiantly, “I sing the way God intended me to sing and I use what he gave me and I use it to the best of my ability.”