There’s nothing America loves more than a fallen star.
We love to watch stars scale the highest heights and then come crashing down to Earth spectacularly. Pop diva Whitney Houston was one of the poster children for this phenomenon. Her ascendance into the musical stratosphere in the mid-‘80s, her status as the Queen of Song in the 1990s and her seemingly instantaneous plummet to tabloid fodder in the early 2000s was like a microcosm of American pop culture fixation at the end of the 20th century. But her return in 2009 has been one of the most unexpectedly welcome and warmly received returns that we’ve ever seen — especially in recent years.
Whitney Houston’s appearance on Oprah was poignant and powerful. The singer was candid about her marriage, her drug use and how the love of her mother and faith in God saved her from what could’ve been a tragic end.
Just two and a half months ago, another superstar succumbed to his addictions and music lost his voice forever. And the specter of Michael Jackson’s passing hangs over the industry like a dark cloud. It also explains why Whitney’s return has been such a positive experience, for her and the public.
Michael was picked apart by the paparazzi and by the press over the last decade like no other. His every quirk and every questionable decision and misstep were splayed all over front pages and blogs and he quickly became a punch line.
The same thing happened to Houston. Her infamous “crack is wack” interview with Diane Sawyer, the embarrassment that was “Being Bobby Brown,” and her numerous wacky public appearances reduced her to a comical caricature. But in watching her re-emergence, like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes, it has become clear that the reality wasn’t comical at all. She was in free-fall. Thank God that someone was there to catch her. Though her albums and songs may never smash sales records again and her voice may not resonate with the same level of power and passion as before, all of us should rejoice that Whitney Houston was able to make it back to us in one piece. –todd williams