One of my favorite things about Spotify is the live feed sidebar. It satisfies the part of me that is
a snoop interested and allows me to peek in at people’s musical tastes, for better or for worse. This morning, as I was struggling to find inspiration for the first of two posts today, I saw that one of my friends was listening to Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” and at that point, I knew I was in for the long haul.
Culled from the uber-successful soundtrack to The Bodyguard, I kind of feel like “I Have Nothing” is forgotten in the wake of the phenomenal success of “I Will Always Love You.” i’ve told the story a million times, but the first review I ever read of “I Will Always Love You” was in Billboard and it remarked on how it was “beautifully undersung by Houston.” When I finally heard it, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was hearing the same version the reviewer did. By contrast, I do feel like “I Have Nothing” is a little more restrained – but just a little. It still features full on Houston belting, especially after the key change at about the 3:45 mark. It wouldn’t be Houston if there weren’t belting.
During the Christmas season of 1992, The Bodyguard soundtrack was selling a million copies a week, a stark comparison to today’s market in which only one album sold a million copies all year long (but to be fair, she did it in a week.) It was a different time, that’s for sure. The soundtrack to The Bodyguard is a de facto Whitney Houston album, even though she only appears on half the songs. It wasn’t until 1998 that we got a proper Whitney Houston album, between soundtracks to The Bodyguard, Waiting To Exhale and The Preacher’s Wife (which I really do love) and by then, she’d taken a hard right turn into R&B/hip-hop and she started to lose some of her appeal.
One of the greatest thing about Houston’s songs from The Bodyguard is that they represented some of the best of R&B infused pop of the time. Being a pop fan in the early 90s was hard, what with grunge ruling the airwaves and rap making significant inroads. It would be a few years before every R&B/pop song would feature vocal acrobatics inspired by Mariah Carey, and even though she does belt like crazy, songs like “I Have Nothing” are delightfully subdued in comparison.
Additionally, the songs have aged pretty well, with the exception of “I Will Always Love You” which really only suffers from the fact that it’s been overplayed. They represent Whitney Houston at her peak – peak voice and peak popularity – and will serve as an enduring legacy for someone whose life was cut short due to addiction.