Earlier this evening, my wife and I were talking about the recent death of Whitney Houston (I’m still not over it, obviously), and we got to talking about artist remakes of her lengthy and legendary discography.
“If you could produce a tribute album,” I asked her, “Who would you have on it, and what songs would they be singing?”
“That’s a tough one,” she replied. “Who would you choose?”
And that’s from where this list was born. My list consists of artists who I felt would breathe new life into Whitney’s material, and not necessarily out-diva the diva, because how does one top “The Voice”? (This ain’t American Idol, although Quentin Tarantino’s telling Jennifer Hudson in Season 3, when the latter sang I Have Nothing, that “Hudson takes on Houston and wins,” wasn’t too far off the mark, and later tonight, J-Hud will sing a tribute to the late diva alongside fellow R&B superstar Chaka Khan. I tried to pick material from each of Whit’s albums. What about you? Who would you put in?
Jason Mraz, I’m Your Baby Tonight. Jason Mraz is one of the most talented vocalists on the planet, and he has made some spectacular remakes, including his own tribute to Lionel Richie with All Night Long and melt-your-heart versions of Rainbow Connection and Summer Breeze. I think he could do an amazing acoustic-guitar driven version of Houston’s classic 1990 hit I’m Your Baby Tonight.
Lady Gaga, Queen of the Night. Lady Gaga and Queen of the Night are just begging to be thrown together and electronica-d the heck out of each other. This The Bodyguard single – didn’t even chart on the Hot 100, but topped the dance chart, and I know that Lady Gaga, whose image has overshadowed the fact that the girl can actually sing!, would pull this off and then some.
Boyz II Men, Exhale (Shoop Shoop). I don’t care what y’all say, Shawn, Wanya and Nathan are three of the most amazing singers out there, and a career that spans more than two decades is nothing to be sniffed at. Having said that, I’ve always said that Exhale, Whitney’s first-ever song to debut at #1 and a track from her Waiting to Exhale film, would sound amazing when done in three-part harmonies. I trust BIIM would do the job well.
Rihanna, How Will I Know. The way I feel about Rihanna and How Will I Know, a #1 from 1985, is the same way I feel about Lady Gaga and Queen of the Night. There’s something about Rihanna’s current style that I feel would be really interesting with this track.
Katy Perry, I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me). Listening to Whitney’s 1987 #1 hit, I was concerned that it would sound a wee bit dated. But if there’s anyone who can breathe new life into a classic 80s song, it would be Katy Perry, who isn’t afraid to touch anything, be it 80s nostalgia in T.G.I.F. or girls who she’s kissed (and liked it).
Update (02/16/2012): Check it out! Katy did in fact remake Whitney’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)! I had no idea! And it sounds great! Not bad, Ganns!
Mandisa, I Believe in You and Me. American Idol Season Five vocalist and now Contemporary Christian star Mandisa may not be so well-known in the pop world, but this very talented, very accessible vocalist actually place a Whitney song on her own discography, with I’m Every Woman landing on Season Five’s compilation album. I think she would raise the roof with this track from The Preacher’s Wife, a #4 hit for Whitney in 1996.
Carrie Underwood, It’s Not Right But It’s Okay. I searched Whit’s entire discography for a song that I felt might sound good in a country market, and was hard-pressed to find any. Then I thought about It’s Not Right But It’s Okay, Whitney’s #4 smash from 1999, the message of which kinda reminded me of American Idol Season 4 winner and now country superstar Carrie Underwood’s own musical travails into cheating territory, Before He Cheats and Cowboy Casanova, and I think this diva would do swimmingly.
Jennifer Lopez, Whatchulookinat. J-Lo has had her own fair share of tabloid headlines, so she’ll be able to sink her teeth well into Whatchulookinat, the ill-fated carrier single of 2002’s Just Whitney. J-Lo has worked with the producer of that track, Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins III – If You Had My Love was a massive hit in 1999 – but I imagine I’d like to see her put a special Latin flavor into this #96 hit.
David Guetta featuring Lani Misalucha, Million Dollar Bill. The bassline of Million Dollar Bill, Whitney’s last Hot 100 entry, lifted from her I Look To You CD, was irresistible to me, but apparently not America, who sent this track all the way to… #100. GAH. French DJ and producer David Guetta has done some amazing work, though, and I think he could make something really magical out of Million Dollar Bill, especially when paired with Filipino ingenue Lani Misalucha, a vocal dead-ringer for Whitney and one of the international musical community’s most respected but under-appreciated vocalists.
Shanice, Debelah Morgan and Rhona Bennett, Heartbreak Hotel. Who are Shanice, Debelah, and Rhona? Simply put, three of the most talented, under-appreciated R&B vocalists in recent pop history. Houston (and fellow R&B stars Faith Evans and Kelly Price), who had more talent in their little finger than 90% of the “divas” out today), sang Heartbreak Hotel with the little nuances that set artists apart, and I feel that Shanice, Debelah, and Rhona are three incredible singers who never got their just dues but can sing – no, SANG! – a song along with the best of them.
So this is my list! Who would be in yours, and what would they be singing?