Where Do Broken Hearts Go

February 12, 2012 by staff 

Where Do Broken Hearts Go, With many still reeling from the loss of Etta James, another great voice in soul music went silent last night when Whitney Houston, the powerhouse balladeer behind “I Will Always Love You” was found dead in an LA hotel bathroom aged just 48.

The internet reacted with its typical mixture of heartfelt tribute, occasional snark and terrible taste. For every fan eager to remember her remarkable voice (Edgar Wright posted her isolated vocal from “How Will I Know”), there was a naysayer questioning the widespread grief (Geoff Barrow from Portishead offered his succinct review of her career “A good voice but f**ing [sic] terrible music”).

For me, it was a moment to reflect on one of the saddest spectacles I have ever witnessed. Experiencing Whitney’s 2010 gig at London’s O2 Arena, as part of her “Nothing But Love” tour, was uniquely depressing. In her efforts to recreate the songs the audience loved, all she succeeded in doing was proving how much her beautiful voice had been savaged.

She felt like a prizefighter continually being beaten back by the strength of her back catalogue. She looked awful and sounded worse – one concertgoer near me said simply, “She sounds like she needs an iron lung”. Only on those tracks which didn’t require her signature soaring vocal did some musicality remain – “It’s Not Right, But It’s OK” was salvaged by a tight rhythm section and ” I Wanna Dance (With Somebody Who Loves Me)” succeeded through sheer audience karaoke alone.

Whitney herself seemed profoundly miserable, often breaking off songs to tell long rambling anecdotes (midway through “A Song For You” she explained at length that her pet name for Michael Jackson was “Michael”). As expected, she tried for “I Will Always Love You” and when her shaky voice failed her for the umpteenth time said simply “She don’t want to come, my soprano friend”. She left the stage early and there was no call for an encore.

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