Anorak

Anorak | Whitney Houston murdered Dolly Parton – don’t believe the hype

Whitney Houston murdered Dolly Parton – don’t believe the hype

by | 23rd, February 2012

HOW good a signer was Whitney Houston? Julian Owen looks at her rendition of Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You. Parton’s song was a farewell to a business relationship with the Porter Wagoner Show, which had given her a big break in 1967. In 1973, she said goodbye. In 1982, Dolly sang it again on the soundtrack to The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. And then Houston got hold of it. The song went big. Very big. But did Houston get it?

Before Owen’s take, a quick word to say how much I like Dolly Parton. No. I love her. She is a fantastic musician and a great performer. Her stage shows are explosions of a charm that melts cynicism. Dolly Parton has the charisma many aspire to but very, very few possess. She gets it.

Thus, her take on Dolly Parton’s I Will Always Love You. Take a moment to recite the lyric in your head. Has ever a piece of popular verse been more deserving of the epithet ‘love song’? ‘Love’ as in selfless regard for another, a heartbroken protagonist realising there’ll be more suitable partners for their beloved further down the line, and so exiting stage left to leave the way clear. It is, to say the least, a melancholic state of affairs. And like Nick Cave said inThe Secret Life of the Love Song, “Melancholy hates haste and floats in silence. It must be handled with care.” Accordingly, Parton’s reading of the song is dignified, restrained, a handwritten note quietly pushed under the back door.

By contrast, Houston alerts all local news stations of her paramour’s address, lands a gold-plated helicopter on his front lawn, stops and poses for pictures, has a quick “No, don’t talk me out of it, I have to go through with this!” session with a shrink on the driveway, blinks back tears in a to-camera piece about ‘My journey’, briefly consults her full-time mascara assistant, knocks on the door, and hands over a giant factory-written Hallmark card when it opens. Meanwhile, melancholy lies bleeding somewhere in an adjacent block, having crashed to earth when its quiet floating was cut to shreds by rotor blades. Poor bastard. It never stood a chance.

By any reasonable reckoning, in judging a great singer – as opposed to a technically great voice – we must factor in the ability to interpret a lyric. And alas, though it would be apt – and mean the world a more beautiful place – her version of I Will Always Love You is not frequently listed in the Top Ten Songs By Which To Exit Divorce Courts. Instead, with all the appropriateness of coffins taking their curtain call to Walking on Sunshine, newly married couples walk down the aisle to it every week. Somewhere, in all the showboating of vowel stretching time, the essence of the song has been so utterly lost that down means up and left means right. Which makes Whitney Houston the very definition of style over substance.

Dolly:

Whitney:



Posted: 23rd, February 2012 | In: Music Comments (4) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink