Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Whitney Houston – Million Dollar Bill

She’s every Whitney…


John Seroff: Here’s a little perspective for you: when Whitney Houston had her last US hit, Beyonce was a precocious, unknown teenager. If you go further back, to Whitney’s last #1 US/UK album, you’re predating the entire recording career of Mariah Carey. That’s a lot of history for a woman in her mid-forties and a lot of platinum records under the bridge. In the wake of MJ 80’s nostalgia, it’s a savvy if obvious call to rebrand Whitney for the next generation as an I’m-Still-Alive-Dammit soul matriarch in the mold of Mary J Blige. Mary’s currently simultaneously releasing a ballad and a club banger, apparently hoping to drive album sales rather than going all in on a single, and Whitney’s doing the same. If “Dollar Bill”, Houston’s dance single, sounds even older than Whitney, that’s because it is; veteran hook-jacker Swizz Beatz swipes the heart of Loleatta Halloway’s ‘We’re Getting Stronger to provide the bouncy, disco framework. That leaves Whitney to fill the emptied Brick House with her newfound cougar growl and lyrics courtesy of Alicia Keys, channeling CeCe Peniston. On paper, the whole thing sounds like a hot mess on a platter, so it’s a pleasant surprise that Houston still has the spark to fire the engine.

Michaelangelo Matos: The newly husky slur goes disco, and what do you know — it perks her up a bit. But only a bit. Be interesting to see what kind of resigned-sounding business she’d make “How Will I Know” into these days.

Al Shipley: Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz make one of the more seemingly musically mismatched celeb couples in recent memory. But if her soul sensibility and his club banger instincts can combine this gracefully, then with all apologies to Mashonda, here’s hoping they’ve got more work together ahead of them.

Kat Stevens: I am surprised to learn this is produced by Swizz Beats, who has apparently travelled back in time forty-odd years to learn the secret of rubbish funk (shut yo mouth!). Whitney on the other hand is used to such temporal/spatial adventures and manages to avoid stepping on her own grandfather.

Martin Kavka: Oh, this could have been sooooo good. But who decided to produce a ’70s disco-soul throwback song without any strings? And who decided to multitrack Whitney’s voice, which only serves to eliminate her distinctiveness? The Freemasons remix is better, but what it really needs is Tom Moulton.

Doug Robertson: Leaves as much impression as an anorexic ghost would on freshly laid cement.

Pete Baran: A fantastic seventies soul vibe bubbles through this, only occasionally punctuated by Whitney’s foghorn wail. You get the feeling that in the seventies they would have taken the wail off, but this is Whitney, and she has to do some form of vocal trickery.

Alfred Soto: Since I thought she was a horror back when she insisted that the greatest love of all was happening to her, I don’t have much invested in her comeback. But the cool and frothy bounce of this single is a total surprise, for which Whitney deserves as much credit as Swizz Beats — she could be the anonymous disco dolly whose new 12″ has set the Paradise Garage alight in 1981. Blowing out her voice has taught her some sense of proportion, and she’s earned the right to slur a certain lyric so that it sounds like “I can’t deny the way he’s licking me.”

Anthony Miccio: It’s foolish to expect Whitney Houston to use the frayed remains of her voice to craft a modern day Broken English, but tossing her a Mary J Blige post-struggle party track ignores just how hard she’s still struggling. Guess they had to get this out before the door closes on profitable recording comebacks entirely.

Mallory O’Donnell: The world, and in particular the world right now, absolutely needs more tuff boogie jams with tender and passionate bass-led parts pushing up against fierce Earl Young drum breaks. Paired with said breaks, however, the world demands a voice that Whitney Houston, sadly, may no longer be able to supply. Still, beats the fuck out of whatever Bobby’s doing right now.

Additional Scores

Matt Cibula: [7]
John M. Cunningham: [7]
Martin Skidmore: [6]

6 Responses to “Whitney Houston – Million Dollar Bill”

  1. That Freemasons mix IS real good!
    And Mallory, Bobby’s making his own comeback shortly: new Behind the Music, a mini-tour and music on the way.

  2. [i]If you go further back, to Whitney’s last #1 US/UK album, you’re predating the entire recording career of Mariah Carey.[/i]

    The Bodyguard soundtrack was a massive chart-topper after Carey’s debut, and should probably be considered a Whitney album even if they farmed out album tracks to Curtis Stigers and such.

  3. Eh, I guess so. If you want to include The Bodyguard, then her last #1 album predates the entire recording career of Timbaland.

  4. Another thumbs up here for the Freemasons mix – the extra bass bit works a charm.

  5. when whitney had her last us hit beyonce was the hot one in that group that did ‘no no no’ and ‘get on the bus’ (produced by timbaland!)(totally holds up btw).

  6. Whitney’s last Billboard #1 US Single was in ’95.
    Quit bein’ pedantic, y’all!