Arista Records ℗©1985
Location of purchase: Backside Music and Clothing, Burbank, Calif.
Unlike her life in the public eye, Whitney Houston’s self-titled, debut album is one classy piece of work. With today’s pop artists using a mind-boggling amount of effects on their voices and cut-and-paste beatmaking, it is refreshing to listen to an album that is graceful and sincere. Listening to Houston at a pristine chapter of her life makes it evident how much influence she has had on songstresses like Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera. Even before developing into a much stronger force in the ’90s, Houston’s voice on her debut is unquestionably staggering.
The lyrical content does not stray from the topic of love nor does it strikingly differ from other pop artists of the decade, but as Houston adds her soulful chops the songs become more of substance. From the ballad “Saving All My Love for You” to the more funky “Thinking About You,” she moves smoothly from verse to chorus to verse, building up strongly to the bridge in each song. She makes a habit of showing off her long-sustained notes as each song takes an absorbing path. In “Thinking About You,” Houston’s voice spikes with audacity, which makes her sound like a badass. She has the confident seductive vibe that can also be seen in Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul. Furthermore on “Someone For Me,” Houston sings with the spunk of Tina Turner.
Yet, nothing is as good as “How Will I Know.” As the opening track of side two, Houston shows no signs of holding back. She belts out her emotions in such a fervent manner, but for her it sounds natural. The lustrous keys create an uplifting mood, making it hard to not sing along.
It is common for pop music to express exaggerated emotions, and sometimes the result is rousing like in “How Will I Know,” but other times the songs get too sappy. The album suffers from the latter on “Nobody Loves Me Like You Do” and “All At Once.” Quiet piano and string arrangements magnify the pain of heartache, but still contain a touch of contrasting hope. For being ballads, the songs are not horrible, but the lack of tension makes them sound like they were written for a soundtrack of a Disney movie. “Nobody Loves Me Like You Do,” which is a duet with Jermaine Jackson, encompasses a scene where a prince and a princess proclaim their love for each other. It sounds magical, but makes the album loose some of its debonair vigor.
Nonetheless, Houston’s debut is an excellent example of what pop music should be. Modern pop stars should focus less on having the flashiest pyrotechnics and stick the natural fire that comes with having a voice like Houston’s.
Find the full track listing and a sample track after the jump.
- You Give Good Love
- Thinking About You
- Someone for Me
(Raymond Jones, Freddie Washington)
- Saving All My Love for You
(Michael Masser, Gerry Goffin)
- Nobody Loves Me Like You Do (Duet with Jermaine Jackson)
(James P. Dunne, Pamela Phillips)
- How Will I Know
(George Merrill, Shannon Rubicam)
- All at Once
(Jeffrey Osborne, Michael Masser)
- Take Good Care of My Heart (Duet with Jermaine Jackson)
(Petter McCann, Steve Dorff)
- Greatest Love of All
(Michael Masser, Linda Creed)
- Hold Me (Duet with Teddy Pendergrass)
(Michael Masser, Linda Creed)