Whitney Houston, 1963-2012

Death of a singer blessed with a voice that was "good to vowels".

Whitney Houston was found dead yesterday in a room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. She was 48. For some years before her premature death, her life had been blighted by cocaine abuse.

It's as if, writes the New Yorker's Sasha Frere-Jones in perhaps the most thoughtful reaction to Houston's death so far, "we've watched Whitney Houston die in front of us, slowly and unmistakably, for more than a decade". Frere-Jones goes on:

Her second album, Whitney, laid out the rough scheme she followed for the rest of her career: ballads as the crossword puzzles she would complete minutes before you, and dance numbers as her firing range. Michael Jackson represented the ecstatic and the untouchable; Whitney Houston was always human, along every axis. Her triumphs felt like things you could imagine, just barely. The peak of Whitney was "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," which forms a perfect companion to [Michael] Jackson's "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," his expression of loss of self within the joy of dance. Houston's spirit never made her seem distant, so it was plausible (the pliable listener wanted to believe) that she might dance with us, though by the time she got to the chorus she might easily be anywhere, with anyone. Her voice was good to vowels, and this time around it was "o" that won the lottery.

Here is that voice being good to the vowels in "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" (1987):

 

Jonathan Derbyshire is Managing Editor of Prospect. He was formerly Culture Editor of the New Statesman.

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Why a Keeping Up with the Kardashians cartoon would make genuinely brilliant TV

The Kardashians are their own greatest satirists.

You’ve seen Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kourtney and Kim Take Kyoto, and Kylie and Kendall Klarify Kommunications Kontracts, but the latest Kardashian show might take a step away from reality. Yes, Kartoon Kardashians could be on the way. According to TMZ, an animated cartoon is the next Kardashian television property we can expect: the gossip website reports that Kris Jenner saw Harvey Weinstein’s L.A. production company earlier this month for a pitch meeting.

It’s easy to imagine the dramas the animated counterparts of the Kardashians might have: arguments over who gets the last clear plastic salad bowl? Moral dilemmas over whether or not to wear something other than Balenciaga to a high profile fashion event? Outrage over the perceived betrayals committed by their artisanal baker?

If this gives you déjà vu, it might be because of a video that went viral over a year ago made using The Sims: a blisteringly accurate parody of Keeping Up with the Kardashians that sees the three sisters have a melodramatic argument about soda.

It’s hysterical because it clings onto the characteristics of the show: scenes opening with utter banalities, sudden dramatic music coinciding with close-ups of each family member’s expressions, a bizarre number of shots of people who aren’t speaking, present tense confessionals, Kim’s ability to do an emotional 0-60, and Kourtney’s monotonous delivery.

But if the Kardashians, both as a reality TV show and celebrity figures, are ripe for ridicule, no one is more aware of it than the family themselves. They’ve shared teasing memes and posted their own self-referential jokes on their social channels, while Kim’s Kimoji app turned mocking viral pictures into self-depreciating in-jokes for her fans. And the show itself has a level of self-awareness often misinterpreted as earnestness - how else could this moment of pure cinema have made it to screen?

The Kardashians are their own greatest satirists, and they’ve perfected the art of making fun of themselves before anyone else can. So there’s a good chance that this new cartoon won’t be a million miles away from “Soda Drama”. It might even be brilliant.

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.