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.

The Jump/Channel 4
Show Hide image

The most dangerous show on TV: is The Jump becoming a celebrity Hunger Games?

Will it take a life-threatening injury, or worse, before the madness ends?!

First they came for former EastEnders actor Louis Lytton. Then, they came for former EastEnders actor Sid Owen. Then, they came for former Holby City actor Tina Hobley. But now, the third season of Channel 4’s The Jump has moved on from retired soap stars to claim a new set of victims: Britain’s top athletes, including Rebecca Adlington, Beth Tweddle and Linford Christie.

The winter sports reality show The Jump takes your average collection of D-list celebrities, with a few sports personalities mixed in for good measure, and asks them to compete in a series of alpine challenges – skeleton, bobsleigh, snowboarding and, of course, ski jumping – while Davina McCall says things like, “Look at that jump. Just look at it. Are you nervous?”

It sounds fairly mild, but Sir Steve Redgrave, Ola Jordan, Sally Bercow and Melinda Messenger have all withdrawn from the programme after injuries in the past.

Riskier than I’m a Celebrity, Splash! and Dancing on Ice mixed together, the third season of The Jump is fast turning into a dystopian celebrity harm spectacle, a relentless conveyor belt of head injuries and fractured bones.

So far, seven out of the competition’s 12 contestants have sustained injuries. First, Lytton tore a ligament in her thumb, before being rushed to hospital after a training incident at the end of last month. Then, Owen fell on his leg during the first episode having previously complained of “a bad crash during training” for the skeleton.

Adlington (who openly wept with fear when she first gazed upon the titular ski jump, described as being the “height of three double decker buses”) was hospitalised and withdrew from the show after a televised fall left her with a dislocated shoulder: she said the pain was “worse than childbirth”. Hobley soon followed with a dislocated elbow.

Tweddle suffered a particularly bad accident during rehearsals, and now remains in hospital after having her spine fused together, which involved having a piece of bone taken from her hip. On Monday, Christie became the fourth contestant to be hospitalised in the space of two weeks, pulling his hamstring. As of today, Made in Chelsea cast member Mark Francis is the fourth contestant to withdraw, after fracturing his ankle.

In response to criticisms, Channel 4 reminded viewers that 46 of their celebrity participants have so far emerged unscathed across the three series, which seems like a remarkably low bar to set for a major reality TV series: “no one’s been seriously hurt so far” is not much of a safety procedure.

Judge Eddie the Eagle implied that contestents were injuring themselves through their own laziness and coffee obsessions. He wrote in the Daily Mail:

“Those competitors should be up and down the steps relentlessly – jump and go back, jump and go back. Instead too many will have a couple of goes before going off for a coffee and forgetting to return because they're feeling tired.”

But as the celebrity casualty list approaches double figures and more than 12 viewers have officially complained, the channel has begun an urgent safety review of the show, after one insider reportedly labelled it “the most dangerous show on television”.

It all seemed like fun and games when we were watching reality TV stars rolling around in the snow in embarrassing lurid lyrca suits. But will it take a life-threatening injury, or worse, before the madness ends?! Pray for Brian McFadden. Pray for Sarah Harding. Pray for Tamara Beckwith. Pray for the end of The Jump.

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