Whitney Houston is inarguably one of the of the biggest female pop stars of all time. Her accomplishments as a hitmaker are extraordinary; just to scratch the surface, she became the first artist ever to have seven consecutive singles hit number one, and her 1993 Dolly Parton cover "I Will Always Love You" became nothing less than the biggest hit single in rock history. Houston was able to handle big adult contemporary ballads, effervescent, stylish dance-pop, and slick urban contemporary soul with equal dexterity; the result was an across-the-board appeal that was matched by scant few artists of her era, and helped her become one of the first black artists to find success on MTV in Michael Jackson's wake. Like many of the original soul singers, Houston was trained in gospel before moving into secular music; over time, she developed a virtuosic singing style given over to swooping, flashy melodic embellishments. The shadow of Houston's prodigious technique still looms large over nearly every pop diva and smooth urban soul singer -- male or female -- in her wake, and spawned a legion of imitators (despite some critics' complaints about over-singing). Always more of a singles artist, Houston largely shied away from albums during the '90s, releasing the bulk of her most popular material on the soundtracks of films in which she appeared. By the end of the decade, she'd gone several years without a true blockbuster, yet her status as an icon was hardly diminished.
Whitney Elizabeth Houston was born in Newark, NJ, on August 9, 1963; her mother was gospel/R&B singer Cissy Houston, and her cousin was Dionne Warwick. By age 11, Houston was performing as a soloist in the junior gospel choir at her Baptist church; as a teenager, she began accompanying her mother in concert (as well as on the 1978 album Think It Over), and went on to back artists like Lou Rawls and Chaka Khan. Houston also pursued modeling and acting, appearing on the sitcoms Gimme a Break and Silver Spoons. Somewhat bizarrely, Houston's first recording as a featured vocalist was with Bill Laswell's experimental jazz-funk ensemble Material; their 1982 album One Down placed Houston alongside such unlikely avant-gardists as Archie Shepp and Fred Frith. The following year, Arista president Clive Davis heard Houston singing at a nightclub and offered her a record contract. Her first single appearance was a duet with Teddy Pendergrass, "Hold Me," which missed the Top 40 in 1984.
Houston's debut album, Whitney Houston, was released in March 1985. Its first single, "Someone for Me," was a flop, but the second try, "You Give Good Love," became Houston's first hit, topping the R&B charts and hitting number three pop. Houston's next three singles -- the Grammy-winning romantic ballad "Saving All My Love for You," the brightly danceable "How Will I Know," and the inspirational "The Greatest Love of All" -- all topped the pop charts, and a year to the month after its release, Whitney Houston hit number one on the album charts. It eventually sold over 13 million copies, making it the best-selling debut ever by a female artist. Houston cemented her superstar status on her next album, Whitney; despite the unimaginative title, it became the first album by a female artist to debut at number one, and sold over nine million copies. Its first four singles -- "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)" (another Grammy winner), "Didn't We Almost Have It All," "So Emotional," and "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" -- all hit number one, an amazing, record-setting run of seven straight (broken by "Love Will Save the Day"). In late 1988, Houston scored a Top Five hit with the non-LP single "One Moment in Time," recorded for an Olympics-themed compilation album.
Houston returned with her third album, I'm Your Baby Tonight, in 1990; a more urban-sounding, R&B-oriented record, it immediately spun off two number one hits in the title track and "All the Man That I Need." But the quality of the material was generally viewed as, overall, much weaker than her previous efforts, and following those two hits, sales of the album tapered off quickly, halting around four million copies. Nevertheless, Houston remained so popular that she could even take a recording of "The Star Spangled Banner" (performed at the Super Bowl) into the pop Top 20 -- though, of course, the Gulf War had something to do with that. In retrospect, the erratic quality of I'm Your Baby Tonight seemed to signal Houston's declining interest in making fully fleshed-out albums. Instead, she began to focus on an acting career, which she hadn't pursued since her teenage years; she also married singer Bobby Brown in the summer of 1992. Her first feature film, a romance with Kevin Costner called The Bodyguard, was released in late 1992; it performed well at the box office, helped by an ad campaign which seemingly centered around the climactic key change in Houston's soundtrack recording of the Dolly Parton-penned "I Will Always Love You." In fact, the ad campaign undoubtedly helped "I Will Always Love You" become the biggest single in pop music history. It set new records for sales (nearly five million copies) and weeks at number one (14), although those were later broken by Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997" and Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men's "One Sweet Day," respectively. Meanwhile, the soundtrack eventually sold an astounding 16 million copies, and also won a Grammy for Album of the Year.
Once Houston had stopped raking in awards and touring the world, she prepared her next theatrical release, the female ensemble drama Waiting to Exhale. A few months before its release at the end of 1995, it was announced that she and Brown had split up; however, they called off the split just a couple months later, and rumors about their tempestuous relationship filled the tabloids for years to come. Waiting to Exhale was released toward the end of the year, and the first single from the soundtrack, "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)," topped the charts; the album sold over seven million copies. For her next project, Houston decided to return to her gospel roots; the soundtrack to the 1996 film The Preacher's Wife, which naturally featured Houston in the title role, was loaded with traditional and contemporary gospel songs, plus guest appearances by Houston's mother, Shirley Caesar, and the Georgia Mass Choir. Houston also began making headlines for what appeared to be increasing unreliability, cancelling several TV and concert appearances due to illness.
In 1998, Houston finally issued a new full-length album, My Love Is Your Love, her first in eight years. Houston worked with pop/smooth soul mainstays like Babyface and David Foster, but also recruited hip-hop stars like Missy Elliott, Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, and Q-Tip. The album sold even fewer copies than I'm Your Baby Tonight, but it received Houston's most enthusiastic reviews in quite some time. Moreover, it produced one of her biggest R&B chart hits (seven weeks at number one) in the trio number "Heartbreak Hotel," done with Faith Evans and Kelly Price. She also duetted with Mariah Carey on "When You Believe," a song from the animated film The Prince of Egypt. Unfortunately, Houston was also back in the tabloids in early 2000; she was arrested in Hawaii when airline authorities reportedly found marijuana in her luggage (the charges were later dismissed). Speculation about Houston's personal life only grew when she was dropped from the Academy Awards telecast that March, officially because of a sore throat, but reputedly due to poor rehearsals and a generally out-of-it air. Later in the year, Arista released the two-disc compilation Greatest Hits, which actually featured one disc of hits and one of remixes; it also included new duets with Enrique Iglesias, George Michael, and Deborah Cox. It was also announced that Houston had signed a new deal with Arista worth $100 million, requiring six albums from the singer. Her personal issues became even more public through the reality television series Being Bobby Brown, and she eventually divorced her husband and went into intense rehabilitation. An album of new material was initially set for release by the end of 2007, but delays pushed it -- titled I Look to You, featuring collaborations with Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz, R. Kelly, Akon, and Diane Warren -- back to September 2009.
01. You Give Good Love 02. Thinking About You 03. Someone For Me 04. Saving All My Love For You 05. Nobody Loves Me Like You Do 06. How Will I Know 07. All At Once 08. Take Good Care Of My Heart 09. Greatest Love Of All 10. Hold Me
01. I Wanna Dance With Somebody 02. Just The Lonely Talking Again 03. Love Will Save The Day 04. Didn't We Almost Have It All 05. So Emotional 06. Where You Are 07. Love Is A Contact Sport 08. You're Still My Man 09. For The Love Of You 10. Where Do Broken Hearts Go 11. I Know Him So Well
01. I'm Your Baby Tonight 02. My Name Is Not Susan 03. All The Man That I Need 04. Lover For Life 05. Anymore 06. Miracle 07. I Belong To You 08. Who Did You Love 09. We Didn't Know 10. After We Make Love 11. I'm Knockin'
01. I Will Always Love You 02. I Have Nothing 03. I'm Every Woman 04. Run To You 05. Queen Of The Night 06. Jesus Loves Me 07. Even If My Heart Would Break 08. Someday(I'm Coming Back) 09. It's Gonna Be A Lovely Day 10. (What's So Funny 'bout)Peace,Love And Understanding 11. Waiting For You 12. Trust In Me 13. Theme From The Bodyguard
01. I Believe In You And Me 02. Step By Step 03. Joy 04. Hold On, Help Is On The Way 05. I Got The Rock 06. I Love The Lord 07. Somebody Bigger Than You And I 08. You Were Loved 09. My Heart Is Calling 10. I Believe In You And Me (Single Version) 11. Step By Step (Remix) 12. Who Would Imagine A King 13. HeВґS All Over Me 14. The Lord Is My Shepard 15. Joy To The World
01. It's Not Right But It's Okay 02. Heartbreak Hotel 03. My Love Is Your Love 04. When You Believe 05. If I Told You That 06. In My Business 07. I Learned From The Best 08. Oh Yes 09. Get It Back 10. Until You Come Back 11. I Bow Out 12. You'll Never Stand Alone
01. You Give Good Love 02. Saving All My Love for You 03. Greatest Love of All 04. All at Once 05. If You Say My Eyes Are Beautiful 06. Didn't We Almost Have It All 07. Where Do Broken Hearts Go 08. All The Man That I Need 09. Run To You 10. I Have Nothing 11. I Will Always Love You 12. Exhale (Shoop, Shoop) 13. Why Does It Hurt So Bad 14. I Believe In You And Me 15. Heartbreak Hotel 16. My Love Is Your Love 17. Same Script, Different Cast 18. Could I Have This Kiss Forever
01. Fine 02. If I Told You That 03. It's Not Right But It's Okay 04. My Love Is Your Love 05. Heartbreak Hotel (Hex Nector Mix) 06. I Learned From The Best (HQ2 Mix) 07. Step By Step (Junour Vasquez Mix) 08. I'm Every Woman (Clivilles & Cole Mix) 09. Queen Of The Night (CJ MacIntosh Mix) 10. I Will Always Love You (Hex Rector Mix) 11. Love Will Save The Day (Jellybean & David Morales Mix) 12. I'm Your Baby Tonight (Dronez Mix) 13. So Emotional (David Morales Mix) 14. I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me) (Junior Vasquez Mix) 15. How Will I Know (Junior Vasquez Mix) 16. Greatest Love Of All (Juniour Vasquez Mix) 17. One Moment In Time 18. The Star Spangled Banner (Performed Live 12791 at Super Bowl XXV)
01. Until You Come Back 02. I Have Nothing 03. Why Does It Hurt So Bad 04. You Give Good Love 05. All the Man That I Need 06. Where Do Broken Hearts Go 07. Just the Lonely Talking Again 08. Exhale (Shoop Shoop) 09. Miracle 10. For the Love of You 11. Saving All My Love for You 12. Run to You 13. I Believe in You and Me 14. Didn't We Almost Have It All 15. All at Once 16. I Will Always Love You
01. One Of Those Days 02. Tell Me No 03. Things You Say 04. My Love 05. Love That Man 06. Try It On My Own 07. Dear John Letter 08. Unashamed 09. You Light Up My Life 10. Whatchulookinat 11. Whatchalookinat (P. Diddy Remix)
01. Saving All My Love For You 02. Someone For Me 03. You Give Good Love 04. Greatest Love Of All 05. I Wanna Dance With Somebody 06. I Was Made To Love Him 07. Where Are You 08. You're Still My Man 09. For The Love Of You 10. I'm Your Baby Tonight 11. Miracle 12. Whatchalookinat 13. Hold Me 14. Its Not Right But Its Ok
01. I Will Always Love You 02. Saving All My Love for You 03. Greatest Love of All 04. One Moment in Time 05. I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me) 06. How Will I Know 07. So Emotional 08. When You Believe 09. Where Do Broken Hearts Go 10. I'm Your Baby Tonight 11. Didn't We Almost Have it All 12. Run to You 13. Exhale (Shoop Shoop) 14. If I Told You That 15. I Have Nothing 16. I'm Every Woman 17. It's Not Right But It's Okay 18. My Love is Your Love
01. Million Dollar Bill 02. Nothin' But Love 03. Call You Tonight 04. I Look to You 05. Like I Never Left (Feat. Akon) 06. A Song.for You 07. I Didn't Know My Own Strength 08. Worth it 09. For the Lovers 10. I Got You 11. Salute