There is a Whitney song I like …
Or, at least, an interpretation of a Whitney song I like …
It’s partly because Kevin brings his frailties to bear upon it: that he acknowledges the song’s beauty and grace while openly embracing the corniness of its lyrics and reinvesting them with meaning, personal to himself and himself alone, you know he’s living each lyric as he sings it until he forgets himself and revels in the sound of his own voice (same as Whitney does), even as he over-indulges himself and resorts to too many vibratos and cheesy strings (as Whitney does): this version would be nothing without the reassuring “It’s OK’s” at the beginning and the stupidly naive spoken word intro. This song, to me, has always signified the corporate world’s bludgeoning approach to music, you can hear political conference multitudes cheering in background as the strings swell and the singer builds up for the mighty crescendo, the hordes slavishly enjoying their loss of individuality, the leaders loving the sense of power, all swept up in broad emotional brushstrokes that actually carry no meaning whatsoever unless broken down from the outside. Kevin – who is personal to me and me alone (same way Whitney is to others) – forced me to confront my hatred for this song. It’s my least favourite song on the album of cover versions it comes from (the much-reviled, but not by me, 1999 album My Beauty, where he infamously appeared in stocking tops on the sleeve), and yet it’s still mighty.
I always figured that Whitney was being insincere when she sang this because of the way she sang this but really … why would she have been insincere? What reason would there have been?
It’s like, there ARE great versions – and many of them, actually – of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ out there.
So why do I prefer Kevin’s version to Whitney’s? Both suffer from the same faults and strengths. Can it really come down to simple tribalism, familiarity? It could, you know. It could. (It’s possible that Kevin wasn’t reinterpreting the Whitney version, but the original.)
Gospel music to me means that you’re so carried away in the moment that you’re uncaring whether you hit the actual notes or not. This is why I never understood – and can never truly understand – Whitney, even though she comes from that tradition and her voice exemplifies so much of what it holds dear.
Now I hold the two versions together, if I try and lose myself in the moment, then …
It’s really not for me. I gave up piety decades ago.
Still. I’m intrigued that I should be so intrigued by Whitney, now she’s dead. As I’ve already stated, I’ve always been indifferent to her. Now, I wonder why that should be when so many others were clearly so moved by her. Maybe it’s more the fact I’m intrigued why others are so moved, and if I’ve been missing out – and if so, why; and if not, why not.
And, of course, Tobi Vail’s “Even if you are not a fan, as a feminist, I urge you to take some time to think about her artistic and cultural significance” is very relevant here.