Saturday, May 26, 2018
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Today's divas are still chasing Whitney Houston's unique legacy

The mighty reverberations of Whitney Houston's heaven-sent holler will not easily be silenced, even by her premature death. Just ask modern divas Kelly Clarkson and Adele, who this week are chasing her legacy.

Clarkson crushed the national anthem at last Sunday's Super Bowl XLVI, and her reward for doing so was being compared to the gold standard: Houston's Super Bowl XXV rendition in Tampa in 1991. It was a rocket-fueled launch of patriotic bombast, right in the middle of the Gulf War, that Houston delivered with sweat on her lip and stars and stripes all around.

For that brief moment, she was the voice of our country, and she roared.

The recording of that version became a smash hit and helped Super Bowl entertainment as a whole finally leave its cheesy "Up with People" past behind.

Meanwhile, Adele's 21 album, which has a legitimate shot at sweeping the major categories at tonight's 54th annual Grammy awards, has been No. 1 on the charts for 18 weeks. That's just two weeks shy of the all-time leader: Houston's 1992 soundtrack for The Bodyguard. That album included her octave-spanning, note-holding (and holding …) cover of Dolly Parton's I Will Always Love You, which will ultimately define her career.

Houston inspired, for better or worse, a generation of female singers who tried to match her elastic vocal runs. Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey were worthy disciples, for sure. There's just been one little problem with most of the rest: They weren't Whitney Houston.

Her less-than-glamorous shenanigans with ex-husband Bobby Brown and her struggles with drug abuse have tarnished her artistic output. But like her late pop peer Michael Jackson, whose magic-dusted life also became a punch line, Houston will finally get some relief.

That's what happens when stars that big burn brightly, then leave us. Death alters our memory, until we now just see the light:

Houston in 1985, barely into her 20s, introducing herself with breakout hit Saving All My Love for You.

Houston in 1987, owning the charts and the clubs with I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

Houston from the start, an R&B singer who transcended gender and race, selling more than 55 million albums in the United States alone.

In a modern society that loves its home-run hitters, warts and all, the prodigious Houston was the Babe Ruth of R&B — someone who lived out loud and will be remembered more for her jaw-dropping moments than tragic ones.

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