Saturday, October 21, 2006

pop.life



what you putting in your nose?...

let me be clear: this entry is not a traincar on the dis whitney houston express. i've done my share of that over at fecundmellow, and on being bobby brown: the blog. besides, my mother would put me on punishment if she found out that i was all up on the internet yet again talking smack about her girl, ms. houston. in this entry, i've no desire to express my sadness and concern over the soon to be dissolved brown-houston marriage; i've conquered that urge by simply choosing not to discuss it. rather, this entry is more of a rumination on the re-emergence of a seemingly happier, healthier whitney houston who, it seems, has found a way to recover and rediscover what we assume is her old self.

is that where all your money goes?...

a couple of weeks ago, i received the above image in an email with the subject heading, "SHE'S BAAAACK!" with instructions to pass the message along to moms. since it was a forward, i scrolled down, curious about what others might have said about the pictures. along with the typical niggafied comments such as, "let's (continue to) pray for her," there was another that suggested that (the ever hard to define) "we" support houston with the same energy and vigor we employed to further exacerbate her very public downfall. though a slightly obvious observation (in a similar, albeit less significant vein as, "george bush does not care about black people."), for whatever reason the message stuck with me, and over the next few days, i had a couple of conversations about both the pictures and the comment.

the river of addiction flows...

during one discussion, my dear mrs. robinson said to me--as she'd said a few times before when we'd talked about brenda's favorite pop singer-- "i really think she's gonna be the billie holiday of our time." hm. lugubriously sad, but potentially true. and though the above photo and the others that accompanied it give me a tremendous amount of hope that houston will mount a comeback that makes mariah carey's look like a spoken word piece put next to anything from gwendolyn brooks' oeuvre (or any other legitimate poet for that matter...had to get that jab in somewhere), despite my extremely poor vision, i see the possibility of another very public fall off of the wagon on the horizon rather clearly. it is, i imagine, quite lonely at the top, and even lonelier when you tumble from the mountaintop...

and so i wonder: what must it be like to have no peer?

you think it's hot, but there won't be no water...

i believe that the following statement is (pretty much) true: whitney houston is the greatest voice of our time. perhaps you don't fuck with her music, or question some of her later material. ok. i can dig it. yet at the same time you can neither ignore nor deny the purity of her voice. in a time when young ingenues thrash their throats in an attempt to outrun each other, and when the greatest singers from decades past need to sit their black asses down somewhere (don't make me name names: aretha, diana, chaka...), houston--when she had her shit together-- sang so effortlessly, so naturally you'd swear she was simply speaking to you with the ease of a conversational tone. surely, there is a small group of modern day musicians who have left their fingerprints on our collective psyche, but in my estimation, whitney houston stands alone. and because of that, when it all fell down, i was saddened as i witnessed her very public struggle to simply do the thing she loves to do.

when the fire blows...

during one of the myriad of poignant moments that peppered the first and only season of the greatest reality tv show starring a famous person ever, being bobby brown, the brown-houston clan sat eating near a pool at a hotel. some folks gingerly approached the group and asked if they could have photographs. though brown very gladly took pictures with everyone, houston sat at the table and adamently refused. as houston shakes her head and turns her back to the group, the viewer hears brown's voiceover, where he explains that he got and remains in the entertainment business for the love of the fans, while houston got in the business simply because she loves to sing.

what if the one thing in the world that you loved to do the most, that you'd work all of your life if not to perfect, but at least to reach your potential, was accompanied with the side effect of having your every move documented and scrutinized? what if people thought they had the right to audaciously approach you and invade your private life whenever they chose, when all you wanted to do was the one thing you love? could you love doing something enough to pay that price? would you risk it?

tell me, what's the matter with your world?

there are millions of people in the world who took/take drugs and exhibit other kinds of destructive behavior due to pressures not nearly as oppressive as being the best at something. i'm not attempting to disparage or belittle people's personal struggles and downfalls, nor am in the game of ranking traumas. however, it seems to me that attempting to hang yourself because that b+ moves you from valedictiorian to salutatorian by no means matches up with a coke binge that could have very well been inspired by the fact that the gift you've given the world, that thing which you're best at, is apparently insufficient... the dearest part of you that you share is not enough for the world... rather, the entire world wishes to devour every part of you to satisfy a quite temperamental appetite. i imagine you can find several other people who missed two free throws that cost their high school team the state championship. but who do you turn to when shit sucks, and you're the only muthafucka in your league? i'd do drugs, too.

everybody can't be on top...

and maybe--successful comeback or not--houston will still be, in some way, the billie holiday of our time. however, instead of having to cope with the oppressive and obtrusive nature of jim crow, houston has had to deal with the increasingly invasive media and the people they ostensibly serve. more than that, both have had to endure living very public lives in an environment, a society that devalues black women so much that it doesn't even bother being unforgiving.

life it ain't real funky, unless it's got that pop...

i cannot possibly empathize with ms. houston, or the few others who have walked in similar shoes. sympathy requires a kind of intellectual comprehension; on some level, it also demands some sort of condescension. so, all i can really do is continue to be a member of team whitney. since brenda is my mama, it's sort of my birthright.

maybe
i shouldn't be so mad that my mother didn't get knocked by someone famous. bobbi chris... bobbi chris...


we all got a space to fill...



language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison

6 Comments:

Blogger solitaire said...

I think she'll make a big comeback. Maybe not as big as Mariah, since white women don't love Whitney, but she'll come back.

22/10/06 00:02  
Anonymous studpoet said...

hmmm...yes, i see your point. however, if someone loves to sing but doesn't want the fame then there are plenty of churches and clubs they can sing in. See, its hard to start saying "oh i didn't know it was gonna be like this especially when you have fame in your family.
but more than that no one says, "oh we're going to force you to be famous whether you like it or not." as we can see from American Idol there are plenty of folks out there dying for fame. whether they deserve it or not.

Whitney is indeed the greatest voice of all time and you are right she has no peers. But does that mean that drugs are the "answer?" eh. i don't think so. Part of what led her down this path is like most divas she began to believe her own hype, then she got involved with an idiot, then she let go the person who was down for her the most i.e. Robin. so things kinda spiraled out of control in many ways.

i am hoping that whitney makes a huge comeback but i can see her continuing to be self destructive. let's hope she is not the billy holiday of our time.

peace

23/10/06 09:56  
Blogger summer m. said...

@solitaire: i just hope she makes it.

@stud: ok. first, why, if you're extremely talented, should you have to relegate yourself (and your talent) to certain spaces because the public believe they have the right to access every aspect of your life? there is no justification for that kind of intrusiveness. and it's ridiculous to suggest that you simply hold back because other muthfuckas don't know how to be respectful. we don't tell other people to do that.

also, it seems to me that houston didn't have a desire to be famous, but to sing. (not that i know her. it's pure speculation.) so to equate her with those american idol niggas doesn't make much sense to me.

further, dionne warwick, nancy wilson, cissy houston in your family tree...none of their careers are analogous to houston's. first, none of them are as talented. second, none of them came to the zenith (and downfall) of their careers at this moment. today's public obsession with popular culture and celebrities is unprecedented. technology allows us a disrespectful amount of access to celebrities in ways unseen previously. like i said, houston has no peer; so, if you have no peer, who do you call to navigate this road when no other muthafucka in the world has been down it?

finally, not once in this piece do i argue that drugs were an answer. i'm simply suggesting that in houston's case the shit kind of makes sense. further, many of us spend our adult lives manifesting and attempting to conquer the dysfunction we experienced while who we are was being shaped. plenty of us make stupid ass choices--like getting involved with idiots--fortunately, no one gives a shit about us, so our poor choices don't make it on the cover of a magazine. so for me, that part of the houston saga isn't too different from a lot of other, not so famous folks.

schadenfreude is a bitch when you're on the losing team.

23/10/06 10:52  
Anonymous studpoet said...

wow. okay. i had another long post in reply but i guess this is best stated in brief. i think that what my intention in what i commented on and what you read into it were two totally different things. but in any case, great post!

25/10/06 14:21  
Blogger Harold Gibson said...

The rise and fall of an American pop diva has been one of the great continuing dramas of our modern times. I agree with you when you speak of the intrusiveness that exists in the 21st century yet I also must say that today's celebrities make themselves more available than any generation of celebrities. That wild train wreck which I never saw "Being Bobby Brown" is an example of how celebrities force their lives on a society so bored and so lacking creativity that you can find women who have nothing else to do than to throw themselves at 1980's oddity "Flava Flav" who demeans them in the worst way by having them go to war with each other in a battle to win a friggin clock.

26/10/06 03:22  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps you are observing what not to do when you become famous.

26/10/06 10:09  

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