But as Alba's timeless anthem says, “Only Music Survives.”
With that in mind, I'd like to take you on a brief tour of some of Whitney's outstanding moments on the dancefloor. By no means is this comprehensive. These happen to be my favorites. My hope is that it might give you an excuse to re-experience an old favorite, or hear something for the first time you might never have heard before. Regardless, respect to Miss Whitney Houston. Here's hoping everybody finds that someone to dance with (who loves them). Here they are, in no particular order.
"My Love is Your Love" (Jonathan Peters)
"I'm Every Woman" (Clivilles + Cole)
"I Didn't Know My Own Strength" (Daddy's Groove, Peter Rauhofer)
"It's Not Right (But It's Okay)"
Here's the song that birthed countless remixes and hundreds of drag queens. It's sassy, confident, and angry, and it's an instance of dance music making a major step back into the mainstream. Thunderpuss (Hot Tracks' Chris Cox and Kon Kan's Barry Harris) mixed this track and knocked it out of the park, until pop radio had to reach out and take notice of what remixing was doing. It was a remarkable achievement for them, and a nice turn of events for a song that initially started out as the B-side to Houston's “Heartbreak Hotel.”
But Thunderpuss was just one of the many mixes of this track. Peter Rauhofer (as Club 69) did a mix, KCC did a bootleg that ended up being picked up by Houston's label, Arista, and there was a bootleg that got played in my club of choice at the time that mixed Whitney's vocals with “Got the Groove” by SM Trax. So there was a lot of ground to be covered here.
Direct Hit, one of the remix services at the time, did a mix of the track for their Sector series that married Whitney's voice with a track built on the syncopated relentless handclaps-and-synth-cowbells of Dead or Alive's “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” and some killer organ stabs from the Alex party records. It was a great assemblage of 80s and 90s sounds and it was the most fun of all of that era's mixes. Robert Coleman, who did the mix, crafted something very special indeed.
But remember what I said about this being an angry song? Well, Johnny Vicious lived up to his name on this mix, and he created something unique. Clubland was moving away from the clanky Tribalism of the X-Beat sound and into the big room Circuit Party vibe. Vicious found a way to blend the clashy pummel of those X-Beat beats with the massive synth noises that drove the circuit sound, and he built a monster out of them for this song. I remember when the promo 12” singles went out, and one was advised to let the whole, 13+ minute Johnny Vicious Momentous Mix play out for maximum effect.
And it was like nothing else. Vicious' mix brought the anger at the heart of this song front and center, taking one of Whitney's anguished side notes from the breakdown and making it part of the musical backbone of the piece. The drop out at 6:44 is sublime, building itself back up into a completely different attack on the synth sequences. But even that plaes to the moment of drama he's got in store... At 11:10, when he brings out the defiant rejoinders of the song “pay my own rent,” etc., it hits hard. And then at 11:32, he goes into a sustained note that sinks into your spine and you get the emotional heart of this song in such a visceral way that you just have to say “Damn.”
"Million Dollar Bill" (Freemasons)
"I'm Your Baby Tonight" (Yvonne Turner)
"I Look to You" (Giuseppe D)
"I Wanna Dance with Somebody" (The KLF, DJ Earlybird)
Almost immediately, it popped up again in a rather unexpected place. The KLF, or, as they were then known, The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (or, furthermore, The JAMMs), made a track out of house beats, orchestra hits from Isaac Hayes' “Theme from Shaft,” bits of the Mission: Impossible theme, and heaping chunks of Whitney's recording of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” Known as “Whitney Joins The JAMMs,” the end result managed to not result in too many lawsuits, and it also put Whitney's voice into some underground places it might not ordinarily end up.
A few years back, DJ Earlybird did a mash-up of Whitney with Cyndi Lauper's “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” which is a great record to throw on at a party. There's an alternate version that brings Sean Paul into the mix, but I prefer keeping it focused on my divas. Call me old-fashioned...
"Same Script, Different Cast" (Jonathan Peters)This remix is what a knock-down drag-out war between divas and synthesizers would sound like. Frenetic, busy, overwrought, and always getting higher and louder until finally everything explodes- and it is never anything less than enthralling. The last chorus, where everything modulates up again- it's madness, but it all works. Sometimes in a remix, less is more. This is not one of those times. Recognizing the kitchen sink attributes of the duet, Peters and his team went all-out. This remix shines like a mushroom cloud made out of mirrored disco ball panels. Whitney and Deborah Cox's vocal performances here were simply titanic. You have to go back to the 70s, to Donna Summer and Barbra Stresiand's "No More Tears (Enough is Enough)," to find that kind of take-no-prisoners diva power.
"Peace and Harmony will Save The Day" (DMC/Kevin Sweeney)
"You'll Never Stand Alone" (Jimmy from Jersey)Often misattributed to genius remixer James “Jimmy Gomez” Wiltshire (who did later remix Whitney as part of the Freemasons), this unofficial take by underground mixer Jimmy from Jersey (Lebo M's “He Lives in You,” Faithless' “Hour of Need”) is simple and direct and it works beautifully.
"How Will I Know" (Divide & Kreate, Junior Vasquez)
Immediately after Whitney's passing, an a cappella of this song started making its way around the Internet. It was a pristine example of Whitney's voice and what it could do, but it also posed the question to at-home producers and mixers throughout the world “What can you do with this?” Sweden's Divide & Kreate (they made that amazing Kanye West/The Knife mash-up a few years back) put Whitney's vocals over the magical, melancholy track of Robyn's “Dancing On My Own” and made something unearthly; they find the melancholy in the song and turn it into something even more than it was before.