Why Whitney Houston Is The Voice Of 20-Something Love

Whitney Houston
Source:Mark Kettenhofen

They say Bob Dylan was the voice of his generation — a modern-day minstrel cutting through the chaos of the 1960s with clear words, poignant questions, and honest emotion.

50-some-odd years later, 20-somethings have their own set of world woes to smoke pot to. Rebelling against our parents’ petty focus on peace, love, and equality, we’ve shifted to angsting over the real issues at hand: how to get into, out of, and over relationships.

With this as our focus, we need a siren of song whose words stab at the core of our hopes, dreams and fears — one who can take complex issues and break them down into focused lyrics with clever rhymes — someone who has been down that winding, pothole-filled road before. The answer is clear: The voice of our 20-something relationship angst is Whitney Houston.

Throughout her years reining over the pop charts, she gifted us some of the most poignant lines of our time. It is this ability to express what we didn’t even know we were feeling that makes Houston our Dylan. The examples are countless, but a few shining moments really speak to the power of her messages — messages that really are the battle cries of our times.

From gay-bar fave “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” come the words that finally capture the feeling that seeps in while you’re drinking alone in your bedroom:

I’ve done alright up till now
It’s the light of day that shows me how
And when the night falls our loneliness calls

When the night falls — our loneliness calls. Chills.

Within that same song is her no-holds-bar confession about where she’s been and what she really wants out of love:

I’ve been in love and lost my senses
Spinning through the town
Soon or later the fever ends
And I wind up feeling down
I need a man who’ll take a chance
On a love that burns hot enough to last

I need that man too, Whitney. Only I’m not woman enough to admit it.

In the classic “How Will I Know?” (if only Dylan could have been so direct), she admits that sometimes it’s all beyond our control:

There’s a boy I know
he’s the one I dream of
Looks into my eyes
takes me to the clouds above
Ooh I lose control
Can’t seem to get enough

And really no song goes by without that same kind of honesty. From “So Emotional”:

I remember the way that we touched
I wish I didn’t like it so much
I get so emotional, baby
Every time I think of you
I get so emotional, baby
Ain’t it shocking what love can do

Shocks me every time.

From the title track from her hit feature film (is there anything she can’t do?) Waiting to Exhale:

Everyone falls in love sometime
Sometimes it’s wrong, and sometimes it’s right
For every win, someone must fail
But there comes a point when
When we exhale (yeah, yeah, say shoop)

She does not mince words. Nor is she afraid to address the more taboo issues of the times.

On adultery:

A few stolen moments is all that we share
You’ve got your family, and they need you there
Though I’ve tried to resist, being last on your list
But no other man’s gonna do
So I’m saving all my love for you

And cheating:

Friday night you and your boys went out to eat
Then they hung out, but you came home around three
Now if six of ya’ll went out
Then four of you were really cheeeap
‘Cause only two of you had dinner
I found your credit card receeeipt
It’s not right
But it’s okay
I’m gonna make it anyway

She is as smart as she is talented.

But none of these hold a candle to the song that so captures the spirit of our time that it may as well be re-packaged and delivered as Obama’s second inaugural address:

I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone’s shadow
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I’ll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can’t take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all

An anthem if there ever was one.

She may have smoked crack, screwed Clive Davis and stayed with Bobby Brown for an insanely long time, but the fact clearly remains: Whitney Houston is our poet laureate. TC mark


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  • mya

    it’s 9am and I am air-singing to the Greatest Love of All, pouring my heart out.
    Thank you.

    • http://twitter.com/ronariffic Sharona


  • DC

    Best article in the history of this website. BECAUSE IT SPEAKS THE TRUTH.

  • Hannah

    But those lyrics are lame……..

  • http://twitter.com/YocastaArias Yocasta Arias

    So much truth up there

  • Anonymous
  • Leo F. Tard

    Whitney Houston doesn’t have a songwriting credit to her name. She is (was? is she still trying?) an interpreter, which holds its own special place in culture but comparing her to Dylan (overrated though I will agree he is) is, well, to put it in the hip speak of our generation, retarded. This is a cute piece but if you have any interest in journalism, try at least running your theories by Wikipedia before hitting the submit button.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jessi.smith1 Jessi Smith

    There is always a point in my relationships – generally right around the beginning of the end – when, during a house party or gathering of some kind, I put on Whitney Houston’s cover of “I Will Always Love  You” and perform a dramatic interpretive dance, complete with lip syncing, for my girlfriend… In front of our closest friends, colleagues, and that one guy in the corner who nobody knows, but who showed up with a 12 pack of Yuengling, so, whatever, he can chill.

    Sometimes I switch it up with Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me”. It’s one of the tests I perform to gauge whether or not said girlfriend and I really do have a future together. Whitney and Celine are the voices of our age, and if they can’t get down with that, DONE.

    Surprisingly, I’m currently single. …Ladies?

    • Asdf

      Don’t worry. Sounds like the “DONE” is mutual. :)

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • http://www.facebook.com/josephbrillantes Joseph Brillantes

    even more profound after her death. :p

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