Whitney on Oprah Season Premiere - Part 2
Most of the heavy stuff in the two-part Whitney Houston interview was covered in part one, which makes me wonder why Oprah’s producers chose to stretch it into two hours. Kind of a tangent, but can I just say that Whitney Houston explaining to Oprah how you "sprinkle" base cocaine over pot before you roll it up and smoke it was perhaps one of the most surreal things I will ever see on television? And I used to watch Twin Peaks. Compared to that, this half was kinda boring, but there were still some moments worth sticking around for. After Houston's somewhat train-wrecky performance on Good Morning America two weeks ago—which she attributed to strain from yakking with Oprah the day before—I was most curious to hear if The Voice was indeed ruined by seven years away from the spotlight and 17 years of drug use.
But before the "surprise" performance that Oprah's been plugging since last week, first we had to conclude the Bobby Brown saga.
At the beginning of the show, Whitney described how she came to finally end her relationship with Bobby. After sending Bobbi Kristina to stay with her sister-in-law, Houston told Brown she was going out for milk and sugar and never came back. Um. Wow. See, to me, that's kind of shocking. Yes, she had admitted the relationship was abusive, but the way she left? That's some fear-for-your-life shit right there, and nothing Whitney revealed on Monday indicated that level of abuse. Yet, Oprah, cracker-jack journalist that she is, didn't delve deeper into just how bad it must have been for her to basically sneak away with little more than the clothes on her back in order to end the relationship. Even after leaving, Houston said she had hope of working things out, but Bobby apparently had no interest in quitting drugs and sleeping with other women, so Whitney finally pulled the plug. I can only hope she's had some sort of counseling.
Oprah asked Houston about her feelings on the passing of Michael Jackson, with whom she had been very close until he withdrew from basically everyone after his trial. Speaking of MJ brought the first and only tears (from Whitney) in the entire two-part interview. She said knew he had been using painkillers, and remarked upon how she felt seeing him at his 30th anniversary special, where they were both so painfully thin and cracked out that, when I saw it a few years after the original broadcast, I expected this guy to come out at some point to sing "P.Y.T.":
She said she saw herself in Michael at that show, and didn’t want to go down that road. However, that concert was in 2001, and it wasn't until 2006 that she actually left behind the drugs and divorced Bobby, so I wouldn't exactly say it was a real moment of clarity like she's making it out to be.
This whole MJ part of the interview was very weird and felt edited in after the fact. After discussing MJ, Oprah asked, "What was holding you there [with Bobby and your mountains of rock cocaine]?"
"Habit, conforming to a way of life, thinking it’s all right, it’ll get better." After she left, she said she spent seven months in her pajamas, ostensibly in a deep depression.
Whitney said she never got to the point where she was resigned to her drug problem and the unhappy marriage, that she always had some fight in her. As for whether she is clean now, Houston says she is drug free, but still will have a drink from time to time, since "that was never [her] problem." She says she still has some desires for drugs and works through those desires with prayer, taking things One Day At A Time. That's some Program speak right there. However, I don't know that any Friends of Bill W. would agree that someone recovering from a 17-year drug addiction is okay to have so much as a wine spritzer. I'm no expert, myself, but I do watch a lot of Celebrity Rehab, and I know what Dr. Drew would say to that.
Near the end of the interview, Oprah asked, "Were you afraid that you had lost The Voice, the treasure? Houston replied, "No, I was afraid I had lost the spirit for it. I was singing to myself and God, but I didn’t think I wanted to be behind the mic anymore."
Of course, whether she's lost The Voice is up for debate. In the final half of the second part, Whitney performed a song before a live studio audience back in Chicago. While it certainly wasn't as bad as the GMA performance, I could see that her vocal range is definitely not what it was, and she sounded very strained. I mean, don't get me wrong — girl could still whoop my ass at karaoke, but the fact that I could even imagine her singing at a karaoke night is not a great sign. Her voice no longer gave me chills the way it used to. Sure, I haven’t really been that into Whitney Houston since I discovered Depeche Mode at 8 years old and was forever lost to the dark side, but as a once-aspiring singer, Whitney Houston has always been pretty much a goddess to me. Here she seemed so very... touchable.
I dunno, y'all— maybe it was the song. It was boring and formulaic, and therefore tailor-made for the Oprah crowd: a piece written by Dionne Warwick all about strength and not crumbling and blah blah blah. I really can’t remember how it went to tell you the truth, despite how repetitive it was and how susceptible I am to ear worms. Her new album has been highly anticipated and debuted at #1, but I anticipate seeing many barely-worn copies in used CD stores, soon.
After that performance, I felt the same feeling you get when you realize your parents aren't infallible and immortal. I hate to shit on her supposed "come-through," as she put it, because I truly wanted her to knock it out of the park, but I'm afraid, despite her protestations, Whitney Houston has squandered the gift she was given. During all those years with Bobby, she wanted to be ordinary, to dim her light lest she shine brighter than him and ruin his fragile ego.
It pains me to say, but I think she got her wish.