Some people were born to take the stage and claim it. Whitney Houston was one of those people. Like the rest of the world, I’m saddened by the loss of one so gifted.
I envied the way Whitney Houston could send a pitch perfect note through the stratosphere. I admired the way she could tell a story with a song. Whitney Houston understood the value of subtext (the real meaning of the words). She was a master at interpreting those words for us and communicating that subtext to her audience via her body language.
Watch this video. Notice the story playing in her eyes. It is as if Whitney visualizes what she is singing about in the distance. She sees the emotional conflict and she allows her facial features to shift to communicate that pain to us. Note the occasional lift of a single brow and the slight incline of her chin. Muscles tense and release in her jaw and around her lips. She even does a dangerous thing and closes her eyes for several measures. But we allow her to shut herself off from us because the rest of her body’s muscular tension communicates that the entire struggle is playing out on the back of her eyelids. In fact, we get so caught up in the story, we’re willing to step inside of her head, watch the movie, and take up the struggle with her. Toward the end of the song, Whitney shows us the character’s turning point when she breaks into a smile. And we believe the words I will always love you right along with her.
That’s not only Grammy winning entertainment, it’s great storytelling at its best. If only the story would have had a different ending.