Celebrating Whitney

Whitney Houston died yesterday. Saturday Feburary 11, 2012. She was 48 years old. In 1987, my Mom took my to my first concert. It was Whitney Houston at Madison Square Garden. I was 8 years old. This would be the beginning of a lifelong love of female vocalists (Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, Nicole Atkins, Adele) whose raw emotion takes me to places where I just have to sing along or else my heart will explode.  Whitney could do this all in one breath.  With one lyric she is the light, a bright shining star, and with the next word she is falling, yearning, begging, or best yet, persevering. It’s a sad metaphor for her personal struggles, especially poignant in the wake of her tragic death, but ultimately, it didn’t matter what the song was about because every sentiment was communicated in her voice. So, in celebration of an amazing artist, a stellar career and a pop legacy, here are my top 5 “Whitney” moments.

5. I Believe in You and Me (The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack, 1996) – Whitney’s third starring role was opposite Denzel Washington as the titular character in this easily forgettable film. Not so easy to forget? Whitney’s remake of the 1983 ballad originally recorded by The Four Tops.  I love this song because of this moment.  2:29 – I would play the fool forever just to be with you forever. I believe in miracles and love’s a miracle…

4. I Have Nothing (The Bodyguard soundtrack, 1992) Another soundtrack cut. Uh, the best selling soundtrack of all time – still. Whitney recieved harsh feedback from critics for her portrayal of Rachel Maron in the 1992 film. Whatever – I love this movie. The soundtrack was full of great tracks, most of which were overshadowded by Houston’s recording of Dolly Parton’s “I will Always Love you” which Rolling Stone called her “Tour de Force.” My boyfriend gave me the CD single in 9th grade which also included this gem. All one breath! Really from this point the song just rides out. 3:00 – I can’t run from myself, there’s nowhere to hide – your love I remember forvever…

3. I’m Your Baby Tonight (I’m Your Baby Tonight, 1990) I was super psyched when I found this album on vinyl a few years ago. Got home and realized it was just the single. Probably the only song worth paying $5 for. Between the electric guitar and Whitney’s hip-hop like repitition its one of my all time favorites. Around 2:35 is where she hits it but honestly this entire song pulses with emotion. 

2. The Greatest Love of All (Whitney Houston, 1985) The lyrics to this song have hung framed in my Dad’s office for as long as I can remember. This lyric repeats a few times but in this particular moment Whitney puts so much blood, sweat, and tears into one line I get chills every time. 3:00 – I decided long ago never to walk in anyone’s shadow. If I fail. If I succceed. At least I did as I believe no matter what they take  from me thay can’t take away my dig. ni. ty. 

1. The Star Spangled Banner (Super Bowl XXV, 1991). Easily on of Whitney’s most iconic performances and maybe one of the best renditions of the National Anthem…EVER. Proving she was just an around the way girl in her USA track suit, Whitney personified “bombs bursting in air.” Does anyone even remember who played in that game? 

We love you and thank you, Whitney. You will be missed.

more on Jill Andrews

There is something to be said about a girl in boots. Boots offer a self-assured swagger, the ability to ride a horse or line dance, and allude to the presence of hard work. Girls in boots ain’t afraid to get drrrty. The first time I saw Jill Andrews take the stage, I was in love with her accessible, country inspired look: vintage dress, low-maintenance hair and, of course, a great pair of boots. Since her early days with the everybodyfields, Jill has evolved from a frontman’s sidekick into an evolved solo artist and mother, all the while maintaining her signature Tennessee gal style.

For an exclusive look into how Jill “Rocks Her Style,” check out this video profile from Bonnaroo care of Garnier Fructis.

was that supposed to be funny?

One can never truly pinpoint what feminism looks like. Sometimes it’s the faces of celebrities, proudly claiming the “F” word; sometimes it’s a swarm of protestors gathering on the National Mall. And sometimes it’s a crown of broccoli asserting its dancing ability to a bullying stalk of asparagus. In her latest work, “Was That Supposed to be Funny,” Brooklyn based cartoonist/blogger Lauren Barnett uses personal anecdotes as well as personified vegetables to invite the reader into her quirky, droll mind.

While the comic does not serve as the site for feminist criticism, Barnett’s presentation of her own experiences as a woman offer fertile ground for exploring the cultural constructs that pervade the female experience. The title alone, inspired by a 6th grade note between the author and a classmate, conjures memories of bra-snapping boys, sexist teachers, landlords, and doctors plus a lifetime of pop-culture references in which the joke is on us. While hunting for an apartment, she is nearly scammed out of her $500 deposit, and completely scammed out of the apartment. One is left to wonder, would the apartment have been secured if the  boyfriend for whom she is going to share it with had been the one handling the shady broker?

 The most poignant, and strangely hilarious, moments are Barnett’s inclusion of actual diary entries from her adolescence, written verbatim, and brought to life in black and white illustration. Watching Jaws, a 9 year old Barnett is saddened by the death of “the pretty girl” and later makes history as President of the United States, Niki Taylor, supported by her secretary, and best friend, Cindy Crawford. Barnett’s work is a charming and unique representation of the third wave of feminism and a generation of women no longer succumbing to silence. In a country where women are still outnumbered, and underpaid, by men in a number of fields including publishing, animation and comedy, Barnett bravely inserts her voice into the dialogue. The result is a sublimely feminist, refreshingly entertaining and utterly relevant documentation of one woman’s world.

Cross-posted at Elevate Difference

Introducing…Jill Andrews

It is a balmy, August evening in the heart of NoDa, Charlotte’s Music & Arts district, and handfuls of fans litter the sidewalk outside the Neighborhood Theatre awaiting the Sam Bush show. Inside the venue a significant crowd has already taken their seats and is listening intently to the artist known to most as “the girl from The Everybodyfields.”  Only moments after Jill Andrews takes the stage, her lucid voice silencing unaware bystanders, one thing is certain; if they didn’t know her name before tonight, they will know it now.

Oh my god, I’ve found another man to help me lose my way. And oh my god, help me find another way to spend the day.

When I find Andrews after her set she is seated alone at a folding table table behind two stacks of The Everybodyfields CD’s. It is a salient image, one of a newly independent artist at the crossroads of her past success and an unknown future. That night’s performance marked Andrews’ first solo performance – ever.  The offer to perform came only days before and at the last minute Andrews decided to get in her car and make the 4 hour trip from Nashville. “I thought about it and I decided I’m just going to do it by myself. It was a really big challenge for me – I mean really big. I’ve never done that before.”

 For the bulk of her career, Andrew’s has performed, recorded and toured with The Everybodyfields, the project she co-founded with musical partner Sam Quinn in 2002. Their most recent album, 2007’s Nothing is Okay, was perceived by many as a concept album; a soundtrack to the band’s unraveling and the ending of Andrews’ and Quinn’s relationship. I recall a performance in Greensboro where Sam suggested that the band was about to break up but instead, they made a record. Andrews remembers this as well and is concerned with setting the record straight. “It wasn’t that contrived” she admits backstage, thoughtfully munching on an apple. “Sam always made it sound that way like, ‘God, we’re having all these problems so let’s make a record.’ But for me, it was much more this is how I’m feeling so this is what I’m going to write about.”

 You took away the candy from my mouth and filled it up with really old saltines. But boy did everything get figured out by changing my reality to dreams.

It is nearly impossible to discuss Andrews’ musical history without discussing her relationship to Quinn. The two met as camp counselors when they were both 19 and began playing music together shortly thereafter. “Sam was a huge influence on me – no bones about it. It was a combination of him and some other people who played guitar, and wrote songs and I was like ‘Whoa, I’ve got to do this.’ There is no reason why I’m not doing this except that I don’t know how to play anything.” Andrews, who had always been a singer, returned from camp and promptly bought a guitar. She taught herself a few chords and began writing immediately, never learning any songs aside from her own. “At first I was really bashful about it, and my songs really sucked, of course. But they got better.”

 So you had a dream that the devil came by your door and whispered through the screen you’ll have beauty and nothing more

Andrews is responsible for penning or co-penning a large part of The Everybodyfields’ catalogue, and has just finished her first solo recoding, a six song EP available on her website. If the singer herself is bashful, her songs most certainly are not. With a voice that sounds as if it came straight from the heavens, Andrews narrates the turmoil of human experience with the grace of an angel. Her songs are accessible, but not simple; catchy without being predictable. Whether she’s singing about family dynamics, romance and heartache, or life on the road, Andrews’ emotional integrity transcends classification. When I ask her how she writes about such personal topics so bravely and so openly, she responds with the same honesty heard in her songs: “I have no idea,” she laughs. “I really don’t. I think I do hide behind my music. For me to say what I sing…” Andrews pauses and smiles sheepishly before admitting “I would never be able to say it. When I’m on stage and I talk I’m like, ‘God, you’re an idiot.’ But when I sing, I could sing anything. I think it’s just that I do have confidence in my voice and that’s one thing I’ve got.”