Whitney Houston: Call It a Comeback

The R&B diva has returned. Battered, bruised, but back.


Don’t call it a comeback

I’ve been here for years

All the drama and the pain

And all the tears

—Whitney Houston, “Salute”

In 1985, Whitney Houston made her MTV-ready debut, the latest product spit-shined to perfection by legendary hitmaker Clive Davis. Back then, it was hard to match the glamour quotient—and she made for great copy: She was polished, pristine, the scion of entertainment royalty, possessing a squeaky-clean rep and cover-girl looks. Dubbed “The Voice,” her vocals were indeed a thing of wonder, clarion bell clear, hitting stratospheric notes with stunning precision.

The hits and the awards came tumbling in—with over 170 million records sold—making her one of the greatest selling pop acts. Ever. When she sang “I’m Every Woman,” it was hard not to believe her.

Then she went off script.

It’s hard to say which came first, the man or the addiction, but the resulting combination was … disastrous. The glamour girl was replaced with a strung-out looking doppelganger more famous for the drama than the music. It looked as though she was following the script of a different narrative: The doomed diva, soon to go the route of that other Davis protégé—Janis Joplin—done in by too much, too many, too soon, too late.