Take this heart of mine into your hands: the best of Whitney Houston

This generous vocalist suffered a pop exile after 1999 and given posthumous accolades in 2012; meanwhile, her songs blast on adult contemporary radio and supermarkets. Certified fast ones “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and “How Will I Know” get play at bars that sniff at Tom Petty and Kings of Leon. Yet her catalog, exceptions below, especially the songs taking advantage of her pre-stardom sweetness (Material’s “Memories,” “Take Good Care of My Heart,” the eternal “You Give Good Love”), leaves me cold when it doesn’t repel me.

I liked Al Shipley’s estimable argument for her deep cuts, thanks to which I discovered “Just the Lonely Talking Again,” one of a pair of tracks I salvaged from 1987’s Whitney, an album responsible for some of the most anonymous and pneumatic hits ever released by a superstar; they’re worthless. I reluctantly found space for “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” but “Didn’t We Almost Have It All”? We didn’t. “So Emotional” — the least emotional song in history. “Where Do Broken Hearts Go”? Don’t ask me, Ms. Houston — you’re supposed to know. Jellybean’s “Love Will Save the Day” saves the day. I’m Your Baby Tonight is better: L.A. Reid and Babyface, if not in top form, acting like it, with forgotten contributions from Stevie Wonder and Luther Vandross. I have nothing to say about The Bodyguard soundtrack other than a solid cover of “I’m Every Woman” beloved by gay clubs almost as much as the Thunderpuss remix of “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” released six years later.

1. You Give Good Love
2. Exhale (Shoop)
3. It’s Not Right but It’s Okay (Thunderpuss Radio Mix)
4. How Will I Know
5. Love Will Save the Day (Extended Remix)
6. I’m Every Woman
7. Saving All My Love For You
8. Material – Memories
9. All at Once
10. Who Do You Love
11. Step by Step
12. My Name is Not Susan
13. Just The Lonely Talking Again
14. Heartbreak Hotel
15. Thinking About You

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