Whitney Houston's Worst Enemy? Her Biggest Hit
"She don't want to come, my soprano friend," Houston, 46, said of her instrument after croaking her way through the soaring section of the hit.
She added: "Sometimes the old girl sings, but not tonight. I want to do it, but she doesn't want to ... She's getting a little ... temperamental, even."
It's been that song, written by Dolly Parton and perfected by Houston in 'The Bodyguard,' that has dogged the singer throughout this tour. On night one, in Birmingham, Houston physically struggled to get through the ballad, and reviewers took note of her lack of stamina.
Even the normally prim BBC got in on the act, saying the singer was "panting more than John Prescott running for the bus," referencing a well-known (and chubby) politician from Wales.
'I Will Always Love You' will forever be Houston's signature song, having sold over 15 million copies worldwide and spending a then-record 14 weeks at the top of the Billboard charts when the song was released in 1992. The recorded version was perfection, and live performances throughout the 1990s were legendary for how effortless she made it all look.
According to reports, several hundred fans walked out of the comeback concert.
While the reviews for the Birmingham show were mixed, the news out of London was nearly all bad.
The notoriously cheeky tabloid The Sun noted, "Time and substances haven't been kind to her once astonishing voice." Indeed, the string of poor performances have kick-started another round of rumors and reports that she has picked up old habits again.The London Evening Standard:
"Where once she soared, now she wheezes and croaks, bludgeoning her perfect pop single 'I Wanna Dance (With Somebody Who Loves Me)' into karaoke submission; stripping the moving 'My Love Is Your Love' of all emotion and inflicting grisly carnage on 'I Will Always Love You' (if she is late-period Judy Garland, this is her 'Over The Rainbow')."
"Her voice, seemingly about an octave deeper than the Whitney who sang the hits, is ragged and raw ... Between songs, wheezing and panting and occasionally breaking into a scary Wicked Witch of the West cackle, she plays for time, breaking off to sign autographs."
"When she then tried to perform a medley of her early songs, even her infinitely patient audience began to revolt. Houston placated them, as she repeatedly did, by acting like a spoilt girl -- giggling, begging forgiveness, stamping her feet and then being momentarily brilliant again."
She has long admitted to being hooked on cocaine for much of the 1990s and 2000s, but in a recent PEOPLE interview Houston called reports of a relapse "ridiculous."
"At this point, I just don't respond. I don't even read it," she said of the reports.
Houston's European tour has been beset with problems from the get-go. She did not show up to her first three concerts, blaming respiratory problems that landed her in a Paris hospital.
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