Saturday, February 18, 2012

Gordon in the morning: Fair warning

Exciting times at Wapping as Rupert Murdoch arrives, announcing plans to relaunch the News Of The World under a slightly different name. For too long, we've not known the contents of dead girl's telephones; thank Christ Murdoch is going to put that right.

Still, it's easy to knock this latest escalation of hubris - is superhubris a thing? - but sometimes Gordon and The Sun does provide a valuable public service. Not just by providing enough journalists suspected of criminal wrongdoing to keep dozens of police in work, but also by offering warnings like this one:

Chris Martin and Noel Gallagher team up for Brits
In other words: keep your remote controls close, to save having to dive for the off-switch.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Gordon in the morning: Look busy, the boss is in

Today, Rupert Murdoch will be popping in to either reassure Sun hacks that those of them who don't go to prison will be safe, or to rip out the toilets and lightbulbs before putting the place on the market.

What will Gordon be able to show him when the person translating Murdoch into human asks "what did you do for today's paper"?

A bit that appears to exist for no other reason than plugging Mastercard:

EVEN over in LA, Jessie J can't take her mind off Tuesday's Brits.

The singer, nominated for Best Breakthrough, Best Single for Price Tag and Best Female, couldn't help but dress up as the logo of event sponsors Mastercard.
Handing out free advertising to large companies - are you sure that's the sort of thing that will impress Rupert?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

SOCA seem to think they're an education body

Yesterday, you'll recall, the Serious Organised Crime Agency closed down a website and slapped up a dire warning:

A takedown notice warned visitors who have used the site to download music they could face up to 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.

Soca said music posted on the site was "stolen from the artists" and may have "damaged careers".

A man has been arrested for fraud and bailed pending further enquiries, police told the BBC.

"Soca targets organised criminal enterprises profiting from the exploitation of the UK public and legitimate businesses," the agency said in a statement.

"Much of the music offered for download by the website was illegally obtained from artists, leading the industry to attribute losses of approximately £15m per year to the site's activity."
Is it really the job of the police to accept at face value what are clearly made-up sums of loss of money?

Today, The Inquirer spoke to SOCA asking them about the threats of ten inside:
When asked to explain the somewhat dramatic threat of 10 years in prison for those who visited the web site, the spokesman said, "If you download music that has been illegally obtained, you can be accused of fraud, if you are deemed to be part of the conspiracy to defraud."

We put it to him that most users would have unknowingly downloaded the allegedly illegal content anyway, and he admitted that the web site splash page was aimed at "warning people about how they use the internet."
Warning people about how they use the internet? This, supposedly, is the part of the police which deals with the most serious threats to life, limb and liberty; all of a sudden, they're worrying about a few dodgy R&B tracks and offering educational tips to people about "how they use the internet". Seems, at best, a questionable use of our money.

NME: How are those repeated Noel Gallagher covers and list issues working out for you?

More grim news in the latest ABC magazine circulation figures for NME, I'm afraid, as circulation continues to trickle away. They're down to 27,650 copies per issue for the second half of 2011. That's down from 29,020 in the first half of the year and a plunge from 32,166 for the same period in 2010.

On the bright side, the rate of decline is slowing.

Gordon in the morning: Oh, Jesus

Gordon's page leads off today with some unspeakable grot by Emily Nash:

WHITNEY Houston eerily told pals she felt her "time was coming" and spoke of "seeing Jesus" in the hours before her death, it emerged last night.
Although this is the part of a long churn through the casket that leads the story and provides the headline, it's incredibly vague:
Last Friday — the day before she was found slumped in the bath of her Los Angeles hotel suite — she told one friend: "I'm gonna go see Jesus. I want to see Jesus."

And on Saturday, with her death hours away, she reportedly said: "You know, he's so cool. I really want to see that Jesus."
There's no indication of who these "friends" are.

Ah, but hang on a moment - we can turn to Sun editor Dominic Mohan to help here, can't we? In the face of suggestions that his paper constantly invades the privacy of others and makes up "pals" to cover their tracks, Mohan had a simpler explanation at the Leveson enquiry:
He asks about the phrase "pals say". Mohan says that phrase is an attempt to disguise the source of a story which will sometimes have come from the subject.
That must be it. Of course, I'm not implying that Emily Nash and Gordon Smart are running stories given to them by the Late Whitney Houston from beyond the grave - that would be ridiculous. No, clearly, it's the other figure in this story who must have leaked to the paper. This "Jesus" guy. It's the only explanation, right?

Unless it's a load of made-up bollocks that is just being flung into the paper to fill the dwindling days.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Adele steals record from Whitney

As if it wasn't bad enough that Adele turned up at the Grammys to scoop up buckets of prizes on a night when everyone was supposed to be being serious-faced about Whitney Houston, she's also managed to equal Whitney's record of most weeks at number one in the US album chart. It's like she doesn't care.

Celine Dion makes Houston's death about her

Celine Dion, worried that perhaps Whitney Houston had been hogging the limelight with her death, has attempted to remind people of her existence with a heartfelt wailing:

"It's just very unfortunate that drugs and -- I don't know -- bad people, or bad influences took over," she said during the phone interview. "It took over her dreams, it took over love and motherhood."

"Taking pills to go perform and taking pills to wake up and taking pills to go to bed. It's so unfortunate," she said. "There's something that happens that I don't understand, and that's why I'm so scared. I'm scared of show business. I'm scared of drugs. I'm scared of hanging out. That's why I don't do parties and I don't hang out. That's why I'm not part of show business. Because we have to be afraid."

"I've always said you have to have fun and do music and you can never be part of show business because you don't know what it's going to get yourself into," Dion added. "You have to do your work and get out of there."
Celine Dion was talking about how she's so scared of being forced-fed drugs and made to dance like a dervish that she keeps well away from show business during, erm, an appearance on light-news show Good Morning America.

Because there's no better way to remain aloof from showbiz than turning up on a showbiz programme to talk about dead celebrity.

Is MySpace on the way back? Up to a point

There's a lot of excitement about the supposed one million new users since December MySpace is trumpeting.

So, is it on the way back?

Hmm. Kind-of.

First, these "million new users" are actually new account registrations, mainly driven through people signing up through Facebook. It's plausible some (most? all?) are actually people with existing, lapsed accounts for whom creating a fresh MySpace log-in is preferable to trying to remember old passwords.

Second, they're signing up to use the music player via Facebook. That doesn't mean they're not engaging with MySpace, but the product they're using is something different from the old MySpace. Not a problem for the new owners, but 'new service signs up users' isn't quite the same as the 'MySpace comes back' angle we're being fed.

Third: 'registered new users' is an interesting choice of metric. Not even the number of users, or active users: people could still be flowing away, or launching a new account, using it once and moving on.

Finally, a lot of users could be a problem rather than a blessing. If people engage with that free-to-user, expensive-to-company music through a box on a page around which Facebook are selling highly targeted adverts, there's going to be a problem making ends meet.

Still, that's all for the future: for now, something with the same name as a defunct social network finally has a positive figure to announce. Let's hit the Like button. Did MySpace have a Like button?

Gordon in the morning: Modern Olympians

Presumably as a tribute to the first time London hosted the Olympics, it looks like the organisers are block booking acts who were around in 1908. Seriously, it's all about Ronnie Wood, Gordon reveals:

RONNIE Wood could be at the Olympic site more often than Sir Chris Hoy this summer.

The Rolling Stones guitarist has been asked to perform at both the opening and closing ceremonies – in different bands.

Ronnie said: "We've got more meetings, everyone wants to do it.

"I've been asked to do the opening ceremony with the Stones and close the games with The Faces.
Really? The Stones and The Faces? Are they also planning to measure the running events in yards?

By the way: the front page of The Sun today has a full-sheet picture of the "bath that Whitney Houston died in". For a paper that is trying to argue that it shouldn't just be closed down and forgotten, it's doing an excellent job of offering ammunition to the other side.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Whitney's dead? Party on

During the BBC News coverage of Whitney's death, I turned to Shawndra and said "the way this report is written, it makes it sounds like Clive Davis continued with his party after Whitney's body had been discovered".

Turns out that wasn't sloppy reporting. He actually did carry on munching canapes and slurping champagne four floors before where Houston had been found. Chaka Khan finds that a little ghoulish, too:

Appearing on Cnn show Piers Morgan Tonight on Monday (13Feb12), she said, "I thought that was complete insanity. Knowing Whitney, I don't believe she would have said, 'The show must go on'. She was the kind of woman that would have said, 'Stop everything... I'm not gonna be there.'

"I don't know what could motivate a person to have a party in a building where the person whose life he had influenced so enormously (had died)... I don't understand how that party went on.

"It would have been alright if it really was a true tribute... Call everybody together, let's say a prayer and eat dinner and go home."
Presumably Davis was worried that he wouldn't get his room rental fee back if he cancelled so late.

Elsewhere on CNN, Nancy Grace was desperate to talk-up the death into a murder:
The HLN host was speaking to CNN's Brooke Baldwin [...]
Grace appeared before the police's press conference. But she seemed to sense that some kind of foul play was afoot. Speaking about the prescription drugs found in Houston's hotel room, she wondered "who if anyone put it in her system or gave it to her?" Then, she went further.

"I'd like to know who was around her, who, if anyone gave her drugs...and who let her slip, or pushed her, underneath that water?" she said. "Apparently, no signs of force or trauma to the body. Who let Whitney Houston go under her water?"

"Might it have been one person, might it have been multiple people, all excellent questions," Baldwin said. "Again, we don't know the cause of her death."
Yes, it's an "excellent question" and in no way morbid-corpse-wanking to decide on absolutely no evidence that there must have been a circle of people surrounding the bath, murdering Houston by the well-known criminal method of "letting someone go under the water without touching them".

Apparently there are no signs that Nancy Grace uses force to get on air on a once-proud station that used to cover actually news rather than making shit up. Who lets Nancy Grace go out on the air? Might be one person, might be multiple people. All excellent questions.

Gordon in the morning: Giggling at the bereaved

How awful it must be for the friends and relatives of Whitney Houston, suffering from not just the weight of their loss, but also worrying about her daughter, Bobbi. Bobbi's father, Bobby Brown, has flown to be with his daughter as she remains in hospital, apparently under suicide watch.

So why does Gordon think it's time for 'witty' puns?

Presumably they'd had a "Brown bread" headline ready to roll if the worst happened.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sony Music: Shaking the corpse for coins

The charming people at Sony Records reacted to the news of the death of Whitney Houston in the only way they knew how. By jacking up the price of her records. The Guardian reports:

The music giant is understood to have lifted the wholesale price of Houston's greatest hits album, The Ultimate Collection, at about 4am California time on Sunday. This meant that the iTunes retail price of the album automatically increased from £4.99 to £7.99.
Cynical? No no, says a Sony Insider, talking from Houston's bedroom where they were trying on the dead woman's shoes:
One insider close to the situation said the price hike was not a "cynical" move – but that the wholesale price of Houston's The Ultimate Collection was wrong. The change in wholesale price boosted the album's retail price on iTunes.
What a terrible thing; a "mistake" in the price. How fortunate that the "mistake" was "fixed" while the death certificate was being typed up.

Sony didn't comment; apparently they were too busy stripping the lead from the roof of Houston's home, cackling "it's not like she needs it where she's going."

Gordon in the morning: Loss

To everyone's surprise, there's still a Sun this morning, and so Gordon Smart is still in work. Obviously, while Rupert Murdoch strides around Wapping sticking price labels on everything - pausing to mutter 'I'm committed to this newspaper, really I am. Can you sell media businesses on eBay? Just asking' - Gordon is in a grim moood. How lucky there's a celebrity corpse for Pete Samson to kick about a bit:

Whitney Houston died in bath after 48hr binge
Star was on 'Jacko drugs'
Two nights of boozy partying
Head was underwater
Jacko Drugs? Seriously?

Samson throws the words "tragic" in four times. While listing the drugs that may or may not have been in her room or her system.

Still, in a piece by Richard White, there's a chance to focus on what made her famous, rather than the grisly end, eh?
£100million diva Whitney Houston blew fortune on crack
Star got addicted to drug and died broke
White does get an eyewitness. Not to the death, obviously, but to Whitney looking like she must on drugs or something:
Simon J Bailey, 30, opened for Whitney on the Manchester dates of her Nothing But Love tour. Last night he told The Sun: "You could see in her eyes that she had been through some tough times.

"I think you can always see that a person has been through turmoil.
Right. So, there was much evidence of debauchery, yes?
"All I ever saw her drink was water, I never saw any drink or drugs."
Who is this Simon Bailey? His place in the firmament is more-or-less signified by the quality of the picture The Sun have of him:
Then up pops Gordon to share his view.

First, he makes it clear that Whitney can't be blamed at all for her own drug problems:
Like Jacko with Dr Conrad Murray and Amy with Blake Fielder-Civil, her drug problems were largely down to someone else.
Didn't Jackson retain Murray to keep the supply of drugs flowing? It's odd, isn't it, how The Sun is happy to take the responsibility for their own actions off the shoulders of a select few; they tend to be less forgiving for the addicted poor. If you do heroin on a council estate, or crack in a tower block, it won't be because someone introduced you to drugs, it'll be your own choice. If you do them in a mansion, it'll be someone nasty from outside.

Having absolved Whitney from blame, he then offers a eulogy:
Like Jacko and Amy, Whitney should be remembered for that amazing voice. It made her a global star loved by millions.
It also enabled a massive drugs problem. But Gordon doesn't want that to be how we remember Whitney.

What was the headline on the page which Gordon insists we should just remember the music again?
£100million diva Whitney Houston blew fortune on crack
Star got addicted to drug and died broke
Perhaps that was one of her late 90s hits?

Grammys 2012: Didn't Adele almost have it all

So, it would have been Adele's night - and some sort of irony that a singer whose launchpad was funded, in part, from the Brit Award receipts turns up at the bigger award ceremony and carries off the prizes.

It would have been Adele's night, but for the death of Whitney Houston. One room. So many executives who have pushed their talent a little too hard, or turned a blind eye and sent them out working when they weren't fit. So many musicians who know that the difference between "tragic Whitney" and them was luck rather than judgement. Grief, guilt and there-but-for-the-grace-of-god.

It made for an odd night. Whoever might have been able to rise to the occasion, it was unlikely to be the man who played the chef in Deep Blue Sea. Clunking on to stage to host the event, LL Cool J announced that - for him - the only way to start was a prayer. Like it was Bideford Council.

Really, Ladies Love? The only thing you could think of was a prayer? In a gaudy gong-giving backslapfest, you thought the apt thing to do would be to pretend for a moment that you were in a place of worship?

Still, with an ever-present reminder of what happens when music careers go really wrong, there was a chance to correct the idea that the record companies care about nothing but how many units they can shift, right?


No. Chris Brown came on and was treated like a returning hero. MTV unwittingly captures the reason why this is a problem:

In the end, there were no innuendos or screen cuts to Breezy's ex-flame Rihanna. Brown simply finished his number, stood triumphantly and saluted the crowd before taking a bow.
Yes, MTV wrote up his appearance as if it was some sort of soap plot. "Tee-hee, they didn't do a reaction shot to show the look on the face that Brown had beaten to a pulp, ho-ho." Why should MTV care? After all, if the Grammys think that it's okay to give Brown a "triumphant" platform, who won't see his domestic violence as anything other than some sort of massive jape?

Here's the list of winners on a night when everyone lost a little:
Album of the year: Adele's 21

Record of the year: Adele's Rolling the Deep

Best pop solo performance: Adele's Someone Like You

Song of the year: Adele's Rolling in the Deep

Short-form music video: Adele’s Rolling in the Deep

Best rock performance: Foo Fighters' Walk

Long-form music video: Foo Fighters’ Back and Forth

Hard rock/metal performance: Foo Fighters’ White Limo

Rock song: Foo Fighters’ Walk

Rock Album: Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light

Best rap performance: Otis, by Kanye West and Jay-Z

Rap performance: Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Otis

Best new artist: Bon Iver

Alternative music album: Bon Iver’s Bon Iver

Country duo/group performance: The Civil Wars’ Barton Hollow

Folk album: The Civil Wars’ Barton Hollow

Country solo performance: Taylor Swift’s Mean

Country song: Taylor Swift’s Mean

Dance recording: Skrillex’s Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites

Dance/electronica album: Skrillex’s Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites

R&B album: Chris Brown's F.A.M.E.

Country album: Lady Antebellum's Own the Night

Recording package: Caroline Robert’s Scenes from The Suburbs, for Arcade Fire

Pop duo/group performance: Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse’s Body and Soul

Pop instrumental album: Booker T. Jones’ The Road from Memphis

Traditional pop vocal album: Tony Bennett and various artists’ Duets II

R&B performance: Corinne Bailey Rae’s Is This Love

Traditional R&B performance: Cee Lo Green and Melanie Fiona’s Fool for You

R&B song: Cee Lo Green and Co.’s Fool for You

Rap/sung collaboration: Kanye West, Rihanna, Kid Cudi and Fergie’s All of the Lights

Rap song: All of the Lights

Rap album: Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

New age album: Pet Metheny’s What’s It All About

Improvised jazz solo: Chick Corea’s 500 Miles High

Jazz vocal album: Terri Lyne Carrington and various artists’ The Mosaic Project

Jazz instrumental: Corea, Clarke and White’s Forever

Large jazz ensemble: Christian McBride Big Band’s The Good Feeling

Gospel/contemporary Christian music performance: Le’Andria Johnson’s Jesus

Gospel song: Kirk Franklin’s Hello Fear

Contemporary Christian music song: Laura Story’s Blessings

Gospel album: Kirk Franklin’s Hello Fear

Contemporary Christian music album: Chris Tomlin’s And If Our God Is For Us…

Latin pop, rock or urban album: Mana’s Drama Y Luz

Regional Mexican or Tejano album: Pepe Aguilar’s Bicentenario

Bands or Norteno album: Los Tigres Del Norte’s Los Tigres Del Norte and Friends

Tropical Latin album: Cachao’s The Last Mambo

Americana album: Levon Helm’s Ramble at the Ryman

Bluegrass album: Alison Krauss and Union Station’s Paper Airplane

Blues album: Tedeschi Trucks Band’s Revelator

Regional roots music album: Rebirth Brass Band’s Rebirth of New Orleans

Reggae album: Stephen Marley’s Revelatino Pt. 1: The Root of Life

World music album: Tinariwen’s Tassili

Children’s album: All About Bullies… Big & Small

Spoken world album (includes poetry, audio books and story telling): Betty White’s If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won’t)

Comedy album: Louis C.K.’s Hilarious

Musical theatre album: The Book of Mormom

Compilation soundtrack for visual media: Boardwalk Empire: Vol. 1

Score soundtrack for visual media: Alexandre Desplat’s The King’s Speech

Song written for visual media: I See the Light (from Tangled)

Instrumental composition: Bela Fleck and Howard Levy’s Life in Eleven

Instrumental arrangement: Gordon Goodwin’s Rhapsody in Blue for Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band

Instrumental arrangement accompanying vocalist: Jorge Calandrelli’s Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me), for Tony Bennett and Queen Latifah

Boxed or special limited edition package: Dave Bett and Michelle Holme’s The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story

Album notes: Hear Me Howling: Blues, Ballads & Beyond as recorded by the San Francisco Bay by Chris Strachwitz in the 1960s

Historical album: Band on the Run (Paul McCartney Archive Collection – Deluxe Edition)

Engineered album, non-classical: Alison Krauss and Union Station’s Paper Airplane

Producer of the year, non-classical: Paul Epworth

Remixed recording, non-classical: Cinema (Skrillex Remix)

Surround sound album: Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (Super Deluxe Edition)

Engineered album, classical: Aldridge: Elmer Gantry

Producer of the year, classical: Judith Sherman

Orchestral performance: Brahms, Symphony No. 4 by Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel

Opera recording: Adams: Doctor Atomic

Choral performance: Light & Gold - Eric Whitacre, conductor (Christopher Glynn & Hila Plitmann; The King's Singers, Laudibus, Pavão Quartet & The Eric Whitacre Singers)

Small-ensemble performance: Mackey: Lonely Motel – Music from Slide

Classical instrumental solo: Schwantner: Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra by Christopher Lamb, Giancarlo Guerrero conducts Nashville Symphony

Classical vocal solo: Joyce DiDonato with Kazushi Ono and Orchestre de l’Opera National de Lyon with Choeur de l’Opera National de Lyon for Diva Divo

Contemporary classical composition: Robert Aldridge and Herschel Garfein’s Elmer Gantry

UPDATE: Thanks to @tismey for pointing out that LL Cool J was the chef; Ice T was the Kangaroo in Tank Girl. I regret the error.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Love Parade: The mayor was still there

Adolf Sauerland, mayor of Duisburg at the time of the Love Parade disaster in 2010, has been recalled in a special vote.

Sauerland has repeatedly refused to take any form of responsibility for the poor planning at the event, at which 21 people were crushed to death. An attempt to unseat him from within the city council failed; instead, it took a poll of the full electorate of the city to get rid of him.

Bookmarks: Whitney Houston

Okay, there's a second piece about Whitney's death that you should probably try to make time to read - Susie Bright's Whitney Houston's death is probably not what you think it is:

I didn’t know Whitney. I don't have the coroner's report in hand; this is all speculation. But I do know artists, from the successful and influential to the poor and unheralded. Artists read all this crap about “The diva did drugs! Bad girl! Boo hoo!” and just wanna throw up.

Women in pop culture are particularly framed with this “poor little prima donna who destroyed her talent” garbage. When great male musicians die, it’s unusual to have their substance issues splayed forth in the obit headline.

Is that what happened when George Harrison died? The Beatles, every one of them, could've given Whitney Houston a clinic in drug abuse. When Keith Richards dies, are they going to lead with “heroin destroyed his career”?

Why was Billie Holliday’s love affair with heroin so tragic, but Miles Davis and John Coltrane … not so much? Why is Sinead O'Conner a nutcase but Van Halen is just a darling bunch of naughty rockers? Why is Madonna's mental state on the front page every day, but not Justin Beiber's? Fuck that noise.

Thinking about Whitney Houston

In the way the smell of a dead antelope brings carrion birds out from the forest onto the plains, the news of Whitney Houston's death has attracted Paul Gambaccini and Pete Waterman into the BBC News studio.

At least their arrival took some of the stress off the early responders.

Gambo and Waterman can construct a eulogy from absolutely nothing.

If the drummer from Howler fell under a tank during an ill-starred visit to the Bovington Museum, Gambo and Waterman would be able to fill five minutes with figures and significance. It's what they do. The rest of us might struggle.

The surprise, though, was how BBC News was struggling before they managed to squeeze into a room with a camera and an uplink.

When Jackson died, it was pretty easy for the generalists to have something to say - Thriller, Rockin' Robin, comeback tours. You could skirt around the kiddie-fiddling and addictions.

Houston has sold tonnes of records - the biggest-selling female artist, announces Gambo, looking up from his slide-rule. So why was it hard for the news team to bring a balance to the bit where they weren't mopping up the Brown marriage, and the brown?

Gambaccini, mic-ed up and settled in, trotted out an explanation of Houston's style. Melisma. Or what - I think it was the NME - once described as "utterly undisciplined vocal gymnastics".

The "undisciplined" was unfair - Houston's style was something she was clearly more in control of than much else in her life. But the gymnastics was spot-on. And it was the gymnastics which is prancing about on the floor waving ribbons rather than the sort that uses bars and springboards and horses.

Effectively, a lot of showing off disconnected from the need to relate to anything else. Houston's songs might as well have all been a capella, as she was out the front, doing her thing in the foreground, rather than working with the music.

A capella? No, she could have just had the introduction, to announce to the audience what song was going to be bent to demonstrate her skills.

Impressive enough skills, but utterly, utterly soulless, too. I think this is what makes her feel distant; a Whitney Houston song is a bit like reading computer code in a language you're not familiar with - you can see that it is crafted, but, as code, it does nothing to you. Nothing for you.

Drop the code it into a machine, and it can work.

Plop a bit of Houston onto a soundtrack of a movie, and - oh, it's about love. That sort of makes sense.

Stick her bellowing I'm Every Woman onto the start of an Oprah show, and it does a kind of empowering thing. That makes sense.

Pump I Wanna Dance With Somebody into a hen party, and carnage ensues. That make a kind of sense.

But just take the music out, and listen to those notes being shuffled around, and what have got? It's like that opening sequence to Emma Thompson's sketch show; the feeling that you've been given a role of watching a very clever person being very clever. All you are meant to do is applaud.

Compare Dolly Parton's I Will Always Love You with Houston's cover. Houston's is more vocally accomplished, anyone can see that.

But Parton's version is a woman telling a lover that her love will always be there, even as she's leaving. She lives the song. She sings the words. She tells the story.

Houston sings the same words, but she's having so much fun playing with them, there's no story. No lover is conjured, there's no hand being held fats and allowed to drop. Sure, you can bung in clips of The Bodyguard into the video which will do the job, and when people buy the record and take it home, they can picture that, right?

But Houston's performance should be doing that. Instead, she's off showing off her vocal range. If there was someone being dumped when she was singing the song, it's the equivalent of being dumped by somebody who doesn't make eye contact and who insists on doing it in Latin.

Her version of I Will Always Love You is actually all "I", no "You".

And as Waterman and Ganmbo both revealed, part of Houston's legacy is to have raised a generation of female singers who think that the melisma is a short-cut to emotion. That to try and convince a song is full of real feelings, all you need to do is skeeter up and down the scale like a monkey on a piano.

Houston could pull of the trick, but never nailed the problem. In her wake came a bunch of singers who couldn't even do the trick well. Look at Aguilera's eyes roaming the room during the Lady Marmalade video - "is this is, mom? Have I got it?"

Waterman reveals that during Pop Idol they had to ban people from trying to do Houston songs. Ostensibly, there were too many doing them, but you can just imagine a room of people without Houston's technical skill trying to pull it off. Like a bunch of First Aiders at a train crash deciding they'd try to do the amputations.

I think even Whitney Houston fans know this is true, too. Many of the Twitter tributes this morning (ignoring those from people who have suddenly turned out to be her biggest fans) have been about when the songs were playing, and not the performances themselves.

And maybe this is why the early commentators on the News had struggled so much. Houston gave great soundtrack, and had technical skills you couldn't argue with. But not much warmth, not much feeling. You could admire the plumbing, but plumbing isn't much to love.

Bookmarks: Chris Brown

Tonight's Grammys are, as you'd expect, currently being refitted as a mawkfest. They have a more pressing problem, though, one they've bought on themselves. Chris Brown - best known for spending Grammy evening punching women in the face - has, somehow ended up on the bill. Sasha Pasulka asks why we're letting this happen:

Accepting that Chris Brown gets to perform at the Grammys because some people bought his album is no different from accepting that women without health insurance don’t get to be screened for breast cancer because some VP at Komen is anti-abortion. It may happen, but that doesn’t mean we should tacitly accept it. What if Chris Brown had hit your sister that night? Or your daughter? (What if Chris Brown had hit Taylor Swift that night?)

We’re accepting the message that women just aren’t that important, that their health and their safety and their self-respect is only important until it stops being convenient for everyone. We should be angry about this, and we should be angry publicly about this.

Bookmarks: Whitney Houston

There is an awful lot of Whitney Houston related postings going up on the internet at the moment, as you'd expect. The one that I'd recommend you read is from Eve Barlow on how within moments, Houston's death became another chance for people to talk about themselves:

On the other end of the enormoknob scale came the one and only Dan Wootton, who tweeted “Whitney Houston death is CONFIRMED. This is NOT a Twitter hoax. Only 49-years-old” and immediately updated his Twitter profile picture to an image of Me And My Mate Whitney. Well, indeed. Except if she was your friend, Mr Wootton, perhaps you would have been up to speed with her birthdays and not got her age wrong. Whoops. “My job as a showbiz reporter involves reporting and providing tributes at these very sad times. I hope people can understand that,” Dan tweeted after his live feed on Sky. Loud and clear, Dan. Let’s just report accurately, yeah?

This week just gone

The most-read February stories so far:

1. Noel Gallagher marches to the right
2. Bono tries to sink short film; film-makers fight back
3. Chris Moyles being threatened by Today
4. EMI claim ownership of slogan it stole from an old advert
5. Junos shortlist announced
6. Adam Lambert latest man to try on, fail to fill, Freddie Mercury's shoes
7. 50 Cent tries to feed starving by selling energy drinks
8. Noel Gallagher struggles to explain Thatcher comments
9. Liz Phair on Lana Del Ray
10. The Decemberists takes on The Susan G Komen foundation

These were the interesting releases from this week:

Beth Jeans Houghton - Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose

Download Yours Truly

The Twilight Sad- No-one Can Ever Know

Download No-one Can Ever Know

Sharon Van Etten - Tramp

Download Tramp

Prinzhorn Dance School - Clay Class

Download Clay Class

Air - Le Voyage Dans La Lune

Download Le Voyage

Wire - The Black Session

Download The Black Session

Goldfrapp - The Singles

Download Be Strong

Vocalobit: Whitney Houston

As you'll probably have heard elsewhere, Whitney Houston has died at the age of 48. So ends one of the slowest second-act tragedies in an American life.