on December 25, 2007
"The Ultimate Collection" omits several of her best songs.
The anthemic "Step By Step", the elegant, jazz-tinged "I Learned From The Best" and the searing "Queen Of The Night" are all missing, their places taken by the grandstanding ballads that made Houston a superstar.
Over the years, these have tended to fall into two categories: the schlocky love songs that are as sweet and gooey ("Saving All My Love For You", "I Have Nothing", "Run To You"), and the inane self-empowerment anthems that have recently become "Am Idol" audition staples ("One Moment In Time", "Greatest Love Of All").
Too often, these saccharine songs are a waste of Houston's rich, powerful, opulent voice. Worse still, ballad-mode Houston has a tendency to scorch when she should be simmering: the way she smothers "I Will Always Love You" with melismatic vocal showboating is cold, crass and, ultimately, the very antithesis of soul.
Houston's floor-fillers have aged a little more gracefully, although their clunky, thudding drum sounds tend to be irreversibly eighties. Nevertheless, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" remains buoyant and unshakable; "So Emotional" houses one of Houston's most persuasive vocal performances.
However, Houston only truly justifies her superstar status on two tunes from 1998's "My Love Is Your Love" collection, a largely successful attempt at reinventing the increasingly fusty belter for a contemporary audience. Playing the wronged woman over Rodney Jerkins' percolating R&B rhythms on "It's Not Right But It's Okay", she sounds spectacular, while Wyclef Jean's tender, romantic "My Love Is Your Love" manages to humanise an artist who's often seemed like a robotic octave-conquering machine.
If today's hitmakers can pull off the same trick - rumour has it Houston's currently sharing studio space with Ne-Yo, will.i.am and Akon - that dazzling voice could still realise its true potential.