TGJ Replay: Whitney Houston’s ‘I’m Your Baby Tonight’

Published: Friday 16th Jan 2015 by Rashad

Whitney_Houston-I_m_Your_Baby_Tonight-thatgrapejuice Welcome back to TGJ Replay!

Designed much like our ‘Retro Rewind’ and ‘From the Vault’ features, ‘Replay’ is That Grape Juice‘s newest reflective segment to act as a written quest, if you will, to re-spin the gems and jams of yesterday. Unlike its retrospective predecessors, ‘Replay’ looks to dust off and showcase entire albums (and eras) from a library of pop and Urban pop music hits.

Now, as fans ready themselves for the highly anticipated Whitney Houston made-for-TV biopic ‘Whitney’ (January 17th at 8/7c on Lifetime), there is no better time to ode the songstress than with today’s replay of her multiplatinum third album ‘I’m Your Baby Tonight.’

“The third album is probably always the hardest because people expect so much. [They say] the first one is ok, the second one was pretty good, but now what is she going to do for the third one? It’s always that expectation level that makes it hard to deal with. You want it to be accepted in the same way that the first and second one were.” – Whitney Houston, 1991

Join us as we travel back to 1990… whitney houston It had to be something to be the anomaly of “Whitney Houston” in 1989.

For, with history books seemingly growing weary of etching the pop princess’s name along its pages for one reason or the other (see: besting The Beatles’ singles record with 7 consecutive #1 singles, best-selling debut album by a female artist at the time, sophomore album becoming first female album ever to debut at #1, etc.), Houston, affectionately known as Nippy, was learning the hard way that success was a double edged sword.  Not only was the powerhouse vocalist grappling with having to meet or exceed the whopping worldwide sales of her first two efforts (‘Whitney Houston’ – 25 million, ‘Whitney’ – 20 million) and the evolution of and growing need for music videos (a format she never exactly clung to like her less vocally talented, chart-topping counterparts), but 1989 would bring with it glaring proof of the growing distance between herself and the “Urban” audience.

Indeed, two back to back unceremonious jeerings at the ’88 and ’89 Soul Train Awards signified to most that the audience had grown weary of Nippy’s soaring gospel-like vocal displays boarding fluffy “white” pop numbers.  The incidents are credited by most as the catalyst for the sonic direction of her third album.

(See Whitney address the incidents in an Arsenio Hall interview below at 3:18)

Much like pop/R&B counterpart Janet Jackson, the powerhouse singer’s third album would finally see her gain ‘control’  as it marked the first time her handler, Clive Davis, would allow her more creative command over her image, sound, and overall product.  Still under his guidance, however, the two would tap Luther Vandross, L.A. Reid, and Babyface to steer the album’s sonic direction down more rhythmic avenues.  Combining elements of pop, jazz, new jack swing, R&B, and hip hop, the collection of tunes would primarily see Houston travel terrains of sound her two previous efforts hadn’t dared as, for the first time, her name was listed as “co-songwriter” and “producer” on album credits.

But, for safe measure (as the majority of Whit’s hits were ballads), Davis ensured the inclusion of work from previous producers Narada Michael Walden and Michael Masser to assist audiences with transitioning to this ‘new Whitney’ without alienating fans of her power ballads ‘Greatest Love of All,’ ‘Where Do Broken Hearts Go,’ and more.

The outcome of this venture?  ‘I’m Your Baby Tonight.’

Fall 1990 would introduce fans to the “new Whitney” with the release of the album’s L.A. Reid & Babyface-produced title track.

With an instantly recognizable, Michael Jackson-esque intro in tow, the song would dethrone Mariah Carey‘s ‘Love Takes Time’ and blare its way to #1 on the Hot 100 and ‘Hot R&B’ charts in just six weeks on the wings of strong radio airplay and one of Houston’s most conceptually driven music videos ever.  Arguably feeling the pressure to compete with fellow pop titans’ (Madonna, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Paula Abdul, George Michael) manipulation of the evolving format, ‘Tonight’s visual accompaniment would see the songstress travel through time to ode her musical influences.  Nodding to the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Diana Ross, and more, the video would symbolize a farewell to the gown-donning balladress of the 80’s fans had grown to love to greet a “hip, 90s Whitney” with ripped jeans and leather jacket to boot.

It worked.

Landing her 8th #1, the song’s chart performance would ease label fears that revamping the singer’s image was a wrong move…to some degree. Its short tenure on the chart’s perch, followed by the album’s #3 peak on the Billboard 200, led Davis and co. to go back to Houston’s tried and true formula; ballads.

Tapping her remake of the early 80s, Linda Clifford hit ‘All the Man That I Need’ as ‘Tonight’s follow-up, fans not so keen on Houston’s updated sonic approach would fall in love all over again.

Talk about a knockout performance!

Decorated with a stunning crescendo of Whitney’s emotional vocal delivery, assortment of strings, and a high-spirited choir, the song – despite growing opposition from Carey – would reassert the singer’s position as the era’s premier balladress.  

Giving the powerhouse her second #1 single from this album and 9th overall, the song would mark her first time reigning atop the Hot 100, ‘Hot R&B,’ and ‘Adult AC’ charts simultaneously.

At the rate the 90s was shaping up, by 1991 Whitney looked to be well on her way to dominating the decade much like she did the 80s.  Though her bad girl image would find boosts from reports of diva behavior, photos of her smoking cigarettes, updated wardrobe, and a timely relationship with R&B bad boy Bobby Brown making its waves across the rumor mills and headlines, Houston was very much still ‘America’s Sweetheart.’  The status of such was undoubtedly cemented when she took to Superbowl XXV to perform the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’ We use the term “perform” lightly.

Let’s try..hmm…annihilate.

Particularly emotional for some fans as the U.S. was at the genesis of the Persian Gulf War, the singer took to the field to lend such a heart-tugging rendition of the U.S. national anthem that it would not only be received with thunderous applause from the audience in attendance, but it would literally become the standard for every single act that has dared to attempt it after.  In fact, the response was so overwhelming that Houston’s record label home, Arista Records, granted her version “single status” and donated all proceeds to charity.

Despite the “lip syncing scandal” that ensued, the tune’s performance on charts delivered her highest single debut at the time (at #32 on Hot 100) and would peak at #20.  Scanning over 750,000 purchases in 8 days, at a time where singles were not digitally downloaded for $.99 a pop, the song would become Arista’s fastest selling single for quite some time.

Special note:  Whitney’s version recharted in 2001 and would make her the first and only singer in history to make the song a Top 10 hit.

The overwhelming wave of publicity following her U.S. national anthem performance did not deter her attention from celebrating her first album of creative control, however.  Going back to ‘I’m Your Baby Tonight,’ Davis and co. would follow-up ‘All The Man That I Need’ with the ballad ‘Miracle’ (#9 Hot 100 peak), new jack swing jam ‘My Name Is Not Susan’ (#20 Hot 100 peak),  ‘I Belong To You,’ and Stevie Wonder duet ‘We Didn’t Know.’

Though each single following ‘All the Man That I Need’ would perform worse than its predecessor, the ‘I’m Your Baby Tonight’ era did little to stunt the growth of Houston’s social status.  With monumental moments like Superbowl XXV, the ensuing ‘Welcome Home Heroes’ HBO concert special, and a supporting world tour to keep her name in mention, by the time the dust settled the album still managed to shift a whopping 12 million worldwide.  Granted, the numbers paled in comparison to her two previous efforts, but the era would only act as a stepping stone to her career’s shining achievement…‘The Bodyguard’ movie and accompanying soundtrack.

On the awards tip, the album landed Grammy ‘Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female’ nods for ‘I’m Your Baby Tonight’ (1991) and ‘All the Man That I Need’ (1992), 1993 ‘Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female’ Grammy nod (‘I Belong To You’), and American Music Award nods, but no wins.

*****

‘I’m Your Baby Tonight’ is unforgivably the least celebrated album of Whitney Houston’s prime.  A shame, let us tell it, because it gave the songstress so many “firsts”:  first time she really began to own her sexuality, first venture into unadulterated R&B devoid of pop flavouring or undertone, and the first time she took the driver’s seat to have a “say so” in how she was represented.  It was the beginning of the derailment of Houston’s pristine image and, ultimately, we liked it for what it was supposed to be until it got out of control.

It’s obvious, in part, the era’s overall purpose was to “modernize” the former pop princess to go toe to toe with her fellow pop titans as proof of this could be argued with the increased intensity of choreography in her music videos & staging as well as her updated wardrobe and downplay of ballads.  Yet, instead of helping her “keep up,” the era only helped distinguish her more from the Madonna’s and Janet’s of the day by adding a spice of diversity that, let us tell it, was lost again when Davis helmed ‘The Bodyguard’ soundtrack offerings.

Either way, IYBT is an absolute gem.  Hey, we still get our groove on at TGJ HQ with ‘Lover For Life’ and ‘Takin A Chance,’ but you tell us:

 

Your thoughts?

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  1. king z January 16, 2015

    Vocally, whitney was at her peak in 1987-89. by late 89 and 90, whitney’s voice began taking on a darker quality. Arguably more from overuse and improper technique over drug use.

    either way, i’m your baby tonight was such a cool step for her to get form behind the guise of OREO. ultimately, it helped and hurt her. but even tho IYBT era is not my fave of hers, the songs IYBT and ALL THE MAN THAT I NEED are still my fave songs of hers

  2. iHATEjohnvidal January 16, 2015

    i wonder if John vidal will find this replay acceptable.

    ANYWHO, this was such a great album. i absolutely adore “lover for life” to the point i want it played at my wedding. i also really like “taking a chance” and of course the actual IYBT tonight. something about that song makes me think of BATMAN tho (not the singer, the actual superhero lol)

    • JOHNVIDAL January 16, 2015

      Yes I approve thanks LOL

  3. Suicide Blonde January 16, 2015

    This is arguably her most underrated album imo, she showed her diversity with it, this was a very good read, great job Rashad.

  4. Danny Bey January 16, 2015

    Imo, her voice was at its best during this era. Everyone wants to say she peaked at the Bodyguard but if you listen and watch her performances during IYBT, you’ll see how each and every single performance was literally and I do mean literally FLAWLESS.

    • JOHNVIDAL January 16, 2015

      Her voice kept changing (as most special voices do) throughout teh years and tehre´s something to like from each era, but Whitney´s voice was at her best in the 80s, crystal clear slayage, perfect, absolutely flawless.

  5. Grande The Way January 16, 2015

    Love Whitney and this album! This is by far her most underrated album. I’m Your Baby Tonight was an incredible single and a classic. I never understood why people ever said she sang “white”. You can’t sing like a color, they’re just different styles suited for different voices. Whitney’s voice is timeless.

  6. Stephy Jackson January 16, 2015

    I did NOT like this album at all. Aside, from a few tracks. But, her voice was INCREDIBLE. My fav song from her PERIOD is ALL THE MAN I NEED. She tore that song up MANY times live. Incredible!!!

    She Was The Greatest Singer Of All Time

    • LB January 16, 2015

      BYE

      • Stephy Jackson January 16, 2015

        Sista Lovelybird, what seems to be the problem hun?

  7. Stephy Jackson January 16, 2015

    Also, she reached her “peak” during the Bodyguard. After that, her voice deteriorated rapidly.

    • TheElusiveLamb January 16, 2015

      Still was a phenomenal vocalist. Why are you shading? You think that s*** is so cute don’t you? You’re not keeping it real, you’re just being a thirsty bottom who is taking out her insecurities on others. Learn to STFU. The woman is dead for Christmas sake. WTF is wrong with you?

      • Stephy Jackson January 16, 2015

        Honey, why in the world do you keep replying to me? I was not shading Miss Nippy at all. They were discussing her vocal peak. In the comments earlier. I said, nothing about her death or disrespectful. Jesus

      • TheElusiveLamb January 16, 2015

        If you can come in MY reply box and give your brief opinion on MJB The London Sessions, then I will come to yours. Get over yourself.

      • Stephy Jackson January 16, 2015

        That was a lAST FUCKINNNNG YEAR B****! Get out my reply section. You STAY in it talking TRASH

      • TheElusiveLamb January 17, 2015

        How do I stay in your reply box? Go back to the other posts and try that comment again. Learn to STFU.

  8. JOHNVIDAL January 16, 2015

    The legendary Whitney Houston babies!!!
    Everytime I listen to All The Man that I Need… that VOICE, she takes me to a new dimension. Feels like paradise! And all the live performances of that song… The Voice. Once in a lifetime singer.

  9. LB January 16, 2015

    Yassss my fav Rashad with yet another slaying article. Imma come back and read this slayage.

    #Rashad #TGJKing

  10. Royalkev January 16, 2015

    Crossover acts like Whitney always tend to have so many audiences to please. It’s kind of silly now to think of Whitney as a singer lacking soul, but sometimes people label artists “sell-outs” that have the kind of following she did. If you listen to Whitney’s first 2 albums you can sense that there’s a powerhouse vocalist all over those albums, she didn’t have to do any over-singing to prove that she possessed an enormous talent (one that she would later be revered for universally). Still, it’s nothing like having naysayers, there the ones that allow you to see what an artist is made of. IYBT was a soulful and feisty album. Whitney had a sass on this album made it clear that she was a versatile singer with the ability to do more than deliver a moving ballad. My favorite track in this collection of songs is ‘Susan’. I don’t know why, but it just has a life to it that I really wanted from Whitney! There’s a version where the intro is a short Acapella part that just really sends me. For me, Whitney is second to none vocally. I respect so many “real vocalist”, but I haven’t felt the chills from any other artist the way I have with Nip (and I appreciate soooo many DAMN GOOD ONES, more than just the others I stan for). This is basically why I’ll always respect this woman no matter what the media, haters, etc try to take away from her! Imo, it makes people looks foolish doing so!

  11. King M.J January 16, 2015

    That voice, she’s was the greatest singer ever.

    • King M.J January 16, 2015

      I meant to say “she”, excuse me.

  12. TheElusiveLamb January 16, 2015

    First let me start by saying the Mimi shade is ridiculous. That interviewer was an ass and Whitney was tired of him, not Mimi which is why she cleaned it up so quickly.
    _

    Anywho, this is my favorite album of hers. I think her voice had more depth and even more power than it did in the 80’s (mainly because women voices don’t mature until they are 27-30), and she sounded phenomenal every time she performed. Her beauty, her talent, and legacy simply is in a league of its own. May she RIP. Love you Whitney! ♡♡

  13. HOWYOULIKEIT January 16, 2015

    Nobody talks about After we make love. That song is flawless and timeless

    • Lmfao_Hoe January 16, 2015

      Yes baby I don’t understand why they did not release that as a single and video. Would’ve Been another hit :/

    • JOHNVIDAL January 17, 2015

      I LOVE that song. That´s the most haunting on the album along with the mentioned All The Man that I Need. Magical voice.

  14. Fancy BISH January 16, 2015

    Great article TGJ 😉 Ya’ll basically said everything, but I’ll add that I’m Your Baby Tonight had a cinematic feel to it…the cover looks like a movie poster…the songs feel right out of a movie script…love (All The Man I Need), s** (I’m Your Baby Tonight), abortion (Miracle), and infidelity (SUSAN! lol)…it was the perfect setup for the massive Bodyguard Soundtrack and her movie career…and how stunning was Whitney? Just FLAWLESS 😉

  15. San January 16, 2015

    I actually think Whitney Houston is the most universally acclaimed diva because all fan bases unanimously agree that she was “The Voice”…it helps she never had funds and always congratulated other female singer…She was not afraid to play the back and give them their shine/spotlight…. if you watch all the parodies on YouTube Whitney is the least confrontational….Most of the female singer have been quoted in interviews sharing their love and inspiration for whitney including Mariah Carey, Celine Dion,Britney Spears,Christina Aguilera,Faith Evans,Beyoncé,Rihanna,Lady Gaga,Ciara,Brandy,Monica,Kelly Price,Jessie J,Kelly Rowland…Good to see the Positivity

    • San January 16, 2015

      I meant *Feuds……Crazy Auto Correct lol

  16. MUSICHEAD January 17, 2015

    Whitney is the greatest female vocalist of all time!

    I’m Your Baby Tonight is the first Whitney Houston song I ever knew and it is still my all time favorite!

  17. MariahIsMusic1 January 17, 2015

    She’s the greatest Vocalist of all Time imo. The Voice! Not really fond of this album but yes I’m loving this article.

  18. Matthew Charlery-Smith January 18, 2015

    this was arguably her best album. Her vocal peak was ’87-’94. Yes, there were a few changes after album 2, but Whitney’s vocal skills increased drastically. Her tone was richer and her control more steady. The videos of this album were brilliant too. The lead single remains probably her best video and “Susan” had her working with rappers long before Carey.

    The Japanese version of the album had a “Taking a Chance” and “Higher Love” as bonus tracks and the former is great. Another song many don’t know of is the outtake “Dancing on the Smooth Edge”. This is where Whitney literally tore up the vocal! She transitioned from jazzy smooth runs and deep chest voice to super high head notes and classic Whitney belts.

    Mariah always had the bigger range but her operatic background made her less emotive as she relied on technique. Whitney’s Gospel training gave her the ability to connect word to emotion and that’s another reason she was so good.

    Up until ’94 Whitney was smashing live performances culminating in stealing the show at the benefits concert with Sting, Elton John and Pavarotti. Yep, she smashed Opera! After “Exhale” her voice was darker and she began to sound like an alto, that’s why MLIYL was so disappointing for me. She did far better on the Just Whitney album. Live performances were bad but the studio set was much better.

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