Not 'The End of the Road' for '90s R&B

While the '80s gave the world a glimpse of Whitney's greatness with songs like "Greatest Love of All" and "Saving All My Love for You," her tunes had poppier roots during that time.

While never hidden, her soulfulness took center stage in the '90s. Houston wracked up a bevy of crossover hits.

And the songbird had a knack for making songs her own. She made listeners forget "I Will Always Love You" originally was a Dolly Patron country song. The single, which was the biggest sensation on the already hit-filled "Bodyguard" soundtrack, cemented her place atop the industry with a single note.

And even when Houston faced her toughest times publicly in the 2000s (which included stints in rehab, her father's death and a divorce), fans stood by her.

"Nobody wants anything but good things for Whitney Houston because she's given too much of herself," said Smith, who is eager to here a new album from the star. "I don't believe Whitney has had her biggest hit yet."

Godfrey agreed.

"People still cheer for Whitney Houston," he said. "I know people want her to do well."

But if there's one endearing image from the height of Houston's career, it's her 1991 performance at Super Bowl XXV when she sang the national anthem in a sweat suit and white headband. She began the only artist to turn "The Star Spangled Banner" into a hit.

"If you ever doubt we live in a great country, YouTube Whitney singing that song," Smith said.

Houston wasn't the only big-voiced diva dominating the decade.

Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston are two sides of the same coin, Godfrey said.

"She's like a modern-day Minnie Ripperton," he added.

Carey, who outperformed the King of rock and roll himself when she clocked her 18th No.1 single in April, was a more reserved performer in the early 90s, belting out ballads like "Vision of Love" and "Love Takes Time."

"Everybody was infatuated with her eight million octave voice," Smith joked.

But as the young siren matured, so did her style and melodies. The songstress embraced rap and hip-hop in her songs and videos, according to Smith.

Nowhere was that more apparent than in her video for the song "Honey," which caught some fans off guard as a sexier, sultry Carey debuted in 1997.

And, according to Godfrey, Carey's art didn't suffer when her persona changed.

"She still has her voice," he said. "When you are talented, your talent keeps you in the game."

"You have a lot of microwave artists who have the look, but not the talent," he added.

What many people forget is that Carey is a singer and songwriter, Smith said.

"She is not a joke," she added.



Like her contemporary Carey, Janet Jackson used the 1990s to display a more adult and edgier image.

"We know Janet as Penny from 'Good Times,' 'Fame' and she was Todd Bridges' girlfriend on 'Diff'rent Strokes,'" Godfrey said. "But she was trying to let people know, 'I'm sexy. I want you to look at me and get excited.'"

Also like Carey, Jackson used a music video to show off her new femme fatale image — complete with a sizzling new physique. The black and white "Love Will Never Do Without You" video in 1991 altered how the singer was viewed by nearly everyone.

"That's when we all knew she wasn't Michael Jackson's sister anymore," Smith said. "She didn't seem nervous at all. The first time she didn't seem self-conscious."

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