From Beyonce to Gaga: 8 Singers Influenced by Whitney Houston

Houston impacted both contemporaries and younger singers.

ByABC News
February 15, 2012, 10:16 AM

Feb. 16, 2012— -- intro: "Influence" may be too weak a word to describe Whitney Houston's effect on singers who came after her. Building on the gospel foundation she was given by her mother, Cissy Houston, and godmother, Aretha Franklin, Houston defined the dramatically emotive, melismatic (melismas are those quick runs up or down the scale on one syllable) Pop/R&B style that almost everyone on "American Idol" -- black and white, female and male -- uses. That so many seem to struggle with it testifies to Houston's talent and taste in deploying her vocal gifts.

Here is a look at several pop divas Houston directly inspired, musically and otherwise.

Learn more about Whitney Houston's influence on "One Moment in Time: The Life of Whitney Houston," a two-hour "20/20" special, Friday at 9 p.m. ET.

quicklist: 1title: Mariah Carey text: Mariah Carey's debut album was released in 1990, five years after Houston's. Carey soon joined Houston as a Pop/R&B megastar. They were more or less direct competitors, but perhaps because each was so successful, it didn't seem to matter. In 1998 the two joined forces for "When You Believe," a song on the soundtrack of "The Prince of Egypt," an animated film from Dreamworks.

On Sunday, the day after the news of Houston's death broke, Carey tweeted: "Heartbroken and in tears over the shocking death of my friend, the incomparable Ms. Whitney Houston. My heartfelt condolences to Whitney's family and to all her millions of fans throughout the world. She will never be forgotten as one of the greatest voices to ever grace the earth."

Carey was to appear on "Good Morning America" on Tuesday to discuss losing weight after giving birth to her twins and her role as spokesperson for Jenny Craig.

Her representative reportedly said, "Mariah is still mourning the death of her friend and collaborator Whitney Houston and thought it was too soon to appear on TV to discuss anything else."

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quicklist: 2title: Jennifer Hudsontext: Jennifer Hudson had the challenge and honor of singing Houston's iconic hit, "I Will Always Love You," in her memory at Sunday's Grammys.

Clearly holding back tears, Hudson, 30, concluded the song with the words, "Whitney, we love, we love you," and left the stage to rousing applause.

The singer-actress told "Nightline" in 2008 she used to fantasize about singing the ballad with Houston.

"When she came out with 'I Will Always Love You,' I would create a duet between her and I … If you would hear her recording of singing it and you hear my voice singing the top harmony part and it's like 'ahhh' to me. That's Jennifer Hudson and Whitney Houston's duet, around the house that is," Hudson said.

Houston's powerful rendition of "I Will Always Love You," which was released in 1992 and originally performed by country music legend Dolly Parton, became the anthem of her career. Hudson said Houston and her music had been the "ultimate" influence on her since childhood.

"Whitney Houston was probably the ultimate artist that influenced me the most," Hudson said in 2008. "I always loved everything she sang. But Whitney, that voice, you know, and that music — I always like the music and the substance and something behind it and her music was just like that."

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quicklist: 3title: Beyonce Knowlestext: On Sunday, Feb. 12, the day after Houston's death, Beyonce posted the following statement on her website:

"The loss of Whitney Houston is painful. I remember meeting Whitney for the first time when I was 15. She was the ultimate legend. The ultimate woman. Not only was she confident, poised, stunningly beautiful and intelligent, but she was sincere and kind. She took the time to make everyone feel like they were very important to her. I, like every singer, always wanted to be just like her. Her voice was perfect. Strong but soothing. Soulful and classic. Her vibrato, her cadence, her control. So many of my life's memories are attached to a Whitney Houston song. She is our queen and she opened doors and provided a blueprint for all of us.

"God bless her."

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quicklist: 4title: Alicia Keystext: R&B singer Alicia Keys paid tribute to Whitney Houston at Clive Davis's annual pre-Grammys party Saturday night.

"You think about how this person touched you," she said, sitting at a piano onstage. "You form a friendship, a sisterhood, a bond. You see how incredible they really are. … She was a sister to me."

Keys, 31, grew up listening to Houston and wrote "Million Dollar Bill" for Houston's 2009 comeback album. For Keys, it wasn't just Houston's beauty and voice that drew her to the star, but her similar backstory – a city girl with a soulful voice and enormous success.

In an August 2009 interview with ABC News's Diane Sawyer, Keys described her connection to the singing legend.

"She was just kind of chosen to have a voice that would speak to people," Keys told Sawyer. "So, that's what she means to me. She means like this woman who has been with me since I was a young girl and has shown me what it feels like to dream."

Keys also reminisced about the first Whitney Houston song she heard, likely "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," but said it was more than Houston's voice that drew Keys and people to the star.

"You know what I remember more than her voice, because obviously her voice trumps all, is the first time I saw her face, and it was on that beautiful album when her hair was just totally back and it was just her face," Keys said in the 2009 interview. "It was so just stunning. She just looked like someone you wanted to know, someone you wanted to hear, someone you wanted to listen to."

Keys also spoke about collaborating with her idol on Houston's comeback album, "I Look to You," in the interview.

"I saw that she was very determined," she said. "I saw that she also has a beautiful vulnerability, too. … I feel that she is ready to come into the world and show us what we've been missing."

On Saturday night, before she sang a medley of songs including her hit, "No One," in Houston's honor, Keys belted out the iconic title line from Houston's 1987 hit, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," to thunderous applause.

"I started to think back, think about just how much this person has touched your life, and it's incredible, it's incredible. I mean, from being a little girl, like a little girl growing up, watching this beautiful, incredible woman, who was a girl at the time, too. I'm talking about Whitney, and I'd be like, 'Oh, I want to dance with somebody,'" Keys said and sang.

"This one's for her," she added. "Let's sing her into heaven."

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quicklist: 5title: Lady Gagatext: A little over a year ago, in her acceptance speech upon winning the 2011 Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album, Lady Gaga closed with a surprising message of thanks.

"I need to say thank you tonight to Whitney Houston. I wanted to thank Whitney because when I wrote 'Born This Way,' I imagined she was singing it, because I wasn't secure enough in myself to imagine I was a superstar. So Whitney, I imagined you were singing 'Born This Way' when I wrote it. Thank you."

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quicklist: 6title: Celine Diontext: After Houston and Mariah Carey, Dion was the third member of the troika that dominated female pop singing in the 1990s. On Monday, Dion did a telephone interview with "Good Morning America," telling anchor Robin Roberts, "Whitney's been an amazing inspiration for me. I've been singing with her my whole career, actually. I wanted to have a career like hers, sing like her, look beautiful like her."

Dion went on to speculate on how Houston died, which drew criticism, because Houston's cause of death was not known. "It's just really unfortunate that drugs, bad people or bad influence took over," Dion said. "It took over her dreams. It took over her love and motherhood."

"When you think about Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse, to get into drugs like that, for whatever reason," Dion said. "Is it because of the stress and bad influence? What happens when you have everything? What happens when you have love, support, the family, motherhood? You have responsibilities of a mother and then something happens and it destroys everything."

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quicklist: 7title: Ashanti text: R&B and Hip-Hop singer-songwriter Ashanti appeared Monday on "Good Morning America," paying tribute to Houston with a rendition of the Houston hit "I Have Nothing."

Before she sang, she told anchor Robin Roberts that Houston was an influence on her and, indeed, on all women.

"I still cannot believe we have lost one of the most powerful, soulful, soothing and classic voices of our time," Ashanti tweeted after Houston died.

"Her beauty, strength and poise touched millions around the world. She paved the way for women such as myself, and her music brought generations together," Ashanti continued. "Every little girl sang a Whitney Houston song. Having the honor of her being in my video and being the huge icon that she was, she always seemed like your favorite auntie. My heart goes out to her daughter and family. RIP the Amazing Whitney Houston."

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quicklist: 8title: Brandy text: R&B singer Brandy reportedly became interested in music at age seven because of her love of Houston. The pair worked together in 1997, when Houston picked her to play the title role in a new TV production of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Cinderella." The show drew 60 million viewers and won an Emmy.

Houston and Brandy became friends and stayed in touch, and Houston dated Brandy's brother, Ray J. Brandy reportedly was approached and handed a note by Whitney Houston on Feb. 9, while Brandy was doing an interview with E!

When E! reportedly asked Brandy what it said, she answered, "I'm going to just not say what it was and just keep it to myself for my own personal reasons. ... Whitney meant everything to me ... She's the reason that I sing."

Houston died on Brandy's birthday. Brandy later released a statement saying, "My heart is destroyed. I lost my idol and dear friend. My prayers go out to Whitney's family and her millions of fans around the world. Whitney — the greatest voice of all time — you are my angel and I will always and forever love you."

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Learn more about Whitney Houston's influence on "One Moment in Time: The Life of Whitney Houston," a two-hour "20/20" special, Friday at 9 p.m. ET.