The music in I Wanna Dance With Somebody proves Whitney Houston's voice is incomparable

In the closing credits of Sony’s new biopic Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody, a series of summaries are used to wrap up the film, with the late star described on screen as the “greatest voice of her generation”.

Houston had a voice like no other.

So, it’s fitting then that 22 songs in the 144-minute film are sung by Whitney herself, with the filmmakers obtaining the original recordings of her hits and remixing them so they sound just as breathtaking in a movie theatre as they do on a car stereo.

Naomi Ackie dressed up as Whitney Houston in a high-end tracksuit standing in front of a crowd with hands raised

Houston died at 48 in 2012.

Her death was ruled an accidental drowning, with heart disease and cocaine use believed to have been contributing factors.

It was a sad end to the life of a trailblazing singer, who was one of the best-selling and most-awarded recording artists of all time.

And the strength of Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody is in its music.

Her voice can be heard singing classics such as Greatest Love of All, Where Do Broken Hearts Go, Saving All My Love, How Will I Know, I Will Always Love You, I’m Every Woman, I’m Your Baby Tonight and, of course, I Wanna Dance with Somebody.

A man and woman sitting on a couch smiling and facing each other, in conversation

Directed by Kasi Lemmons and written by Academy Award nominee Anthony McCarten, you can tell the film was also produced by legendary music executive Clive Davis — he comes off looking like a saint — portrayed by Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci.

The relationship Davis had with Houston is given a lot of weight in the film, as is the romantic relationship she had with close friend Robyn Crawford (Nafessa Williams).

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Two women lying down on the carpet, one with her arm on the other's stomach, both look happy

Whitney herself is played by BAFTA Award-winning British actor, Naomi Ackie.

Ackie had to step up at times where no recordings of the star existed — it’s her voice that can be heard singing songs such as Guide Me, O My Great Jehovah, and when Houston sings backing vocals for her mother, Cissy (Tamara Tunie) — it’s a reminder she came from exceptional musical stock.

A dialect coach and trained speech pathologist helped Ackie capture Houston’s speaking voice, which she portrays well.


There are some odd moments in the film.

Real-life clips of Kevin Costner and Oprah Winfrey overlayed with movie footage come across as jarring.

Houston didn’t write her songs, with Dolly Parton no doubt still collecting royalty cheques for her rendition of I Will Always Love You.

But the way in which she interpreted the classic songs she and Davis picked was second to none.

The film doesn’t shy away from tough topics, such as the criticism Houston faced from some in the black community who felt she wasn’t “black enough”.

But in this edited extract of Hip Hop & Hymns, published in Good Weekend in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, I write about just how much her blackness meant to me as a black girl growing up in regional Australia.

There are also scenes in the film where people take advantage of Houston’s success.

The millions of dollars she made spent by others, so much so, that she continued to tour at a time when the headlines questioned whether she had lost the voice that made her so special due to drug abuse.

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The film also highlights that Whitney was around drugs long before her 1992 marriage to singer Bobby Brown, played by Ashton Sanders, who previously portrayed RZA in Wu-Tang: An American Saga.

The movie was released on Boxing Day in Australia, with limited viewings on Christmas Day that attracted few people – but then, it was Christmas Day.

It finished third at the North American Box Office over the weekend, drawing in $US5.3 million ($7.8 million), well behind Avatar: The Way of Water and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, but ahead of Babylon starring Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt.

Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody is in cinemas now

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