A total of 22 Whitney Houston hits appear on the top 200 Hot Digital Songs chart in the wake of her death. Her iconic version of "I Will Always Love You," which was sung by Jennifer Hudson on the Grammys on Sunday, was Houston's top song in the wake of her death (as it was in her lifetime). It ranks #3 for the week. In addition, six Houston albums re-enter The Billboard 200. Her top-ranking title is her 2000 compilation The Greatest Hits, which bows at #6.
By comparison, Michael Jackson charted with 49 songs and 14 albums in the week after his death in June 2009 (counting his work with the Jackson 5). But Jackson died on a Thursday, so he had three full days to ring up sales. (Nielsen SoundScan's tracking week ends Sunday night.) Houston died on a Saturday, so she had just one full day to ring up sales.
Houston's catalog of songs sold 887K digital copies during the week, up from just 15K the previous week. Her catalog of albums sold 101K copies. Billboard's Keith Caulfield reports that the album tally is greater than Houston's album sales for all of 2011 and the first five weeks of 2012 combined (97K).
"I Will Always Love You" sold 195K copies this week, almost all of it in the wake of her death. This brings the song's digital sales total to 1,105,000. That's probably less than you assumed, but bear in mind that Houston hadn't been "hot" in years.
"I Will Always Love You," which was certified for sales of 4 million physical singles in January 1993, is Houston's first digital million-seller. Her next four biggest digital hits (not just this week, but counting their entire runs) are: "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" (583K), "Greatest Love Of All" (371K), "How Will I Know" (300K) and "I Have Nothing (287K).
Amber Riley sang "I Will Always Love You" on a Valentine's Day-themed episode of Glee on Tuesday night. That version will chart next week. Houston's other most popular songs in the wake of her death (and their rankings on Hot Digital Songs) were: "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" (#25), "Greatest Love Of All" (#32), "How Will I Know" (#46), "I Have Nothing" (#53), "Saving All My Love For You" (#65), "One Moment In Time" (#74), "The Star Spangled Banner" (#75), "Didn't We Almost Have It All" (#81), "I'm Every Woman" (#85) and "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" (#87).
Houston's other top albums were her eponymous debut album (#72), The Bodyguard soundtrack (#80), her final studio album I Look To You (#118), her sophomore album Whitney (#122) and The Preacher's Wife soundtrack (#183).
Houston's greatest hits album is #1 on Top Catalog Albums. This is the seventh time in the Nielsen SoundScan era that an album has zoomed to #1 on the catalog chart in the week after (or the first full week after) the artist's death. The other instances, working backwards, were Amy Winehouse's Back To Black in July 2011, Michael Jackson's Number Ones in June 2009, Johnny Cash's 16 Biggest Hits in September 2003, the Bee Gees' One Night Only in January 2003 (following the death of Maurice Gibb), Aaliyah's One In A Million in August 2001, and the Grateful Dead's Skeletons From The Closet in August 1995 (following the death of Jerry Garcia).
Some people don't know that Dolly Parton wrote "I Will Always Love You." The country star took it to #1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart in 1974 and again in 1982 (when she sang it in the movie The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, in which she co-starred with Burt Reynolds).
Several of Houston's other hits were also written by people you might not expect. Annie Lennox (of Eurythmics fame) wrote "Step By Step," a song from Houston's 1996 movie The Preacher's Wife. Rock singer Toni Childs wrote "Love Will Save The Day," a top 10 hit from 1987's Whitney album. R. Kelly wrote "I Look To You," the title song from her last album. Alicia Keys co-wrote "Million Dollar Bill," which was Houston's last Hot 100 hit in her lifetime.
There are many similarities between Jackson and Houston. Both were the most famous members of strongly musical families (Houston's mother is gospel singer Cissy Houston; her cousin is Dionne Warwick.) Both reached their peaks in the 1980s and early '90s. Houston's 1987 album Whitney debuted at #1 and spawned four #1 singles. Jackson's Bad, which was released just three months later, debuted at #1 and spawned five #1 singles.
Now, of course, they also share the fact that they both died in mid-life: Jackson was 50; Houston, just 48.
One difference between the two stars is that Jackson wrote most of his key hits. Houston co-wrote just two of her 39 Hot 100 hits. She co-wrote the top 10 hit "Count On Me" with her brother Michael Houston and Babyface. She also co-wrote "Whatchulookinat," a minor hit from 2002, as well as two songs that made the Hot 100 Airplay chart (which is different from the Hot 100): "Queen Of The Night" (from The Bodyguard) and Bobby Brown's "Something In Common," on which she was featured.
Two other leading music icons of the 1980s and 1990s are represented on this week's Hot Digital Songs chart. Madonna has three songs on the chart in the first full week after her half-time show at the Super Bowl. Michael Jackson is represented with the Glee version of "Smooth Criminal" (featuring 2Cellos) from the recent episode devoted to his music.
Why has Madonna managed to survive global fame and the voraciousness of the modern media while Jackson and Houston succumbed, at least in part, to those pressures? Good question, but thank God she has. It would unbearably sad to lose another music icon.
I posted a blog on Sunday in which I looked at Houston's chart and Grammy achievements in her lifetime. If you missed it, here's a link.
Here's a quick synopsis of Houston's albums and the biggest hits that came from them. Notice how poorly the later singles did on the Hot 100.
Whitney Houston, #1 for 14 weeks in 1986. Four top 10 singles, including three #1s: "Saving All My Love For You," "How Will I Know" and "Greatest Love Of All."
Whitney, #1 for 11 weeks in 1987. Five top 10 singles, including four #1s: "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)," "Didn't We Almost Have It All," "So Emotional" and "Where Do Broken Hearts Go."
I'm Your Baby Tonight, #3 in 1990. Three top 10 singles, including two #1s: "I'm Your Baby Tonight" and "All The Man That I Need."
The Bodyguard soundtrack, #1 for 20 weeks in 1992-1993. Three top 10 singles, including one #1: "I Will Always Love You."
Waiting To Exhale soundtrack, #1 for five weeks in 1996. Two top 10 singles by Houston, including one #1: "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)."
The Preacher's Wife soundtrack, #3 for two weeks in 1996-1997. One top 10 single: "I Believe In You And Me" (#4).
My Love Is Your Love, #13 in 1998. Three top 10 singles, including one #2: "Heartbreak Hotel" (featuring Faith Evans & Kelly Price).
The Greatest Hits, #5 in 2000. Biggest new hit: "Could I Have This Kiss Forever" (duet with Enrique Iglesias, #52)
Just Whitney…, #9 in 2002. Biggest hit: "One Of Those Days" (#72).
One Wish The Holiday Album, #49 in 2003.
I Look To You, #1 for one week in 2009. Biggest hit: "I Look To You" (#70).
A Personal Note: My favorite Whitney Houston song is "Saving All My Love For You," an old-school ballad that she released in 1985. MTV was at its peak at the time and Madonna and Prince were pushing the envelope. It would have been easy for this elegant ballad to seem not only old-school, but old-fashioned. But Houston sang it with such conviction, she overcame all resistance. In October 1985, it became her first of her 11 #1 hits. The following February, it brought her the first of her six Grammys.
I met Houston at Clive Davis' Grammy party in 1986. I don't usually gush over celebrities, but when I was introduced to her, I couldn't help myself. "You're so beautiful," I blurted out. (Could I have come up with anything more lame?) Houston had it all--talent, beauty and confidence. How sad that she took a wrong turn somewhere and lost her way.