Don’t Trust Them New Singers Over There: Luther Vandross, JoDeCi, and Whitney Houston Will Take Your Song And Never Give It Back

“Superstar” by The Carpenters is a very good song that doesn’t get the love it deserves. This is not at all the fault of The Carpenters. They need to blame Luther Vandross. As it turns out, while “Superstar” by The Carpenters is a very good song, “Superstar” by Luther Vandross is a great song.  Luther is one of the greatest vocalists in the history of popular music; of this fact there can be no debate. There are things on which you and I can have differences of opinion, but on this there can be no doubt for it is a simple statement of fact. Below is Luther at his best: when he was Big Luther, sweating and sparkling. (Little Luther was still great but…I’ll have to explain the difference for the uninitiated another day. But by being Big Luther, the man who is the namesake and possible inventor of the Luther Burger, he gave of himself, paying the ultimate sacrifice for his art. R.I.P., Luther.)

Occasionally, you’ll see two divas on stage and they start trying to out-diva each other–like Mariah and Aretha that one time singing “Chain of Fools” on VH1 Divas or Whitney vs. Mariah on Oprah that time. There was Aretha versus the world, in which she engages in a show of power against the incomparable Carole King, the mighty Céline Dion; the incredible Gloria Estefan; the still-underrated Shania Twain; and one of the few people who could ever really challenge her face to face in Mariah Carey (the other is Whitney). In these diva battles there’s finger pointing and handwaving and vocal runs, and the divas start looking at each other instead of the crowd. When it gets really serious there’s a faceoff and they forget that the rest of us are even in the room. It’s really the feminine counterpart to rap battles. But when it comes to singing, men don’t really have these showdowns. So I wonder: is there any man who really could have given Luther any trouble whatsoever in a divo showdown? Who can you see on stage really going toe-to-toe with Luther? Some people have the voice, but not the soul. The presence, but not the power. The power, but not the control. Luther’s voice was cognac-infused butter, sprinkled with sugar and carmelized slowly over a flame. As a rule, if you want to keep your song yours, you better not leave it alone with Luther. He will make your song fall in love and run off with him, and everybody will forget that it was even yours to begin with.  He is the Angelina Jolie of R&B. I say this because “Superstar” is not the only song he’s stolen this way. Continue reading