For a superstar as bright as Whitney Houston from the very start of her solo career, it's a bit more difficult to locate a truly forgotten gem than it is for typical pop music artists. After all, any song from an album as huge as her self-titled 1985 debut earned its share of radio airplay and general listenership by virtue of the rapid ascent of that LP to multi-platinum status. If I needed proof of this, I certainly got it tonight when I sampled "All at Once," a modest but melodic piano ballad that my wife instantly recognized from one of the first albums she owned and treasured as a preteen. Still, regardless of whether or not this track qualifies as a significantly neglected pop song for the ages, it serves ably as a way for me to extend my tribute to Houston in the wake of not only her sudden death on February 11 but also the media's continuing scramble to speculate about just how big a role drugs and alcohol may have played in her sad demise. I'll leave everyone else to that rather crass enterprise; in the meantime, I'll do what I hope I do best and just focus on the music.
Co-written by smooth soul pop crooner Jeffrey Osborne - who had an impressive solo run of his own during the early to mid '80s - "All at Once" serves as a mellow showcase for Houston's many strengths as a vocalist. Though a Top 5 pop hit in a handful of western European countries, this agreeable tune certainly would have found considerable favor as a single in the U.S. if it had actually been released there in that format. Such was the immediate power of Houston as an emerging pop diva, but the song also happens to stand up well on its own even when so overshadowed by the hits that absolutely dominated 1985 and early 1986 on radio, vinyl and cassette.
- Sample or download "All at Once" here.
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Album Cover Image Courtesy of Arista