With 1,061,000 copies sold in a week and holding five Number One positions on the Billboard charts simultaneously, The Bodyguard‘s soundtrack is one of the fastest-selling albums and sports one of the fastest-selling singles in music-industry history. There’s no point in speculating whether its success is based on its quality; what we have here is a case of widespread crowd pleasability, which the record has in slabs.
If the facts are breathtaking, the single is inescapable. Whitney Houston‘s version of “I Will Always Love You” is hardly the unforgivable betrayal that Dolly Parton fans (she wrote the song) have claimed. In spite of her occasional poor judgment – when Houston errs, she does so on the side of excess – she treats the song respectfully, and it’s a deserved mall hit. Houston’s (and Bolton’s and Carey’s) sin is that she won’t walk when she can cartwheel; pointless vocal gymnastics flaw all of her hits, and on The Bodyguard they run amok on the David Foster-produced snoozers “I Have Nothing” and “Run to You.”
But if her producers are onto the tumbling act, they can create first-rate R&B, as does Narada Michael Walden (with Clivilles and Cole) on the Ashford and Simpson boast “I’m Every Woman,” with “vocal arrangement inspired by Chaka Khan,” meaning Houston has fun with a song for once. On “Queen of the Night,” L.A. and Babyface start out stomping and never stop, letting Houston belt riotously along until she drops or they do. (They do.) Elsewhere, there’s competence and even triumph: Aaron Neville waxes gorgeous in his effortless way on “Even If My Heart Would Break,” Curtis Stigers finds zero irony in “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” and Lisa Stansfield holds up a sturdy vocal wall of Jericho on “Someday (I’m Coming Back)” which distracted production threatens to pull down. The Bodyguard is nothing more than pleasant, tasteful and urbane, but for a phenomenon, it’s worthy of its numbers.