The night was November 17, 1998 and the event was Whitney Houston’s FIRST studio album in eight years being released. I have a few iconic stories (handsome man dancing across the room checking me out to name one) but this night was pure magic….almost. Whitney had an amazing decade. It has been 10 years since her second album Whitney was released and broke records. She released I’m Your Baby Tonight (an underrated album I might add), starred in The Bodyguard and released the soundtrack album that shattered records and remains the best selling soundtrack album in music history. She starred in Waiting to Exhale and released “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” (sadly the last #1 song of her career. The iconic Christmas classic The Preacher’s Wife (what, it’s not an iconic Christmas classic?) was released. But now, 1998 was here and it was time for Whitney to get back to her roots with a studio album. Thirteen new songs. An entire album of new Whitney material. I was beside myself excited.
Across from campus at Michigan State used to be a huge Tower Records store. Kids these days just do not get the magnificent beauty of a record store. I used to stop on my way home from class or divert over while headed to the library. Any chance I could I would go listen to music at Tower Records. Back then, Tuesday was the huge release day for all albums each week. The duet between Whitney and Mariah had been promoted big time. Both of them were all over television and radio with their duet, “When You Believe”. They were putting aside all of the rumors of a diva feud between them. You might remember this VMA appearance, “Try it on me!”
So with the non-diva feud set aside, it was time to release the albums. Whitney had My Love Is Your Love and Mariah had her first greatest hits collection #1s. That same night Garth Brooks was releasing a live concert album, Jewel had a Christmas album and some big rapper of the era was releasing an album too. My wonderful friend Cary was a huge Mariah fan and me being a huge Whitney fan, we had to go together and wait in line for the release. Another thing the kids these days don’t understand is that albums were released at midnight on Tuesdays, called Super Tuesday, so we would wait in line until midnight for the release. This night, in particular, had a lot of star power so the line outside Tower Records wrapped around the block. Cary and I were so excited! After quite awhile, the line started moving. Once we were in the store the line wrapped in and out of each aisle. We were getting closer.
There were promotional posters and signs all over for Garth and Mariah and Jewel, but I didn’t see one for Whitney. What? How could this be? Such disrespect! We finally made it up to the front of the line. Behind the counter they had several carts full of cds. When you got up to the counter you just told the sales rep the cd you wanted, easy, done. Many people were there for Garth, that was obvious. There were several for the rapper too. My friend Cary was first. He proudly strode up to the counter, “I’ll take a Mariah and a Jewel.” The representative got him his cds and began ringing him up. Now it was my turn at the counter two places down from him. I walked up to the counter. “Whitney Houston.” The representative, “Who?” Me, quieter, “Whitney Houston.” The agent, loudly, “Whitney Houston! Does she even have an album?” I’m dying! He’s looking on the racks behind him. “I don’t see anything. Hey Mike, does Whitney Houston have an album out?” He cannot find anything on the cart that probably has 100 cds on it. Then he starts looking under the counter and finds a box with about 20 Whitney Houston cds in it. At this point I’m dead. I’m so embarrassed. Cary is dying laughing at me. I just wanted my cd and wanted to get back to my house and listen to it. Cary and I leave and he is beside himself laughing.
Needless to say, this night is one that we still talk about and laugh about to this day. After 20 years, Cary and I are still wonderful friends with so many memories. We actually have many performances of “When You Believe” under our belts, most notably while singing it in a gazebo up in Glen Arbor, Michigan. Friendship is a beautiful thing, especially after more than 20 years.
Happy 20th Anniversary to Whitney’s My Love Is Your Love album. Where were you 20 years ago on November 17, 1998?