When Whitney Houston died in 2012, in a drug-related accidental drowning at age 48, the search for an explanation took on a desperate edge. Tell-all memoirs were published by her inner circle. Documentaries – 2017’s Whitney: Can I Be Me and 2018’s Whitney among them – functioned more like space probes. A Lifetime series directed by Houston’s Waiting to Exhale co-star, Angela Bassett, came across as earnest but slight. Most of these positioned Houston as an Icarus plummeting back down to Earth, with an outsized focus on her latter years of addiction, her fading vocal range, and her tabloid domination.

She’d become one of the many, cautionary tales that haunt pop culture’s margins, all at the expense of that miraculous talent that once earned her the nickname “The Voice”. So, it’s hard to fault Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody, the first biopic authorised by her estate, for its attempt to recentre her legacy. It’s “The Voice” – that soaring, velvet soprano – that we first hear, played over its opening titles. They’re also the last words we see on screen before the credits roll. But it’s a noble cause undercut by more cynical, capitalist impulses. The film is only .....


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