When Whitney Houston died last year, one of the first pieces of audio memorabilia that swarmed the Internet was the isolated vocal track from her 1985 recording of “How Will I Know.”
Trust us, it will simultaneously give you chills and make you cry.
So it’s fitting that the first element you encounter in “Whitney! Celebrating the Musical Legacy of Whitney Houston” on display at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles is a mini mixing board, where you can play with the faders to add more keyboards, layer electronic drumbeats and create a customized remix of the glossy pop song.
Or you can simply stand there and listen to her unadorned vocal track, which might be the most stunning example ever of her vocal range.
The special exhibit, which is at the museum until May 27, is primarily stocked with personal artifacts on loan from the Houston family.
There is the outfit from 1997’s “Cinderella,” in which Houston played the Fairy Godmother to Brandy’s title character, as well as her dress and coat from “Sparkle,” her last-ever film (and let it be known that while there was much chirping about how Houston was of a fuller figure when she died, her “Sparkle” dress doesn’t look much different in size than the “Cinderella” outfit).
Some of her more ostentatious costumes, such as the mirrored dress and mink coat from her short-lived 2010 “Nothing But Love” tour, co-exist with her simpler tastes, such as the white, beaded Bob Mackie gown she donned for the 1994 Grammys.
Fans can get a look at four of those gilded trophies, too, which sit in a glass case not far from Houston’s 1979 photo as a Wilhelmina model, the visual proof of a life that ran full circle.
But aside from the artifacts — and many, such as her New Hope Baptist Church choir robe and 1977 grade school diploma, will cloak you in sadness when you’re reminded of her untimely demise — the exhibit provides a smattering of interactive elements.
A small, stuffy recording booth sits in the back of the exhibit, where a video of Narada Michael Walden, a frequent producer of Houston’s songs, plays on a video loop. Walden instructs the guest in the booth how and when to sing background vocals on “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” alongside Houston in the song’s video. If you’re brave, try it, but be warned that people walking around the exhibit can hear you warbling.
For those who would rather hear Houston sing than participate in the exercise, a Microsoft Surface touch table allows fans to call up and watch performance clips (with headphones), while other interactive stations provide opportunities to listen to songs she recorded for movies as well as her Grammy-winning triumphs.
While strolling the handful of aisles that house the exhibit, video interviews with Walden and other longtime Houston collaborators, such as her former music director Rickey Minor and super-producer David Foster, spin continuously as cues to remember Houston’s musical greatness — which really doesn’t take much prodding.