The Washington Post

Whitney Houston: Public mourning partly a mourning of our youth

For three days, the young, digitally connected demographic that grew up in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s had one topic on their mind: Whitney Houston’s tragic death.

View Photo Gallery: People gathered to grieve for the pop star, who died Saturday.

But along with our collective mourning of Houston, the person and the performer, there was another undercurrent. Through the lens of Houston’s contribution to it, people were mourning their youth.

Social media allowed us instant access to nostalgic looks back at Houston, and the way she shaped the soundtrack of our childhood, teens or 20s, through shared videos, photos and songs.

Remembering Houston, Twitter users spoke about how they danced to her songs at their weddings, and watched her films over and over. As it was for Michael Jackson and Steve Jobs, our reaction to her death was deeply personal — and that’s why millions of people felt the need to share it. Grief came in 140-character bursts and 3-minute long YouTube clips, so easily shareable that we could pass them along without considering our role in shaping Houston’s legacy — or our role in the celebrity culture that may have led to her early death.

A few other details of note:

• On Saturday, Feb. 11, 10 out of 20 of the top trending topics on Google Trends pertained to Houston’s death.

• On Viral Video Chart, 15 of the top 20 videos are of Houston.

• As of this posting, Houston’s songs on were on the brink of reaching 10 million plays, with nearly one million listeners.

• Houston’s songs topped the Amazon and iTunes charts, with “I Will Always Love You” the most sold song in the United States.

• On Pinterest, thousands of pinners were sharing Houston photos. One of the most popular images was repinned nearly 2,000 times.

• A YouTube video of Houston’s performance of the National Anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl was uploaded on Feb. 11, and has been viewed more than 875,000 times since.

View Photo Gallery: Whitney Houston, who reigned as pop music’s queen until her majestic voice and regal image were tainted by drug use, erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, has died.

Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts for the Weekend section and Going Out Guide.


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