Nita Whitaker

One Voice

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Nita Whitaker is a successful Los Angeles-based session singer, which has earned her the opportunity to make this earnest, if somewhat bland, solo album. On self-written songs and others of a similar tone, she sings of the importance of religion and familial love with a session singer's voice -- always on key, precise, and well articulated, but lacking something that would make it a real star vehicle. Whitaker once got a walk-on in The Bodyguard by doing an impressive demo for Whitney Houston, and there are several songs here in which she seems to be doing the same thing. But she never goes as far over the top as Houston does, though she has vocal chops at least as good, and her tastefulness makes you focus more on the material, which is mediocre for the most part. A characteristic mistake is her reading of "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," the inspirational song from The Sound of Music written to be sung by a soprano. Whitaker is an alto, and her transposition immediately robs the song of much of its force -- it isn't about climbing mountains anymore, it's just an L.A. pop singer's vocal exercise. It may be odd to criticize a vocalist for not being excessive and indulgent, but Whitaker is performing in not just a singer's, but also an entertainer's medium. Think not only of Houston, but also of Natalie Cole, Toni Braxton, and any number of other stars more interested in calling attention to themselves than to what they're singing. That narcissism is what helps make them stars. Whitaker really cares about her sentimental messages and wants to convey them to her listeners; her more successful peers recognize, intuitively, if not consciously, that they themselves are the message. How can a singer as modest as Whitaker, however good her pipes, compete?

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