- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2012

According to the Nielsen Co., Whitney Houston’s signature hit, “I Will Always Love You,” was played 2,137 times on U.S. radio stations between Saturday and Monday — up from 134 plays of the song during the same time period last week.

With her ringing declarations of eternal devotion set to stirring melodies, Whitney Houston was, on top of everything else, American popular music’s most passionate witness to the invincible power of romantic love.

Indeed, her cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” might as well be the unofficial worldwide anthem of Valentine’s Day.

Recognizing the late singer’s standing as a standard-bearer of old-fashioned undying love, Fox television’s hit musical series “Glee” decided to dedicate Tuesday night’s Valentine’s Day-themed episode, which was scheduled to include a performance of the song, to Houston, a dominant force in popular music through the ‘80s and ‘90s.

The singer was found dead Saturday, at age 48, in her bathtub in a luxury suite of the Beverly Hilton hotel as preparations were under way for Sunday night’s Grammy Awards, the highlight of the music industry calendar.

According to Mediabase, a company that monitors American radio station airplay, “I Will Always Love You,” the theme song from Miss Houston’s breakthrough movie hit “The Bodyguard,” received more radio airplay last week than any other Houston song. Overseas, British music tracker Official Charts likewise reported that Houston’s rocketing sales were topped by her version of the ballad, which spent 10 weeks at No. 1 two decades ago.

The ubiquity of “I Will Always Love You” was just one reflection of an inevitable — and all-too-familiar — death surge in demand for the music of Miss Houston.

Total plays of Miss Houston’s songs increased by more than 1,000 percent on Top 40 stations last week, becoming the most-played music on urban adult contemporary stations, according to Mediabase. Similarly, the online music-streaming service Spotify experienced a 4,000-fold increase in streams for her music — up to 2.4 million — between Saturday and Sunday.

Meanwhile, seven of the top 10 best-selling music collections on Amazon.com on Tuesday were recordings from Miss Houston, while her “Greatest Hits” album was the top seller on iTunes.

Official Charts, which recorded British sales from Sunday until midnight on Monday, reported that sales were so brisk that seven of Miss Houston’s recordings were “heading for the Top 40.”

In New York City, three radio stations switched to an all-Houston format over the weekend, while satellite radio network Sirius XM is offering the “Whitney Houston Tribute Channel” through the week.

On Washington-area radio station WHUR-FM, host Troy Johnson was five minutes into his Saturday night “Hang Suite” show when news of Miss Houston’s death broke.

“We were on the air until midnight, and every song was by Whitney Houston,” Mr. Johnson said. “That was into the overnights as well. We got lots of comments from fans and listeners who love her music and love her. What I noticed was a sense among people that Whitney Houston was part of their family.”

During the Monday morning drive-time “Tommy Show” on Washington-area station WIAD, host Tommy McFly and producer Jen Richer discussed Miss Houston — inviting listeners to call in and share thoughts and memories — before playing “I Will Always Love You.”

Ms. Richer began to cry. “I’ve grown up with Whitney Houston. My first ring tone was ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody,’ ” she said.

“We asked listeners, ‘Are you over it yet?’ The reaction was overwhelmingly, ‘No.’ Her music touched so many people.”

The article is based in part on wire-service reports.

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