EW has confirmed the recent news that VH1 is planning a tribute to Whitney Houston to air as a part of its long-running Diva series. The special will tape in Los Angeles in December, with her longtime musical director Ricky Minor serving as executive producer. Whitney’s family — and her label at Sony — have given their blessing for the special to move forward.
Since the taping is several months away, no artists have yet to be confirmed. But that’s where we fans of Whitney can come into play, mostly by answering the question: Who is best to fete Whitney at a Divas tribute? Let’s look at the most likely suspects that might turn up:
+ JENNIFER HUDSON: She’s an obvious choice, seeing as how she already paid tribute to Houston earlier this year at the Grammys, when she flawlessly sang “I Will Always Love You.” But in the spirit of mixing things up — and Hudson maybe not wanting to overshadow what she did for Houston at the Grammys — she could also opt not to participate and let someone step into the spotlight.
+ THE DIVAS PAST: Any number of former participants would be welcome additions to a Houston tribute, as Houston herself showed up on the special in 1999 (singing “Ain’t No Way” with Mary J. Blige and “I’m Every Woman” with Chaka Kahn), 2002 (helping Mary J. Blige out with “Rainy Dayz”), and 2003 (“Something in Common/My Love is Your Love” with ex-husband Bobby Brown and “I Was Made to Love Her” in a Stevie Wonder tribute). Divas, despite their competitive nature, do tend to run together. Others Divas alums who could potential show up include Mariah Carey (who also sang “When You Believe” with Houston), Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, Diana Ross, Cher, Tina Turner, Beyoncé, Adele, and Kelly Clarkson.
+ BOBBY BROWN: There’s little chance Houston’s ex-husband and New Edition singer won’t be there. The big question is: Will he perform? And if so, what will he perform?
+ STEVIE WONDER: Houston sang the mid-tempo duet “We Didn’t Know” (from her 1990 album I’m Your Baby Tonight) with the legend and also paid tribute to him at the 2003 Divas concert, so it’s pretty much a lock that he’ll be there to fete her in some way.
+ DIONNE WARWICK: She’s Houston’s cousin — and a legendary singer herself. Seems only natural that, if she’s up for it emotionally, she’d be there.
+ CECE WINANS: The gospel singer sang the friends-forever anthem “Count on Me” with Houston on the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack, and they’re longtime friends. Plus, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for Houston’s Waiting to Exhale castmates Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, and Lela Rochon to also possibly make some sort of appearance.
+ SINGERS FROM THE PREACHER’S WIFE SOUNDTRACK: Monica, The Georgia Mass Choir, Houston’s mother Cissy, and Shirley Caesar all appeared on the soundtrack to one of Whitney’s most beloved movies. Which of them will appear on the Divas stage?
+ FAITH EVANS & KELLY PRICE: Remember Houston’s hit “Heartbreak Hotel”? Well, it wasn’t just hers — Faith Evans and Kelly Price were triple-billed with her, so if the Divas producers want to bring that one out — and it’s a good one to bring back to life — Evans and Price could be on the docket.
+ BRANDY: Houston played Brandy’s fairy godmother in the 1997 made-for-TV reimagination of Cinderella and was close to the singer in real life, so she’s definitely in the mix. (Broadway legend Bernadette Peters and Whoopi Goldberg also appeared in the movie; maybe they’ll also surface?)
+ JORDIN SPARKS: Taking a Hudson-at-the-Grammys-like role at the special could very well be none other than American Idol‘s sixth season winner, Jordin Sparks, who plays Houston’s rising-star daughter in Sparkle, which will hit theaters in August. Depending on the reception of the movie — and how well Sparks performs in her role — her presence could be just the thing the tribute needs to really sizzle and hit the contemporary zeitgeist. Maybe Sparks will take the stage with on-screen Sparkle sisters Carmen Ejogo and Tika Sumpter? Or with Sparkle co-star Cee Lo Green?
Music Mixers, this is your chance to weigh in, as you just know the Divas producers are listening right now: Who should appear at the VH1 Divas tribute to Whitney Houston? Tell us your picks in comments below!
Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky