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Genre-shattering vocal powerhouse Whitney Houston seemingly shaded MTV for the paucity of Black artists shown on the network in a throwback interview.

Houston’s interview with MTV News happened in 2001. The interviewer asked Houston to share her earliest memories of MTV, and the “I Have Nothing” singer bluntly called out the network declining to play her music because they considered her too R&B. At the time, the network was primarily geared toward album-oriented rock (AOR).

“I remember that I couldn’t get on,” the singer said, adding in a laugh. “I remember that it was a major breakthrough for African American entertainers to be on MTV because it was solely for rock artists. I remember Michael Jackson making a very big breakthrough, and then Tina Turner, along with myself, Bobby Brown and a few others that were major breakthrough artists on MTV.”

The six-time Grammy winner recalled arriving at said breakthrough was a hassle because it was for white artists.

Houston debuted on MTV with the music video for “Saving All My Love For You,” the subsequent chart-topper after “You Give Good Love,” which she and her team tried to get played on the network, but they declined it.

“They weren’t accepting it because it was a very, very R&B kind of song,” Houston explained. “And then, I remember coming up with ‘Saving All My Love For You,’ and it hit so hard and exploded heavy that they had no choice but to play it. I love it when they have no choice.”

MTV appeared in 1981, displaying music videos from AOR artists like David Bowie, The Pretenders, Duran Duran, Bryan Adamas, Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers, Van Halen, etc.—white artists.

It only played a handful of Black artists like Michael Jackson, Donna Summers and Prince. But Houston wasn’t the only one who called them out on it. In 1983, Bowie, an advocate for integrated radio, asked video jockey Mark Goodman why MTV displayed only a few Black artists and at specific times the station knew it had low viewership from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.

Goodman responded that the rock-focused network sought to play what America wanted to hear and requested on radios. But Bowie interjected with a statement that Black people, who adored musicians like Marvin Gaye and the Isley Brothers, were a part of America, as well.

Houston prohibited Bobbi Christina from watching MTV due to the suggestive content in the videos.

“Unfortunately, you guys play very explicit videos, which are very influential on little girls,” Houston said. “And I happen to have lingerie in my room, and my daughter loves to go in and put on my shoes and my dresses. I want her to stay out of the lingerie. I don’t want her to think it’s cool at the age of 8 to have to be sexy. Either you are or you aren’t. There’s no putting it on.”

Houston wanted Bobbi to have a natural view of being sexy and not the world’s view of the word.


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