Naomi Ackie takes center stage in the 2022 musical biopic ‘Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody,’ directed by Kasi Lemmons. The film explores the intricacies of Whitney Houston’s life and her relationship to the entertainment industry and fame. However, most of all, it aims to carry onward the musical icon’s humongous legacy and offers an insight into her talented, if at times tragic, life. As such, the film employs many musical numbers sprinkled throughout the narrative to tell the life story of Whitney Houston.
Though following its release, the film garnered mixed reviews regarding its screenplay, Ackie’s portrayal of the late singer has been generally praised by fans of Houston. Therefore, the authenticity with which she delivers her performance may lead viewers to wonder if the actress lends her own voice to the film’s musical moments. Here is all we know about Ackie’s musical involvement in ‘Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody.’
Did Naomi Ackie Sing In The Film?
No, for the most part, Naomi Ackie did not sing in ‘Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody.’ Whitney Houston remains one of the greatest singers of all time, known for her powerful vocals in songs like ‘I Will Always Love You,’ as well as her compelling live performances. As a result, it’s no surprise that when delivering those same vocals for the several emotional turning points throughout the biopic, director Lemmons wanted to utilize Houston’s original voice for a more poignant impact.
Nevertheless, Ackie’s voice is also used within these grand performances to add a sense of realism to them. “It’s got to sound and feel like she’s singing live. And Naomi knew every breath of the songs.” Lemmons said in an interview with The Guardian. In the same vein, Ackie sang a few times toward the movie’s beginning. The most notable instance is during Whitney’s first on-screen solo performance at the SweetWaters nightclub.
Initially, when Whitney starts her performance, she is a bit unsure during her first verse. For this part of her rendition of ‘The Greatest Love of All,’ Ackie’s vocals are used, but as her character becomes more confident in her voice, Houston’s real vocal replaces Ackie’s. The talented actress also sang a few other times when her character is only seen humming a tune, as in Clive Davis’s office, when she is looking for a new song.
Other than that, to ensure her performance does not appear staged or imitative, Ackie performed the songs on set while shooting. When discussing the difficulties of making lip-sync look natural, she said, “It’s really about looking like the sound is coming out of my mouth. So it was having to have an understanding of how she sang, and really singing at the top of my lungs, so that my mouth placement was in the right place, and the vibrato was doing the right thing. And the riffs looked real.”
However, the real challenge Ackie tackled in portraying the sensational singer was inhibiting the latter’s body language. To prepare for her role, she worked with celebrated choreographer Polly Bennet, who helped her with the physicality of embodying Whitney Houston. Bennet had previously worked as a movement coach on several other musical biopics like, ‘Elvis’ and ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’
In addition, the ‘Star Wars‘ and ‘End of The F***ing World‘ actress had to work on her British accent for a few months before the film. All things considered, Naomi Ackie ultimately is not the primary source of Whitney’s singing voice in ‘Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody.’ For most of the movie, the legendary singer’s original vocals are employed, backed by Ackie’s exhilarating and formidable acting.
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