Miki Sings Billie: A Tribute to Billie Holiday Miki Howard


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Miki Howard first revealed her affinity for Billie Holiday with a cover of “Good Morning Heartache” on 1992’s multifaceted Femme Fatale. That cover led to 1993’s Miki Sings Billie, on which Howard explored and frequently renewed the powerful allure of Holiday’s music. Howard had become such a master of modern R&B—with its emphasis on melisma and melodrama—that her subtle performances here took listeners totally by surprise. She intuitively grasped Holiday’s lulling sense of time and her emotional restraint, getting to the soul of the jazz legend’s music without resorting to mimicking her voice. “My Man” and “Don’t Explain” are particularly potent, as Howard makes powerful use of the space in the phrasings, her voice swaying back and forth within the currents of the orchestra. The big-band swing tunes—“Yesterdays,” “Now or Never,” “What a Little Moonlight Can Do”—are invigorating rather than musty, as Howard goes a long way in showing the thematic connections between the jazz of the ’40s and the R&B of the ’90s. If not for its blues stylings, the self-affirming sass of “’T Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness If I Do” could’ve come from a contemporary rap tune.


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