Jul 10

WHITNEY HOUSTON – “One Moment In Time”

FT + Popular80 comments • 7,736 views

#617, 15th October 1988

Written for the Seoul Olympics, “One Moment In Time” makes an age-old connection between sport and character – if you want to win, you have to suffer, be more than you thought you could be, and so on. Do this, and you might be rewarded with your moment when you’re “racing with destiny” – only caring about the Track And Field is a classic US Olympic-watching stereotype, of course, though I guess all your dreams are a heartbeat away in the dressage or synchro too.

We’re a long way from “it’s all about the taking part”, but in a sporting context I’ve no real problem with the message. This generic glory-of-sport stuff doesn’t quite work as a song though, for two reasons: one sporting, one pop. First of all, the thing about glory is that it isn’t generic. Every triumph comes with its own story, which is why the most effective sporting songs are often from the fan perspective – people with a powerful investment in that story. “One Moment In Time” is more like sport as understood by ‘the neutral’, people who care about the effort of winning, but not who the winner actually is.

I should point out that if the Guardian’s What’s Rocking Sport columns are anything to go by, actual sportspeople often love this kind of stuff. So it’s emotionally true and resonant for some. As a spectator, I can’t really relate, not just because I’ve never won a race but also because from the outside the moment of triumph needs no empathy or elaboration: it stands by itself. And here’s my pop reason for not feeling “One Moment”: something I think pop music is amazing at is capturing and condensing feelings, putting an emotion or situation you recognise into a song. Winning a gold medal honestly doesn’t need that kind of capture – it is what it is, already so focussed and concentrated that it makes pop seem clumsy. Something not helped by “One Moment” moving at the pace of an action replay, and in the process setting a grim template for every winners’ single in 00s reality pop.

But Whitney Houston’s two earlier number ones were superb examples of the pop song as emotional snapshot, so if anyone could make “One Moment In Time” mean something, it would be her. But the brief glimmer of hope that she might is snuffed out when those painfully sedate drums pad their way into the song, and from then she’s bracing herself against the arrangement. Key changes – she’s ready. Brass – she’s ready. Strings – SHE’S READY. And actually, by the end you realise there is an Olympic sport “One Moment In Time” evokes perfectly: weightlifting.



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  1. 61
    Jimmy the Swede on 19 Jul 2010 #

    Daley was indeed pleasantly bonkers. And, yes, he quoted Derek and Clive’s “Jump” by saying “(he) hadn’t had so much fun since grandma died or Auntie Mabel caught her left tit in the mangle”, a bizarre thing to quote even given D&C’s undoubted popularity back then. He also distinguished himself by merrily whistling the national anthem on the podium on receipt of one of his gold medals.

    I first remember a very young Daley in the mid-seventies appearing on “We Are The Champions”, a kiddies’ sports magazine programme, presented back then by the sainted Ron Pickering. Ron, I think, introduced Thompson as “an Olympic hopeful”. I can’t think what went wrong there.

  2. 62
    Mark G on 19 Jul 2010 #

    Funny you mention Derek and Clive, it struck me yesterday that if the chart was primarily based on downloads back then, the top ten may well have comprised of “Nurse”, “Cancer”, and “Having a Wank” etc…

  3. 63
    Jimmy the Swede on 20 Jul 2010 #

    Ah! What classics, Mark.

    Btw, I saw this bloke the other day…

  4. 64
    jojo on 26 Oct 2010 #

    Hi…i wanna 2add that i addore whitney houston she’s my best and this song……oh my Gosh…really it’s make me strong…..i just listen 2the angel voice my beauty whitney and i got power….i maked like my best friend …..thanks whitney…..cuz really every one needs one moment in time……..my lovely lady.

  5. 65
    Billy Smart on 28 Dec 2010 #

    MMWatch: Caren Myers, September 24 1988;

    “Of all the nauseating pop stars in all of history, Whitney has always, unafailingly, brought me that little bit closer to total raving despair. This cruel hoax has a new twist – it’s this year’s Olympic Anthem., which leaves me no choice but to lob my TV out of the window in case any coverage from Seoul creeps up on me unawares.”

    Myers awarded no single of the week. Also reviewed that week;

    Siouxsie & The Banshees – The Killing Jar
    Dinosaur Jr – Freak Scene
    U2 – Desire
    The Lilac Time – You’ve Got To Love
    Alexander O’Neal – Fake
    EPMD – Strictly Business
    Talk talk – I Believe In You
    Erasure – A Little Respect
    Duran Duran – I Don’t Want Your Love
    The Wedding Present – Why Are You Being So Reasonable Now?

  6. 66
    malmo58 on 14 Jan 2012 #

    I like this a lot. As a fan of the Olympic Games and athletics generally, it’s redolent for me in that context.

    It seemed, though, incongruous to me when this went to the top of the charts more than a whole week after the Games had ended.

    And by then I was deep in the despair of the disappointed sports fan – at the Seoul Games a competitor I’d been a long-time supporter of, who’d been through years of trials and tribulations and, thanks to boycott and injury, never lifted an Olympic medal, lost her last chance. Suffering an infection, and in truth a little past her prime, she finished way out of the medals in both her events.

    Being young, and then having a tendency to put my whole heart and soul into all my fandoms, be they sporting, musical or televisual, I spent most of the rest of 1988 with a broken heart. A Hearts fan at 5.10 pm on 3 May 1986 would have looked cheerful compared to me in October 1988. Worse, I had to carry it largely on my own, as my heroine was foreign so none of the Little Englanders around me understood why she meant so much to me. Only one fellow student at my FE college was sympathetic.

    So this song, as much as I like it, is always tinged with sadness of the shattered dreams of Seoul…

  7. 67
    sbahnhof on 8 Jul 2015 #

    Re 66 (and anyone who knows), which mystery heroine are we taking about?

    It’s a good game, actually. Guess the sportsperson – denied an Olympic medal by boycott and injury… Lost in ’88 in 2 events, had an infection… And she’s not English.

  8. 68
    Izzy on 8 Jul 2015 #

    I think it’s Zola Budd, though Malmo58 is wrong about Seoul being her last chance – it was Barcelona 92 where she finished way out of the medals, by which time she was competing for South Africa.

  9. 69
    chelovek na lune on 8 Jul 2015 #

    #68 That was my presumption too, but maybe my memory fails me, but her Wikipedia entry, at least, suggests she was not present at the Seoul Olympics at all…

  10. 70
    Erithian on 8 Jul 2015 #

    The name could be on the links here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athletics_at_the_1988_Summer_Olympics
    – although Malmo58 didn’t specify athletics. Doubt it’s Zola, as the Little Englanders would have been in favour of her! Has to be a Western bloc athlete whose country boycotted Moscow and who was injured for LA, or vice versa for an Eastern bloc athlete. Has to do two events (e.g. 100/200, 400/800, other combos in different sports?) And assuming Malmo58 is male, can we hazard a guess that the competitor inspiring such devotion was not unattractive?

  11. 71
    Cumbrian on 8 Jul 2015 #

    Probably an athlete but could be a gymnast (a specialist on one apparatus and the team event), a distance swimmer (Rebecca Adlington doubled up at 800m and 1500m but below that swimmers tend to do many more than two events), a diver, etc. But yeah, it’s probably an athlete.

    If the original comment is chronologically accurate, I think we’re looking for an 80 boycott and an 84 injury. This makes it a bit more difficult, I think – as there were many more boycotting nations in 80 than in 84. Looking at the nations involved in 80, and assuming it’s a female in athletics competition, it’s either an American, a West German or a Canadian. Possibly someone from one of the West Indian islands too – there are no athletics powerhouses in the other countries by the looks of things.


  12. 72
    sid on 8 Jul 2015 #

    Is it not the other party to that infamous incident, Mary Decker-Slaney?

  13. 73
    Cumbrian on 8 Jul 2015 #

    You know – it might be. Charitable description of Slaney tripping herself over by running into the back of Budd as an injury though (and then complaining that Budd somehow deliberately tripped her, hounding her through the press, etc, even though the evidence and the inquiry into the incident cleared Budd of blame). She carried the US flag at the 88 Opening Ceremony. She failed to get a medal.

    Also, a drugs cheat. Not someone I’d be looking back on with fondness personally – a whiner and a cheat – but each to their own.

  14. 74
    Izzy on 8 Jul 2015 #

    I’m still heartbroken at dear Ben Johnson being denied his medal to be honest.

    Mary Decker does seem to be the answer – there’s a rather striking six-second margin of victory denying her (and, to be fair, seven others) that gold in the 1500m. It was 1976 that she missed through injury, says Wikipedia – it also reckons that she could’ve run in 1972, but for her being under competing age at the time. I was never a fan, but that’s some serious longevity there.

  15. 75
    malmo58 on 17 Apr 2016 #

    You are correct – Mary Decker Slaney was my heroine.

    @73 – I sympathised with her in 84, impossible to put all the blame on her when Zola also did cut in too sharply. I never viewed her tears as whining, but as a pretty human reaction to shattered dreams, and thought the press’s demonisation of her was unforgivable. And I’d like to know how, in 84 and 88, I was supposed to know she’d be charged with doping in 1996.

  16. 76
    Erithian on 17 Apr 2016 #

    So the question is answered several months on! Welcome back Malmo.

    And while we’re on a sporting theme, can I enquire about your nom de web? Malmo was where Northern Ireland earned a 2-2 draw against the holders West Germany and went on to reach the quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup. So can we suppose you have a Norn Iron connection?

  17. 77
    Cumbrian on 18 Apr 2016 #

    75: We will have to agree to disagree I am afraid. Budd was not at fault – at all – as her DQ was subsequently rescinded by the jury looking into the race. Subsequent to that race, Budd tried to apologise (even though she wasn’t at fault) and Slaney wasn’t having any of it. Time obviously changed her mind as Slaney herself, in a 2008 interview, said that the reason she fell was she was “very inexperienced running in a pack”. At the time though, difficult to see her as anything other than someone seeking to blame anyone but herself for not looking where she was going, as indeed the race organisers thought.

    Of course, you couldn’t have known that Slaney was a doper at that time. Apologies on that. Rather stupid of me.

    I rather suspect, in the fullness of time, one of our Golden Girls in the UK may will be in the Slaney position.

  18. 78
    malmo58 on 18 Apr 2016 #

    76 : my great grandfather was Northern Irish, and I enjoyed watching the film of the 1958 World Cup when it was on TV, but the explanation’s simpler. In the mid-90s I played play-by-mail football, and was manager of Swedish club Malmö in game 58.

    77 : I stand with the world’s pre-eminent Olympic historian David Wallechinsky. Both Decker and Budd made mistakes that led to the collision. That Budd’s DQ was rescinded doesn’t mean she made no contribution at all to the incident, just that it was too much of a grey area, and that she was innocent of any intentional wrongdoing.

    Ah, 32 years on that incident is still being debated…

    You know, I actually believe MDS might well have been clean in the 80s. Remember she wasn’t charged with steroids (which the East Europeans had ways of masking in the 80s so presumably some westerners did too) but with unacceptable testosterone/epi level (difficult if not impossible to consistently mask for over a decade).

  19. 79
    Kinitawowi on 19 Apr 2016 #

    Couple of my mates roped me into one of those play-by-mails at one point. Fond memories of a) my Charlton side getting beaten in a cup final by Arsenal because I had two matches that week and my team creation got shot to bits by two injuries in the first game, b) the guy who managed Rangers buying EVERYBODY (he had six 86+ rated goalkeepers) and c) becoming a legend among my mates for working out how to plug everybody’s sides into Excel spreadsheets and run some optimisations to work out where best to play everybody…

  20. 80
    Gareth Parker on 3 May 2021 #

    Can’t really add too much to Tom’s review. 2/10 would be my score as well.

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