Dionne Warwick is nosy. As we chat over Zoom on a recent winter afternoon, I use the word “curious” out of respect, but the legendary singer gently corrects me: “I am so nosy,” she says with a laugh. “I am, I really am.” Warwick wants to know everything about everyone, and she’s more than willing to ask. “I’m up with the birds in the morning! Because I want to see who’s doing what to whom and why,” she says. “All during my growing years, my friends would say, ‘Don’t ask Dionne unless you really want to know!’ ”
Nosy, blunt people do well on Twitter, the site for explicitly — defiantly! — not minding your business. It makes sense, then, that Warwick is currently running that table. In the three months since she started controlling her own account, Warwick — who has the second-most Billboard Hot 100 hits among female artists in the 20th century — has learned what Megan Thee Stallion means by “hot girl,” demanded the 411 on Offset’s name, asked what the hell is going on in Florida and dropped too many shady eyeball emojis to count. “I’ve always said I was nosy, nosy, nosy,” continues Warwick. “And my grandfather said, ‘No, you’re inquisitive.’ I said, ‘OK. That’s what I’ll be: inquisitive.’ ” That inquisitiveness, along with a natural impulse to speak her mind, has given rise to the kind of late-career resurgence that’s letting a new audience get to know Warwick very much on her own terms.
In the grand history of pop divas, Warwick has always been a different kind of powerhouse. There are divas like Whitney and Aretha, mononymous forces of nature (how could you be talking about another Whitney or Aretha?), and like Patti LaBelle, whose fiefdom has extended far beyond her voice, to sweet potato pies and freezer goods. Warwick had a quieter kind of magnetism, a “star quality that you can’t pick up right away,” says Burt Bacharach, who, with Hal David, co-wrote the many hits like “Walk On By” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” that defined the first decade of her career. “She had a specialness in her voice, that she could sing very softly, intimately, and then could explode — but always with a certain bit of restraint so it never overwhelmed you.”