I was shocked when I heard the news that Whitney Houston had passed away on February 11, 2012 at the age of 48. Whitney’s music was a major part of my life’s soundtrack during my preteen and teen years, and I’ve been spending some time over the past several days revisiting her songs.
I’ve decided to write about my ten personal favorite Whitney Houston songs. However, instead of putting them in a top ten list, I will be writing about them in alphabetical order; it’s just too hard for me to rank them.
“Didn’t We Almost Have It All”: This was the second single from Whitney Houston’s second album, Whitney. If someone had told me back in 1987 that I would have been including this song on a list of my favorite Whitney Houston songs over twenty years later, I would have laughed. I was 12 years old at the time, and I was generally more interested in fun, upbeat songs than in something like this. Also, being that young, I hadn’t had a lot of life experience yet to fully appreciate a song like this one. As I got older, however, I gave this song another chance, and I came to realize how good it really is. Whitney’s vocal performance perfectly conveys the emotion of the song, and the listener believes that she means what she’s singing. The relatively minimal musical accompaniment allows Whitney’s vocals to shine and be the focus of the song.
“How Will I Know”: This was a single from Whitney’s self-titled debut album from 1985, and it’s also the first song I remember hearing by her. This is also the song that ultimately got me interested in Whitney’s music. This definitely falls in the upbeat and fun category of music I would have appreciated when I was a preteen. Back then, I thought the music video was cool, too. A major memory that I associate this song with has to do with my elementary school music class in sixth grade. Our music teacher was teaching us about rhythm and how to use rhythm sticks to follow the bear, and “How Will I Know” was the song that was used for this exercise. I remember being paired up with the guy in my class that I had crush on at the time, and it turned out that he absolutely hated this song. Which is kind of ironic, if you think about what this song is about.
“Greatest Love Of All”: This was another single from Whitney’s self-titled album, and I remember hearing this after hearing “How Will I Know” had sold me on her as an artist. While this song may not have been one of the upbeat and fun songs I preferred at the time, there was something about this song that was able to reach me as a child. Now as an adult and as a parent, I have an even greater appreciation for this song than I did when I was younger. Whitney’s vocal delivery commands a lot of conviction, especially when she hits the chorus at the end of the song. The final note she sings in this song always sends a chill down my spine when I hear it.
“I Have Nothing”: This was the third single from the soundtrack of the 1992 film, The Bodyguard, which Whitney Houston starred in. This soundtrack holds a special place in my heart, because both the film and soundtrack came out during my senior year of high school, and several of the singles were big hits during that school year. When I think about the music of my senior year of high school, the singles from The Bodyguard are some of the first that come to mind. One of the features of this song is Whitney’s powerful vocal delivery. Combing this delivery with the musical arrangement makes it a perfect pop song. One of my favorite things about this song is how it builds in intensity as it goes.
“I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)”: This was the lead-off single for Whitney Houston’s 1987 album, Whitney. If you were to ask me to name one of my favorite songs from the summer of 1987, this song would definitely be at the top of the list; it definitely falls into the upbeat and fun music category that I liked as a preteen. It also helped that I really liked this music video at the time. As an adult, it’s a song that holds a lot of nostalgia for me, due to the fact that it’s one of my favorite songs from right before I started junior high. It’s also a song that has really withstood the test of time; to me, it really doesn’t sound overly dated. I also think it’s one of the best dance songs that Whitney released during her career.
“I Will Always Love You”: This was the lead-off single for The Bodyguard, it became the biggest song of Whitney’s career, and it also ended up becoming one of her signature songs. The song was originally written and recorded by Dolly Parton, but Whitney was able to bring her own voice and her own style to the song to make it her own. My favorite part of this song is near the end, where after a slight pause, Whitney’s vocals just explode into the chorus. This song was definitely a major part of my life’s soundtrack during my senior year of high school.
“I’m Your Baby Tonight”: This was the title song and lead-off single for Whitney Houston’s third album, which was released in 1990. This is definitely one of my favorite songs from my sophomore year of high school; in fact, I’d be willing to go so far and say that this was “my jam” from that school year. While this is a fun, danceable song, there was also a little more “assertive” sounding about this song in comparison to the uptempo numbers on Whitney’s previous two albums. Whitney’s vocals also work perfectly with this song. Not only was I impressed with the song itself, but I was also rather impressed with its accompanying music video. The special effects were impressive for a music video released in the 1990s, and I also liked the idea of Whitney visiting several different eras.
“One Moment In Time”: This is the song that Whitney recorded for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, and it appeared on the album that was released for the Olympics. It’s a song that was big as I was starting out in the eighth grade, and I just loved it. While it may be a simple song musically, it has an inspirational message that resonates with a lot of listeners. Whitney was also able to use her voice to convince listeners that she believed in the words she was singing. One of the major characteristics of this song is how it builds in intensity, and Whitney ends the song with a powerful final note. This song also holds significance for me due to the fact that about a year-and-a-half later, the song was the theme for my class’ Ninth Grade Recognition Night (which was a kind of “graduation” ceremony at the end of ninth grade to recognize that we were finishing our years at the junior high and were about to move up to high school).
“Queen Of The Night”: This was the final single released from The Bodyguard soundtrack, and it was released during my first year of college. What really grabbed me with this song is the fact that it’s probably the closest you would ever hear Whitney come to singing a “rock” song. “Queen of the Night” has a stronger emphasis on guitar than many of her other songs, and Whitney is able to pull off the aggressive vocal style that this kind of song requires. I guess what I really like about this song is the fact that Whitney was willing to take the chance a record a song with this kind of a sound.
“Same Script, Different Cast”: This duet with Deborah Cox was one of four new songs to appear on Whitney Houston’s greatest hits album that was released in 2000. Lyrically, I really like the show business imagery of lights, cameras, scenes and leading ladies being used in a song about a relationship. The story is basically a confrontation between a man’s previous lover and his new lover that he left the other one for. The vocal delivery of both women is very convincing, and their voices complement each other very well. Musically, I like how this song builds in intensity. This is definitely one of the best songs that Whitney released in the later part of her career.