We’ve all shamed ourselves throwing shapes to ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’. We’ve all claimed to be sick and tired of ‘I Will Always Love You’ (and of course we always preferred the Dolly Parton version anyway).
We’ve all watched our mum and Audrey from next door doing yogarobics to ‘It’s Not Right But It’s Okay’ – OK, maybe that last one was just me. Point is though, there’s no need to get stuck in a Whitney rut. So here, presented with affection and respect, are 10 Houston beauties you won’t hear in the queue at Boots.
1‘How Will I Know’ (a cappella version)
Dear Simon Cowell, please play this to every single X-Factor auditionee five minutes before he/she trills for Tulisa. Then ask a question: “So, do you still want to?”
Light, sweet and moreish, it’s a pastel pink macaroon masquerading as an 80s pop-R&B tune.
This zippy little ditty was never a single, so it was only heard by the 20m folks who bought Whitney’s second album in 1987. Was one of them a certain Miss B. G. Knowles? And did she dig it out when she needed to inject some extra zing into ‘Love On Top’?
Queen Of Soul + chart-topping pretender to her throne = new beach house for Clive Davis, right? Sorry, deal’s off – this duet/catfight tanked both sides of the Atlantic back in 1989. It now comes off like a drag queen take on ‘The Boy Is Mine’ – with Whitney’s “Don’t diss me, girl!” matching Aretha’s “What you trying to say, Miss Thing?” for camp sassiness.
After his slip of the tongue comes her ultimatum: “Get it right next time” or “Say goodbye to me boy.” Of course, she should have ditched him post-haste. The man who mistakes Whitney Houston for any woman other than Whitney Houston is not just a cheat, but also a first class idiot.
Is this Whitney’s most underrated single? It’s the best kind of break-up ballad – because it’s basically a big old that-thing-wot-M.I.A.-did-at-the-Super-Bowl to your ex.
Words and music by Stevie Wonder. Production and back-ups by Lauryn Hill. Lead vocals by Whitney Houston at her most coolly soulful. Tucked away right at the end of the ‘My Love Is Your Love’ LP, it’s like the last Rolo in the tube.
On which Houston gets personal – and pissed off. “Same spotlight that once gave me fame, trying to dirty up Whitney’s name,” she spits here. The record-buying public cocked a snook, but her paranoid indignation is pretty thrilling.
This highlight from ‘I Look To You’ – her final album, released in 2009 – introduces Whitney the wizened lioness. “I could hold onto pain but that ain’t what my life’s about,” she sings serenely. At the time, it packed an emotional punch. Now, it’s almost heart-stoppingly poignant.
“Baby stand up, if you’re single and looking for another!” Sung by a lesser artist, this ode to solidarity and togetherness could be condescending. But sung by Whitney in her new, fag-ravaged voice, it’s utterly life-affirming. Don’t listen to it now unless your desk buddy likes having his hand squeezed.