15 Whitney Houston songs we’ll never forget

02.12.12 5 years ago

It’s easy to forget how prolific Whitney Houston was during the first two decades of her career. The 21st Century wasn’t kind to legendary singer, but from 1985-1999 she delivered an amazing catalog of classic songs and ballads.  

As we look back at Houston’s life here are 15 performances/songs we think will define her for generations to come.

“Saving All My Love For You”
1985
Chart peak: No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B chart.
Why: This jazzy track (one of her few) made Houston a star and began Grammy’s long love affair with Cissy and John Houston’s talented daughter.

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“How Will I Know”
1985
Chart peak: No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B chart.
Why: Houston has proven her skills as ballad hit maker, but “How” was her first uptempo hit. Sure, she wasn’t the dancer Madonna or Jody Wately were, but she wasn’t going to be pigeonholed into just the slow stuff.

“Greatest Love of All”
1985
Chart peak: No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 3 on the R&B chart.
Why: Most people remember “Greatest” as Houston’s first big hit, but it was actually the fifth release off her “Whitney Houston” album. It’s become a modern standard.

“I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)”
1987
Chart peak: No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Why: Noticeably the most “80’s” sounding of Houston’s second album, “Whitney,” it’s also one of the tracks she was most associated with.  The popular video also made her a fixture on MTV.

“So Emotional”
1987
Chart Peak: No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Why: The closest Houston ever came to having a rock and roll record (can you think of any other Houston song with an electric guitar in it?) it wasn’t her equivalent of Janet Jackson’s “Black Cat,” but it was a welcome relief for fans looking for more than another adult contemporary ballad.  Noteworthy since Houston was only 24 at the time.

“Star Spangled Banner”
1990
Chart peak: No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 (2001)
Why: One of the greatest live, er pre-recorded to sound live renditions of the national anthem – ever.

“I’m Your Baby Tonight”
1990
Chart peak: No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B chart.
Why: This uptempo track was her first hit that saw her gospel background really influence her vocal stylings.  She showed a glimpse of it on “How Will I know,” but blew it up for “Baby Tonight.”

“I Will Always Love You”
1992
Chart peak: 1. Every chart. Everywhere.
Why: A classic and one of the greatest recordings of all time. If you don’t get a tingle when you hear it even today, you’ve got a cold, cold heart.


“I’m Every Woman”

1993
Chart peak: No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100
Why: Can you still see a very pregnant Houston in the video for this hit off “The Bodyguard” belting out “Chaka Khan! Chaka Khan!” as her idol sings along with her? Sure you do.

“I Have Nothing”
1993
Chart peak: No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts.
Why: Sure, it sounds like it was recorded four or five years before, but this song road the wave of “The Bodyguard” soundtrack’s massive popularity and is a shining example of how powerful and transcendent Houston’s voice could be.

“Exhale (Shoop Shoop)”
1995
Chart peak: No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the R&B chart
Why: The “Waiting to Exhale” title track bucked the trend of the overly produced hip-hop tracks of the time and let Houston’s voice carry the infectious ballad all on its own.

“Count on Me” (with CeCe Winans)
1996
Chart peak: No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 7 on the R&B chart.
Why: This duet with Houston’s longtime friend  CeCe Winans is a moving and vocally gorgeous pairing that makes you wish they could have made an entire album together.


“Heartbreak Hotel”

1999
Chart peak: No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 1 on the R&B chart
Why: One of Houston’s few real soul hits, “Hotel” gave her career a massive hit when she really needed it (her first top 10 track since 1996) and found a genuine pain in her voice that had arguably only been heard on “I Will Always Love You” and “Exhale, (Shoop Shoop).”


“It’s Not Right, It’s OK” (remix)

1999
Chart peak: No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 1 on the U.S. Dance/Club chart
One of her last monster hits became another ladies anthem before the new millennium and was one of the few times Houston sounded in control even when drugs were ravaging her personal life.  The remix was the biggest club track in 1999. You literally couldn’t escape it.

“My Love is Your Love”
1999
Chart Peak: No 4 on Billboard Hot 100 and No. 2 on the R&B chart.
Why: Houston’s last true top 10 hit is also one of her most forgotten gems. Produced by Wyclef Jean it clearly has a lot of Fugees late ’90s influence, but its also one of her most socially relevant and moving songs.

Also consider:

“Step by Step”
1997
Chart peak: No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 3 on the Billboard Dance/Club chart
Why: The remixes of this single from “The Preacher’s Wife” soundtrack kept Houston’s career alive in the clubs even when she was starting to falter on the pop charts. The Junior Vasquez remix in particular is a house music classic.

“When You Believe”
1998
(Whitney Houston & Mariah Carey)
Chart peak: No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100
Why: One of Whitney’s rare duets, its hard not to fall this Oscar winning song and the once in a lifetime collaboration of legendary divas Mariah Carey.  Houston’s voice is noticeably becoming raspier than it had in previous years.

“Million Dollar Bill”

2009
Chart peak: No. 1 on the U.S Dance/Club chart, No. 16 on the R&B chart
Why: As close to a comeback as Houston could muster, her voice clearly wasn’t the same, but it was her most complete performance this century and boy did she look gorgeous.

Which songs were your favorites? Share your thoughts below.
 

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