Sunday, February 12, 2012

Top 10 Whitney Houston Songs

After hearing about the tragic death of Whitney Houston yesterday, I decided to compile my Top 10 favorites list of her songs.

I own her 2-disc Greatest Hits collection (released in 2000) which contains a disc of ballads and a remix disc of her uptempo and midtempo songs - a decision I could never understand as the remixes were unfailingly inferior to the original versions. About a year ago, I bought a box set of her 3 most successful (non-soundtrack) albums: 1985's Whitney Houston, 1987's Whitney, and 1999's My Love Is Your Love. Most of the below songs are from those three albums.

10. "Could I Have This Kiss Forever" (duet with Enrique Iglesias) (2000)
#52 Billboard Hot 100

This largely forgotten duet from her Greatest Hits album is insanely catchy, slinking along on a subtle Latin rhythm. It is unimaginable why this song did not become the monster hit it was destined to be.

I just want all my days
Spent being next to you
Lived for just loving you




9. "I Learned From The Best" (1999)
#27 Billboard Hot 100

Perhaps a more unorthodox choice for a Top 10 list of Whitney songs but one that has always resonated with me. Whitney delivers these lyrics in way that belies the true undertone of the words - dark and sinister, almost threatening. The story of a woman made jaded by a lover who spurned her.

And so now you know the way it feels to cry
The way that I cried when you broke my world in two
Baby I learned the way to break a heart
I learned from the best, I learned from you



8. "How Will I Know" (1985)
#1 Billboard Hot 100

It is no secret that the song "I Won't Say I'm In Love" from the Disney movie "Hercules" is entirely based off of this song. The best call-and-response pop chorus ever written and the kind of feel-good song that is all too rare in today's landscape.

There's a boy I know, he's the one I dream of
Looks into my eyes, takes me to the clouds above



And for comparison, check out "I Won't Say I'm In Love" from Hercules below.



7. "Count On Me" (with CeCe Winans) (1995)

#8 Billboard Hot 100

A cut from the sublime soundtrack to the movie "Waiting To Exhale" and the song my class performed at our 4th Grade graduation ceremony "Farewell To Fours". There is something ever so slightly shaky and vulnerable in this song, as if Whitney acknowledges through her delivery of the lyrics that no friendship is perfect and no person can ever completely save another, but there is the purest of intent in trying to do so.

We were 10 year olds, graduating the familiarity of Lower School. Progressing to Middle School brought with it new teachers for each subject, lockers, a new building, and most frighteningly the advent of letter grades. But in that moment of the ceremony, there was hope that our friendships would endure into the next year and possibly forever.

There's a place inside of all of us
Where our faith in love begins



6. "So Emotional" (1987)
#1 Billboard Hot 100

One of the first songs in which Whitney addresses the slow way love and lust can drive you insane. More subversive lyrics are hidden beneath a cheery backbeat.

I've been hearing your heartbeat inside of me
I keep your photograph beside my bed

Livin' in a world of fantasies
I can't get you out of my head



5. "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" (1987)
#1 Billboard Hot 100

In the era of cynicism we live in now, it is refreshing to be taken back to a time where this song sparkled with sheer unadulterated joy. Perhaps that's the main reason this song has showed such staying power. This song is still played at countless 80's nights and is a ever-present staple on the "going out" playlist of female college students who weren't even born when this song was originally released. "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" takes the essence of life and strips it to its core - the innocence of teenage lust and the desire to share one of the most seminal romantic moments with another person.

I need a man who'll take a chance
On a love that burns hot enough to last



4. I Have Nothing (1993)
#4 Billboard Hot 100

I love the way this song starts out sweet and slow and dramatically builds to the powerhouse chorus. Some of the most romantic lyrics ever written and Whitney sings them with a passion that can not be exaggerated.

You see through, right to the heart of me
You break down my walls with the strength of your love
I never knew love like I've known it with you
Will a memory survive, one I can hold on to



3. "Greatest Love Of All" (1985)
#1 Billboard Hot 100

A true message song in an era of message songs. Of learning to believe in the future and most of all, oneself. The purity with which Whitney sings this is unparalleled and the difficulty level is so high that hardly any one could dream to match it.

If I fail, if I succeed, at least I lived as I believed
No matter what they take from me, they can't take away my dignity



2. "I Will Always Love You" (1992)
#1 Billboard Hot 100

What can I say about this song that has not already been written? How many artists could begin a song with nearly a minute of pure acapella singing? Although Auto-Tune is spreading like a disease across the musical culture, the 80's and 90's were full of artists who couldn't stand on their own without being hidden behind the beat or the gloss of music videos. And then Whitney came out with this song and silenced everyone else with a golden voice.

Bittersweet memories, that is all I'm taking with me
So goodbye, please don't cry
We both know I'm not what you, you need



1. "Didn't We Almost Have It All" (1987)
#1 Billboard Hot 100

A sweetly sung but deeply tragic song about being so close to heaven and losing everything you've ever wanted. The musical equivalent of the poetic saying "it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all".

The ride with you was worth the fall my friend

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