Whitney Houston – Saving All My Love For You

First Hit #1: October 26, 1985

Saving All My Love for You is a deeply sad song, about a woman pining for a married man even though she knows damn well the relationship is never going to go anywhere. One would think the lyrics wouldn’t lend themselves to a big hit, but then again Whitney Houston was the kind of singer that can get attention to whatever she’s trying to sing. This is a powerful voice, and while sometimes such power can be misused – more on this topic whenever we hit Mariah Carey – Houston actually does a good job of getting the pain of the song through her performance. She’s still a definite diva, and the chorus is basically “LISTEN TO MY AMAZING VOICE!” but on the verses she tones it down, and demonstrates the mixture of frustration, pain and inexplicable submissiveness that such a relationship would engender. She sings it like she knows it, and as a result makes a hit out of a song that might otherwise put people off.

Outside of Houston the song isn’t that remarkable, being typical of the time period, right down to the saxophone. This is interesting, since this is a cover of a minor hit for Marilyn McCoo in 1978. The original sounds much more like a typical hit for its era, and is also defined by its vocal performance than the arrangement. Personally, Houston did it better, McCoo doesn’t quite have the same sense of frustration, and the backing vocals on the original kind of make it weirdly happy sounding instead of the deeply sad portrait that it actually is. It needs a splash of anger to really work, and McCoo is just too nice.


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One Response to Whitney Houston – Saving All My Love For You

  1. RBerman says:

    There aren’t a whole lot of 12/8 songs at #1. McCoo’s instrumentation sounds as 70s as Houston’s clavinet instrumentation sounds 80s. The difference between the two vocal performances should be used in singing classes to explain the difference between “good” and “stellar” phrasing. Joss Stone take note: You don’t have to belt every note. In fact, you shouldn’t.

    As for the lyrics: The dream of running away with him is “an old fantasy;” clearly he’s not leaving his family, and she’s determined to make the best of her #2 status. She’s a survivor, not in the empowered Beyonce “you are replaceable” way, but in a bedraggled Cissy Spacek way, just hanging on to the crumbs from his table.

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