Whitney Houston – How Will I Know

First Hit #1: February 15, 1986

How Will I Know could have been a throwaway. It’s got a tinny, trend driven beat – with a dash of sax – and the poppy, goofy lyrics lend themselves really well to the it-girl of the moment grinding out a pop hit. It’s catchy, sure, but it’s the lightest brand of pop music, something that’s briefly great on the radio and then quickly forgotten.

But instead of being a throwaway, it’s given to Whitney Houston, a singer who can bring pop music to another level. She had vocal power, and here we have an example of how that power can change the way a song sounds. She doesn’t sing it like a throwaway, she’s putting in the same amount of commitment and force into her vocal as one might into something a bit less goofy. So instead of a silly, forgettable pop song, we get a silly song that actually has a bit of staying power and is much more distinct than its modest origins.

I’ll admit that I’ve always associated Whitney Houston with the over-singing crowd, maybe because she frequently did the big diva thing that the over-singing crowd loves, but I realize now that what she had a much better grasp of how to use her vocal power than I gave her credit for.

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One Response to Whitney Houston – How Will I Know

  1. RBerman says:

    I’d certainly much rather hear Whitney Houston sing this song rather than Paula Abdul, Janet Jackson, Lisa Lisa, etc. On the other hand I understand what Donald Clarke meant in his book “The Rise and Fall of Popular Music” when he lamented that Whitney rarely got material worthy of her. That’s true here, even in a #1 single. The lyric is perfect for any Junior High student with a crush, though, which is why every Junior High student listened to it.

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