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.