Whitney Houston is widely celebrated as one of the most phenomenal vocalists of our time. Her passing in 2012 left behind a legacy that continues to captivate our hearts and minds decades later. With 11 consecutive songs debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, alongside a repertoire that spans pop, R&B, dance, and gospel music, it's no wonder her influence covers almost every genre.
This can be seen in her memorable acting roles in The Bodyguard, Waiting to Exhale, and The Preacher's Wife. She created an impressive body of work that reached unparalleled commercial success. For this purpose, the task of narrowing down Whitney Houston's songs may seem impossible due to her wide catalog. However, the impact of her discography will forever linger in our hearts and speakers.
7. "It's Not Right But It's Okay" (1998)
In "It's Not Right But It's Okay," Whitney Houston reveals newfound wisdom when confronting her lover's infidelity, sagely intoning, "It's not right, but it's okay." Unrelenting in her stance, she forgoes the traditional sorrowing melodrama for resilience and resolution. As a result, two distinct remixes of the track achieved tremendous success. The Darkchild album mix, with its syncopated marimba beat, was featured in the music video. The Thunderpuss dance mix garnered substantial radio airplay. Proving her pop proficiency still held firm, Houston earned a 2000 Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. Additionally, the song achieved a Top 5 ranking on the Hot 100. This classic track is a testament to the singer's masterful ability to bridge heartbreak and hope through her art.
6. "I'm Your Baby Tonight" (1990)
A shocking episode unfolded in 1989 during the Soul Train Music Awards. Whitney Houston was met with jeers from some members of the audience. Apparently, her presence at the ceremony was considered an insult to R&B music due to her fame in the pop ranks. Consequently, driven by a desire to restore Houston's reputation within rhythm and blues, music executive Clive Davis enlisted producers Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and Antonio "L.A." Reid to write a riveting piece that would be sure to resonate with R&B radio stations. The result? An unabashedly sensual New Jack Swing opus, titled simply "I'm Your Baby Tonight," soared to the peak of the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop chart, propelling Babyface and Reid's first-ever entry into the Hot 100.
5. "How Will I Know" (1985)
When selecting Whitney Houston songs to include in her debut album, A&R head Clive Davis recognized the value of a lively tune akin to Deniece Williams' popular "Let's Hear it for the Boy." Meeting that criteria, George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam jointly wrote this delightful song with production from Narada Michael Walden. Necessary to realize, right after the emotive release of "Saving All My Love For You," the catchy melody of this single demonstrated the breadth of Houston's talent. The vivid visuals of its Day-Glo music video capture all of the song's joyous energy.
4. "I Have Nothing" (1993)
Composed by David Foster and Linda Thompson, the powerful ballad "I Will Always Love You" from the film The Bodyguard was praised with two Academy Award nominations in 1992 (the other being "Run to You"). Houston delicately yet powerfully narrates the captivating lyrics of "Don't make me close one more door," making its mark as impactful as Jennifer Holliday's electrifying performance of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." Imbued with poignancy and resonance, this classic track will forever carve a place in our hearts.
3. "I Will Always Love You" (1992)
Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" commercial success has reached unprecedented heights, with a record-breaking 14 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 and the highest global sales for any female artist. However, its broader impact lies beyond numbers, as it remains an emblem of enduring love due to its pivotal role in the acclaimed Bodyguard movie and soundtrack. An instantly recognizable cappella intro further testifies to Houston's prodigious talent, as does her deftly executed vocal performance that effortlessly shifts between powerhouse notes and ethereal falsetto passages. This duet between technical brilliance and soulful expression renders "I Will Always Love You" a timeless classic.
2. "My Love Is Your Love" (1985)
With her third album, I'm Your Baby Tonight, Whitney Houston retired from full-fledged recording. She embraced a Streisand-like celebrity status, focusing on movies, melodic contributions, and public appearances. However, this all changed when Arista President Clive Davis urged her to record My Love Is Your Love. It was her first new album in eight years- an effort that has become one of her most revered works.
The lead single, the Bob Marley-inspired "No Woman No Cry," was especially successful. Its hip-hop flavor was a bold departure for Houston, but its reassuring warmth and her heart-rending vocals make it a truly special composition. Indeed, its "love is your love" refrain has become immortalized as one of her career-defining hits.
1. "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" (1987)
Clive Davis had a hunch that this track could become one of the best Whitney Houston songs. Chiefly, he had a straightforward instruction for Whitney Houston: when she sang the word "dance," she was to sing it with increased intensity and ardor. With that seemingly minimal direction in mind, Houston gave her greatest performance, arguably better than her previous hit, "How Will I Know." Her vocalizations opened with a cry of elation and progressively gained strength, highlighting feelings of fervor and freedom. As a result, this exuberant single earned Houston a second Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, and remains her best-known classic.