I WANNA DANCE WITH SOMEBODY – A list of Whitney Houston’s best songs

Just how do you try to best tell the story of Whitney Houston, a colossus of 20th century pop music, whose very human flaws and tragic death (10 years ago this year) have often come to define her more than her astonishing talent?

A new movie, I Wanna Dance With Somebody, starring Naomi Ackie as Houston, is the latest attempt to do justice to the singer’s life and career. It comes after the heart-breaking 2017 documentary Whitney: Can I Be Me? and the surprisingly good 2015 Lifetime movie, Whitney, directed by Angela Bassett and starring Yaya DaCosta in the title role.

Perhaps the best way – the only way – to properly commemorate Whitney is through the music. And man, what a legacy of absolute bops, classics and tearjerkers she left us with. It’s quite the task to attempt a definitive list of the best songs from arguably the greatest pop singer of all time, but we’re going to attempt it.

  1. Million Dollar Bill (2009)

One of Whitney’s final hits, this was nowhere near the standard of her early tracks, but it’s still a solid dancefloor bop.

  1. You Give Good Love (1985)

Sexy and slinky, this song upset some American conservative weirdos with its sexually provocative lyrics – atta girl Whitney!

  1. When You Believe (1998)
    This Oscar winning duet with Mariah Carey is a masterpiece of divas-out-singing-one-another-dom – watch their live performance at the 1999 Oscars and pause at 2.38 when Whitney clearly steals one of Mariah’s lines. Carey’s face is priceless. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYpTaPMlRDk
  1. Step By Step (1996)
    An Annie Lennox cover, this merits inclusion just for the gigantic shoulder-dancing sass Whitney brings to it.
  1. Run To You (1992)
    The less celebrated power ballad cousin on The Bodyguard soundtrack, it might be Whitney kind of on autopilot but it’s still a smooth listen – and the video is pure cheese.
  1. I’m Every Woman (1993)
    Whitney covered this Chaka Khan classic on The Bodyguard soundtrack – and still managed to make it her own.
  1. Didn’t We Almost Have It All (1987)
    Corny? Overblown? Emotion dialled all the way up to 11? Yes, yes and oh-my-god-yes. And these are bad things?!
  1. So Emotional (1987)

From the opening fingers snaps, this is dance-pop perfection throughout.

  1. Greatest Love Of All (1986)
    “I believe the children are our future…” Together with No 11 on this list, an unbeatable big-voiced fromage double-header.
  1. One Moment In Time (1988)
    Yes, it’s cheesy as all hell – it’s the official song of the 1988 Olympics after all. But there’s no denying the sheer Olympian power of Whitney’s emotional vocals.
  1. All The Man That I Need (1990)
    A cover of a forgotten Linda Clifford single, Whitney leans into a gospel sound to drive home the aching desperation in the lyrics in what remains one of the her biggest worldwide hits.
  1. I’m Your Baby Tonight (1990)
    Whitney embraced the late ‘80s/early ‘90s new jack swing style in this insanely catchy bop.
  1. Saving All My Love For You (1985)
    An early example of the magic that Whitney could bring to the torch-song – her voice has rarely sounded as pure and beautiful.
  1. It’s Not Right But It’s Okay (1999)
    Coming late in her ‘90s career, the My Love Is Your Love album is chock-full of bangers – such as this funky, R&B diss track about a woman sarcastically confronting a cheating lover.
  1. My Love Is Your Love (1999)
    Wyclef Jean steered Whitney towards greatness with this soulful, Bob Marley and rap-inflected love song.

5.The Star-Spangled Banner (1991)
Whitney’s white tracksuit-bedecked performance of the American national anthem at the 1991 Superbowl – 10 days after the launch of Desert Storm in Iraq – is arguably the best rendition of the song that’s ever been recorded. And it’s unlikely anyone else will top it, though many have tried. Even just listen to 2.05 onwards – absolutely spine-tingling. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_lCmBvYMRs

  1. How Will I Know? (1985)
    “There’s a boooy I know…” If your feet aren’t tapping away from just reading those words, please make your way to A&E immediately, as you might be clinically dead.
  1. I Have Nothing (1992)
    The other enormous power ballad from The Bodyguard is intensely more dramatic – making it a drag queen lip sync favourite for the ages. Whitney throws literally everything she has at this – a perfect 4 minute 50 second encapsulation of just what she could do with that gigantic, peerless voice.
  1. I Will Always Love You (1992)
    Look, no matter where we put this song, someone would disagree with it. The lead single from The Bodyguard looms as large over Houston’s career as it does over ‘90s music specifically and the entire genre of pop music in general. You might be sick of it from over-exposure or even now take for granted what Houston did on this song. But, in terms of execution, impact and legacy, I Will Always Love You is the Whitney song to which all subsequent female pop singers are indebted and from which none of them can escape.
  1. I Wanna Dance With Somebody (1987)
    We promise this isn’t just because the new movie is named after this song. It’s truly just an imperishable pop classic that is almost impossible not to dance to once you hear that opening drum beat and exuberant ‘Wooooo!’ More than anything, the sound captures Whitney at her most joyous, talented, carefree, young and fun. That might not have been her reality, but this song is the perfect fantasy that lets us believe that dancing and music can save us – even from ourselves.

Words – Declan Cashin

I Wanna Dance With Somebody is released on December 30.