An acapella version of Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know” has been buzzing about the Interweb this week, following the singer’s shocking death on Saturday at 48. Hearing The Voice in isolation — a track released on the 2010 deluxe anniversary edition of her debut album — reminded The World how immensely talented Houston was, gifted with incredible chops that reached to the clouds above and took us along. Hear here:
In a moving, must-read piece for Esquire, Houston’s close friend and former personal assistant Robyn Crawford says, “It’s so strange that she died when she did. February was her month. Her first album was released on Valentine’s Day, right around the time of the Grammys, right around the time of Clive Davis’ party.”
The month gave more good love to Houston a year later, when on February 15, 1986, “How Will I Know,” the third single from her self-titled debut, ascended to the top of the Billboard Hot 100. The second consecutive #1 of a still-record seven, “How Will I Know” was originally written for Janet Jackson, though Houston more than made it her own. The song’s pure pop sound connected with a younger audience and the music video for “How Will I Know” secured regular rotation on MTV, then a rare feat for African-American artists.
Houston’s godmother and former Arista labelmate, Aretha Franklin, who remembered the late singer on Today this morning and will perform at Houston’s funeral on Saturday, makes a cameo appearance in the “How Will I Know” video. The color-splashed clip is just as much fun as you remember.
Commiserating with my sister over Houston’s passing, we both recalled having created our own choreography to “How Will I Know.” Chair-ography, more accurately, as she was driving the family car and I was in the passenger seat as we auditioned different upper-body gestures to match the lyrics to the chorus, over the course of the four minutes that “How Will I Know” was on the radio. Selecting some and discarding others until it all flowed perfectly with Houston’s delivery, those movements were locked into my kid brain. I still know them all.
More evidence of the lasting, universal appeal of “How Will I Know”? Check out Evan Dando’s cover from a few years back.