Run That Back: 35 Years of ‘Whitney’

Celebrating 35 years of one of the most iconic albums in Pop history
Whitney Houston
Photo credit Photo by Scott Gries/ImageDirect
By , Audacy

Audacy's Run That Back series is a deep dive into some of music’s most popular or underrated projects. Whether it’s been 5 years or 50, there’s never a wrong time to run that back. 

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35 years ago, Whitney Houston changed the trajectory of Pop music for the better. On June 2, 1987, the singer released her second studio album, Whitney. As a follow-up to her groundbreaking debut album, Whitney Houston, this second eponymous album found the 23-year-old singer truly coming into her identity as an artist and solidifying herself as one of the most powerful vocalists in the world.

Rightfully nicknamed “The Voice,” Houston never shied away from exploring her vocal and emotional range in her music. Whitney contains soulful ballads like, “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” as well as what has become one of the most beloved dance songs in the world, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).” The latter song was written by George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam and produced by Narada Michael Walden, all of whom were the masterminds behind Houston’s 1985 hit, “How Will I Know.” Whitney has a more pop-leaning sound than the singer’s debut album, largely due to the popularity of “How Will I Know.” Walden produced seven songs off of Whitney, three of which went on to be number ones on the Billboard Hot 100.

This album finds Houston in her most colorful and fun-loving era. The music video for “How Will I Know” features Houston dancing in various brightly colored outfits, reeling in the Pop-fantasy she created for herself. The video for “So Emotional” also boasts Houston living her best life and dancing in front of a crowd of screaming people. Houston and her album are a perfect emblem for the Pop and post-Disco craze of the late ‘80s.

Although she had initially seen international success with her debut album, Whitney truly catapulted Houston to global Pop stardom. On top of “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” both reaching the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100, the album’s other two singles, “Didn’t We Almost Have It All” and “So Emotional” also peaked at number one, making Houston the first female in history to have four number one hits from one album alone.

Not to mention, Whitney also debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 Album Chart, which crowned Houston the first female artist to debut at number one in the US. To this day, Houston still holds the record for the most consecutive number one-hits; she had seven number one singles between 1985 and 1988. The only two acts to hold this title prior to Houston were The Beatles and Bee Gees.

Whitney rightfully deserved all the achievements it garnered for Houston. Although it was initially not loved by critics, who remarked that it was sonically formulaic and similar to her debut album, the album has gone on to sell 20 million copies worldwide. In 2020, the album was certified diamond by the Recording Industry Institution of America, making Houston the first Black artist in history to receive three diamond-certified albums in the US. You know what they say… They don’t build statues of critics.

Join us in celebrating this vivacious and iconic album by tuning into Audacy’s Whitney Houston Radio!

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Photo by Scott Gries/ImageDirect