“I wanna dance with somebody who loves me”: the lyrics on this record suggest vulnerability, but who are they kidding? It’s pure titanium, stadium-ready dance music backing a singer on juggernaut form. I’ve talked a lot in the 80s entries about how bigness for its own sake often misfires as a strategy but if you can do enormity well then you’re laughing. And thanks to Whitney this track pulls it off – the producers can conjure up as much space and scale and decoration as they like and throw it at her in the knowledge her voice can rise above it.
So the record can start with one of the great kick-off-your-heels-and-dance promises, that electro stutter and revved-up blurt of synth trumpet, and Houston totally delivers on it. Foghorn when she wants to be, sweet and strong when she needs to be: the way she sugars then bites off that long “heeeeeeeeeeea-t” mid song just the peak of a tremendous performance. It’s all so strong it can be somewhat bludgeoning, but luckily there’s laughter in it too – that husky chorus of galley slaves chanting “DANCE. DANCE.”, encouraging Whitney through the delirious coda. It’s a shame that we didn’t often hear this kind of delighted fierceness from Whitney after “I Wanna Dance” – ballads were her great showboating strength and this kind of party belter is a style she seemed happy to let others run with.