Mar 10

WHITNEY HOUSTON – “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”

Blog 7 + Popular40 comments • 5,000 views

#591, 6th June 1987, video

“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.



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  1. 26
    Jezza on 12 Mar 2010 #

    Don’t forget Richard X and the I Wanna Dance With Numbers song. Richard X later produced a number 1 of his own.

  2. 27
    TomLane on 13 Mar 2010 #

    The original 8 of this, that also went #1 U.S. is one notch too high for me, but no doubt the song is a reminder of when Houston used to provide quick, easy, fun singles to Top 40 radio.

  3. 28
    swanstep on 13 Mar 2010 #

    @jezza, 26. Wow, thanks. I wanna dance with numbers is simply fantastic. Is there anything Kraftwerk can’t do/improve? [Say in the Homer donuts voice.]

    Free associating a bit: the always higher higher Skins Season 2 intro theme has always reminded me of this cluster of merrill/rubicam-written songs that Whitney hit out of the park.

  4. 29
    thefatgit on 13 Mar 2010 #

    Always smile when I hear “Numbers”. I remember celebrity shrink, Pamela Stephenson doing an interpretive dance to it on BBC2’s Arena around 1980 I think.

  5. 30
    punctum on 16 Mar 2010 #

    Where “Saving All My Love For You” sought to make Whitney prematurely middle-aged, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” her only non-ballad UK number one, sparkles with an ebullience more properly befitting her age. From its expectant, quivering intro of Linn congas and shuddering synth bass, suddenly propelled by Whitney’s “Whoo!” and an upwards-unzipping keyboard flourish into a celebratory dance – despite, or perhaps because of, the song’s underlying closeted desperation (“It’s the light of day that shows me how/But when the night falls/The loneliness calls”), it anticipates the immediate and unexpected revival of the bubblegum ethic in mainstream American pop, as at least two further number ones within the next six months will demonstrate.

    Architecturally the record’s continued subtle build-up is exemplary (brilliantly choreographed by producer/arranger Narada Michael Walden); the plateau of rest where Whitney momentarily meditates in the middle eight (“Somebody whoooo…”) before she braces herself up for the ascending key change and the ecstatic final choruses where she cheerfully trades fours with her backing singers – “Don’tyouwannadance Sayyouwannadance Don’tyouwannaDANCE!” Her “uh huhs,” whoops and laughs at the climax sound and feel natural, and for one of the pitifully few times in her life Whitney is having fun and experiencing uncomplicated happiness. Even Bill “No Music Day” Drummond had to acknowledge great pop when he recognised and felt it; his own ecstasy as the opening strains of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” ease their way into “Whitney Joins The JAMMs” is infectious and truthful. It remains one of the great tragedies of recent pop that this Whitney Houston wasn’t allowed more air to breathe her joy.

  6. 31
    weej on 24 Mar 2010 #

    This is just happy school disco memories for me, hard to to fault it. Everything she did later, well, that’s a different story of course.

  7. 32
    Billy Smart on 16 Apr 2010 #

    TOTPWatch: Whitney Houston performed ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ on the Top of the Pops transmitted on May 21st 1987. Also in the studio that week were; Marillion, Wet Wet Wet and Cameo. Peter Powell and Simon Bates were the hosts.

  8. 33
    Cheyenne on 14 Sep 2010 #

    Greate thing you are shared with us. Thanks!

  9. 34
    Download windows 7 themes free on 8 Oct 2010 #

    I was looking for this the other day. i dont usually post in forums but i wanted to say thank you!

  10. 35
    рыбалка on 19 Jun 2011 #

    Nice post admin.. Keep it right.
    I added it to my bookmarks

  11. 36
    utjuy online on 1 Nov 2011 #


  12. 37
    Erithian on 1 Nov 2011 #

    This thread has been spammed more than most, but only once in the past year. Assuming #38 is indeed spam, to have it happen today when we’re avidly waiting for – well, you know – is positively Twilight Zone.

  13. 38
    Wizi on 15 Feb 2012 #

    Not many comments for this, so can I just add that I think Whitney is the only artist who I remember emerging onto the scene, going on to produce music and memories which have distinctly made me happier and then sadly, died too soon.

    Lots of love to you Whitney and thank you for all the joy you brought.

  14. 39
    punctum on 24 Oct 2014 #

    TPL on the parent album.

  15. 40
    hectorthebat on 3 Feb 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Blender (USA) – Top 500 Songs of the 80s-00s (2005) 275
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    OUT (USA) – The 25 Gayest Songs of the 1980s (2011)
    Slant (USA) – The 100 Best Singles of the 1980s (2012) 62
    Spex (Germany) – The Best Singles of the Century (1999)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

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