Can We Talk About…? is a weekly series that shot an arrow and it went real high—hooray for us.
With Pride Month winding down and WorldPride kicking off this weekend, the voice of the late, great Whitney Houston is here to greet the dancefloors of New York and beyond. But we’re not just talking the classics: your “How Will I Knows, your “I Wanna Dance With Somebodys,” your “It’s Not Right but It’s Okay (hex Hector Remixes).” Seven years after her death, the diva hath returned with a new track to send shivers down your spine and put a bounce in your step-by-step.
The Houston estate teamed with Norwegian DJ Kygo to deliver a glossy, pulsing finish to the singer’s old, unused cover of Steve Winwood’s 1986 hit “Higher Love”—which featured transcendent background vocals from Whitney sister-friend Chaka Khan. Whitney had recorded the song for her third studio effort, 1990’s I’m Your Baby Tonight, but it didn’t fit with the album’s more R&B-driven vibe.
“When [producer] Narada Michael Walden sent me ‘Higher Love’ with the Whitney vocal, we didn’t want her being a cover artist at that time,” Clive Davis, the legendary (bisexual) record exec credited with discovering Houston, told Rolling Stone. “The only place it was released was as a bonus cut in Japan.”
Of course, just two scant years later, the singer scored her biggest hit ever with a cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You,” and then scored another hit with one of her best dance tracks, a cover of Chaka’s “I’m Every Woman.”
Here’s Whit belting the absolute shit out of “Higher Love” in a live performance from back in the day:
Remember when singers were so good they used to make themselves sick?
Winwood won a Grammy for Record of the Year after topping the Billboard charts with “Higher Love,” and it’s remained popular through cover versions and commercials for more than three decades. But in Houston’s more-than-capable hands, it soars to staggering new heights. Kygo’s production is very 2019—meaning it sounds like every other generic EDM pop song on the radio—but you just can’t go wrong with a Whitney vocal on a remixed dance track.
This revamped version is the sonic equivalent to a dark gay bar at 2am crowded with sweaty, shirtless men reeking of poppers and Gucci cologne—which, as you know, is the closest any of us will ever get to heaven. It’s a truly buoyant bop, and it couldn’t come at a better time.
“The current cultural environment has been thirsty for something uplifting and inspiring,” Whitney’s sister-in-law Pat Houston told Rolling Stone. “Who better to inspire than Whitney, the most exhilarating vocalist of all time?”
We couldn’t agree more, and with that, we claim this track in the name of the gays. Happy Pride, kids.