Single Review: Whitney Houston “How Will I Know”

How Will I Know
Album: Whitney Houston
Year: 1985

Whitney Houston asks a girlfriend for relationship advice in the fervent “How I Will Know.”

Zingy drum machine and synthesizer play an instrumental of the chorus to introduce the song. After forty seconds, an enraptured Houston spills to her girlfriend about the guy she likes. He’s everything she ever wanted. Everytime he glances at her, it feels like she’s floating. She wants to spend all her time with him and feels her knees weaken. She wonders if the glance is a sign. (“There’s a boy I know/He’s the one I dream of/Looks into my eyes/Takes me to the clouds above (mm hm)/Oo I lose control/Can’t seem to get enough (uh-huh)/When I wake from dreaming/Tell me if it’s really love.”)

In the pre-chorus, she comments that she’s uncertain. She’s biased. For her, she will read it as a positive sign. But is it really? “(hoo) How will I know (don’t trust the feeling)/How will I know/How will I know (looks can be deceiving)/How will I know.”)

She hopes she’s not leading herself on. Each time she sees him, she swoons. Her friend has dated a lot of guys and would have a fresh point of view. She has his phone number. But she’s nervous and can’t follow through on the call. She likes being in love but could do without the overanalyzing and questioning of her instincts. (“How will I know if he really loves me/I say a prayer with every heartbeat/I fall in love whenever we meet/I’m asking you cuz you know about these things/How will I know if he’s thinking of me/I try to phone but I’m too shy (can’t speak)/Falling in love is so bittersweet/This love is strong, why do I feel weak?”)

She dreams of him sleeping next to her. She is in love and knows it. (“Oh wake me unshaken, wish I had you near me now (uh-huh)/Said that no mistaking, what I feel is really love.”)

The bridge begins instantly after the chorus. Hyper guitars are added after every lyric. (“If he loves me/If he loves me not/(mm) If he loves me/(oo) If he loves me not/(oo) If he loves me not/(he-ey) If he loves me/If he loves me not”)

A jubilant saxophone joins Houston as she sings “Oh. how will I know/Ooh. how will I know/hey, how will I know.”)

The chorus is sung a final time. Afterwards, Houston sings “how will I know” seven times to finish the single.

Houston’s phenomenal vocals are commanding and assured. She’s brimming with talent and promise throughout. Her influence is unmistakenable with her early recordings. It’s hard to believe this is the same Houston who said “crack is wack” to Diane Sawyer in a Primetime Live interview.

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