Really, a lot of Houston’s best bits on “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” aren’t even about what she can do with her voice. They’re pure personality: The whoo as the song first kicks in, the giggle on the breakdown, the “now get with this” aside. Walden has said that the vamp on the breakdown — “Don’tyouwannadance Sayyouwannadance don’tyouwannadance!” — was Houston’s idea. Houston never bothers to sell the sad parts of the song, the stuff about loneliness calling. She knows she doesn’t need to. The song comes from the perspective of someone who wants to find joy in companionship, in bodies moving. The vocal comes from someone who’s already achieved that goal. It’s aspirational.
“How Will I Know” only fell into Houston’s hands because Janet Jackson said no. The song came from George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam, a married couple from Seattle who sang backup on Deniece Williams’ 1984 chart-topper “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” and who recorded as the duo Boy Meets Girl.