Overall Grade: 5/5
Seven years after her death, iconic singer Whitney Houston is looking to rule the charts from her grave. Thanks to Houston's mentor Clive Davis, the vaults are opened as Houston releases her posthumous single "Higher Love." With the aid of a Norwegian DJ Kygo, "Higher Love,"a quasi-spiritual song that longs for a love that is transcendent. The song was first recorded by Houston for her third album "I'm Your Baby Tonight." However, back then Houston was still suffering from the throes that her music was "too white." And in a move to distill such perception, Houston ditched many of her songs then in favour of songs that were decidedly more R&B in its disposition. "Higher Love" was one of those dropouts that later became a rare Japanese released bonus cut.
Fast forward almost 30 years, Davis and Houston's estate have enlisted the help of Kyo to give "Higher Love" a fresh and contemporary makeover. Kygo garnered intenational attention with his remix of Ed Sheerman's "I See Fire," which has received over 55 million plays on SoundCloud and 76 million views on YouTube. Kyogo's own single "Firestone" received 500 million views on YouTube with an additional 560 million plays on the music streaming service Spotify.
When DJ's try to give songs a "dance remix" often the song is overburdened with a cluttered sound of steely synths and swirling percussions. But not "Higher Love." As soon as the first notes begin, Houston's voice is at the front, right, left and center. Her voice is crisp, clear, and so powerful as she delves into the song with a relentless passion. The song circles back to Houston's gospel roots as she wonders if there is a higher love that makes our lives worth living. And like the preacher in the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes, she encourages us to look inside our own hearts for the echoes of this transcendent love. Instead of overpowering Houston, Kygo uses finger-snapping drums and Gospel-ish piano to accentuate the power of Houston's soaring melisma (that is still so affecting and so haunting even after all these years).
While many dance tracks linger and linger with lots of wasted beats, not so with "Higher Love."Clocking in at only 3 minutes and 28 seconds, the song is compact, succinct and hits all the right spots. One caveat though: "Higher Love" (like her big hit "I Will Always Love You") is not a Houston original. Rather, it's a Steve Winwood cover. But Houston sings like she owns the song. And after hearing this song over and over, you will begin to ask, "Steve, who?"