Hump Day Slow Jam of the Week: Whitney Houston, “Saving All My Love for You”

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The Singer: For all the unsavory entries on Whitney Houston’s resume – drug abuser, reality show train wreck, Mrs. Bobby Brown – it’s easy to forget that she has one of the all-time great voices in R&B. The power and the range behind her vocals are staggering, and she never retreated to the note-bending melisma like her heir Mariah Carey. Only Madonna can match her string of ’80s hits, though I’d argue that Whitney’s have aged better; can you beat “I Wanna Dance with Somebody Who Loves Me," “How Will I Know” or “So Emotional”? Her first two records, 1985’s Whitney Houston and 1987’s Whitney, were chart fodder and are worth rescuing from the nearest 99-cent vinyl bin.

The Song: Another slow jam, another ode to infidelity: “Saving All My Love for You” is a steady percolation of desire that moves from patience to insistence with each verse. The sax solo by Tom Scott (who played on Steely Dan’s Aja, among many other albums) is suitably smooth, punctuating the bridge with a fluid tone against the feather-bed production. The song was written by Michael Masser and Gerry Goffin; Masser co-wrote a boatload of post-Supremes songs for Diana Ross, including “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)" and Peabo Bryson’s “If Ever Your In My Arms Again,” while Goffin worked with wife Carole King to write some of the biggest hits for the Shirelles and Aretha Franklin.

The Video: The song’s story plays out with Whitney as the ingénue/femme fatale role and her producer acts as the object of her desire. Note the Belinda Carlisle-esque sweatshirt worn off the shoulder and the high number of shots of the singer oscillating between yearning and longing (there is a difference, people). Today’s video challenge: count the number of hairstyle changes that young Whitney undergoes in this four-minute clip.

Hipster Cachet: Houston made a very special appearance on an episode on the sitcom Silver Spoons, singing this song to Dexter (who was, you’ll recall, Alfonso Ribeiro’s uncle and Joel Higgins’ friend on the show). No video of this performance seems to exist online, but this blog post confirms that I didn’t just imagine this in some ’80s-centric fever dream.

-- Christian Schaeffer

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