Thanks to Norwegian producer Kygo, a new generation of listeners is being introduced to Whitney Houston’s era-defining, once-in-a-lifetime talent.
Houston, who died in 2012, made it onto Billboard’s Hot 100 chart this week with a remixed version of “Higher Love,” her little-known cover of Steve Winwood’s 1986 hit. Debuting at No. 68, “Higher Love” marks Houston’s first appearance on the chart ― which ranks the 100 most commercially successful songs in the U.S. ― since 2009’s “Million Dollar Bill,” off her final album, “I Look to You.”
The pop diva’s original recording of “Higher Love” had previously been available only as a bonus track on the Japanese edition of her 1990 album, “I’m Your Baby Tonight.”
As Sony Music Chief Creative Officer Clive Davis told Rolling Stone, Houston’s label Arista Records “didn’t want her being a cover artist at that time” and hence shelved the song in favor of more R&B-oriented material.
Until now, that is. Last month, it was announced that Houston’s estate had tapped Kygo ― who has re-worked songs by Ed Sheeran and Coldplay ― to give “Higher Love” a contemporary redux.
“I was honored when the Whitney Houston estate reached out and presented me with the opportunity to work with one of the greatest female vocalists of all time,” Kygo said in a Jun. 28 press release sent to HuffPost.
According to Whitney’s sister-in-law, estate executor and former manager Pat Houston, the timing for new music couldn’t be better.
“The current cultural environment has been thirsty for something uplifting and inspiring,” she told Rolling Stone. “Who better to inspire than Whitney, the most exhilarating vocalist of all time?”
And critics certainly agree. Entertainment Weekly included “Higher Love” on its list of “22 summer pop songs you need your playlist” alongside current hits by Lizzo and Shawn Mendes.
As it turns out, the song is the first of several musical projects intended to carry forth Houston’s artistic legacy. In a New York Times interview published in May, Pat Houston described the estate’s plans for a posthumous album, a hologram tour and a Broadway musical.
Watch Whitney Houston perform “Higher Love” on her 1990 Feels So Right Tour in Japan below.