Saturday, June 27, 1987

Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” hit #1

I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)

Whitney Houston

Writer(s): George Merrill, Shannon Rubicam (see lyrics here)

Released: April 30, 1987

First Charted: May 8, 1987

Peak: 12 US, 13 BA, 12 CB, 13 GR, 13 RR, 13 AC, 2 RB, 12 UK, 11 CN, 15 AU, 7 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 6.0 US, 1.1 UK, 8.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 2.0 radio, 399.99 video, 1001.14 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Songwriters George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam met when both were singing at a wedding. A few months later, Shannon auditioned and won the part as a singer for George’s band Sparrow. The band didn’t stay together, but the pair started writing demos together. Their big break came when Whitney Houston recorded their song “How Will I Know” and it topped the Billboard Hot 100. The pair were asked to come up with another song for Whitney. Their first effort was “Waiting for a Star to Fall,” which Arista passed on, but the duo recorded it under the name Boy Meets Girl and had a top 10 hit with it in 1988. They went back to the drawing board and came up with “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” FB

Shannon explained that the concept “wasn’t ‘I wanna go down to the disco and dance,’ really. It was, ‘I wanna do that dance of life with somebody.’” FB When they finished the demo, George rushed it to the airport to meet Arista’s Clive Davis, who listened to it on the plane. SF He loved it, but producer Narada Michael Walden thought it was too country, saying “It reminded me of a rodeo song with Olivia Newton-John singing…There’s gotta be some way I can make it…funkier.” FB

The song was released as the first single from Whitney Houston’s sophomore album, Whitney. It topped the charts in 14 countries and was her biggest hit until “I Will Always Love You” in 1992. WK It was her fourth chart-topper on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. It also returned to the top 40 in the wake of her death in 2012.

The song got mixed reviews from critics. Rolling Stone’s Vince Aletti criticized the song for “not taking any chances” and referring to it as “How Will I Know II.” WK Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times called it “a deliciously raucous tune with a bit of the synthesizer underpinnings and giddy zest of Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun.’” WK Slant magazine called it “definitive ‘80s dance-pop.” WK


  • FB Fred Bronson (2007). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (4th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 670.
  • SF Songfacts
  • WK Wikipedia

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First posted 11/13/2019; last updated 7/25/2023.

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