It’s been seven years since Whitney Houston‘s sudden death, but the late singer’s iconic voice can be heard again in a new song, thanks to Norwegian superproducer Kygo.
On Friday, after days of teasing its arrival on Instagram, Kygo dropped “Higher Love” — an electronic dance single featuring Houston covering English singer Steve Winwood’s 1986 track.
Whitney — who died in 2012 at the age of 48 — first recorded the vocal in 1990, releasing it only in Japan as a bonus track for her third album, I'm Your Baby Tonight.
Explained Whitney’s longtime producer Clive Davis to Rolling Stone: “When [producer] Narada Michael Walden sent me ‘Higher Love’ with the Whitney vocal, we didn’t want her being a cover artist at that time. The only place it was released was as a bonus cut in Japan.”
The song stayed in Houston’s vault for years until Pat Houston, Whitney’s sister-in-law and sole executor of her estate, began working with RCA Records on potential music projects to create something special for Whitney’s loyal fans while also keeping her spirit alive for a whole new generation.
Rather than rerelease it, they turned to Kygo, who had previously reworked Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” back in 2013.
He was Pat’s pick. “He put his spin on it and did a fantastic job,” she told Rolling Stone, explaining that she was hands-off when it came to his work. “You can’t tell Michael Jordan how to shoot a basketball. We knew when his name was brought up that it would be successful in the hands of someone of his caliber.”
For the remix, Kygo stripped away the song’s original production and started anew. “I was trying to make it sound like something that she would’ve done, but also something that’s my style,” he told Rolling Stone.
Releasing the song now was notable for Pat. “The current cultural environment has been thirsty for something uplifting and inspiring. Who better to inspire than Whitney, the most exhilarating vocalist of all time?” she explained.
“We want to remind people why they fell in love with Whitney in the first place,” Pat added.
“Higher Love” is the first of multiple Whitney-related musical projects on the horizon.
Back in May, the estate revealed plans to release an album of unheard material by the late singer, as well a proposed tour featuring her image brought to life in hologram and a potential Broadway musical.
The news came after Pat inked a deal with Primary Wave Music Publishing, which will acquire 50 percent of the estate’s assets — reportedly valued at $14 million — including royalties from Whitney’s music and film appearances, merchandising, and the right to utilize her name and likeness.
“Before she passed, there was so much negativity around the name; it wasn’t about the music anymore,” she told the New York Times. “People had forgotten how great she was. They let all the personal things about her life outweigh why they fell in love with her in the first place.”
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