I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)

Album: Whitney (1987)
Charted: 1 1

Songfacts®:

  • George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam wrote this song. They met when they both performed at the wedding of Seattle socialite Susan Boeing and began playing clubs in the Northwest US. In 1985, they released an album as Boy Meets Girl and wrote Houston's hit "How Will I Know." A year after this was released, they had a hit with "Waiting For A Star To Fall." Speaking with Songfacts, they explained how the song came together and how Houston ended up recording it.

    Merrill: "I think the biggest deal for Shannon and me was that we had had this meteoric success with 'How Will I Know,' that was the biggest thing that had ever happened for us in our career, and then to be asked to come up with another one, well, we just looked at each other. We thought, 'Well, that's kind of what this is about, it's not about the one song and goodbye. This is part of the fun of it, this is gonna be something that we want to continue, so we just went to work.'"

    Rubicam: "That song got written pretty quickly, as I recall. We had a funky little garage studio at the time, and we just hung out in there one afternoon and wrote the song, and I know we tweaked it the next day, and started recording it on our little Teac 4-track deck that we were using."

    Merrill: "Yeah, we were doing a lot of ping-ponging."

    Rubicam: "And then a friend of ours had a larger, more comprehensive studio, so we recorded the demo there and the demo we made of 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody' was kind of a rock version."

    Merrill: "Shannon nailed the vocal on that one. I'm really proud of that demo, I think it still holds up. Our bass player, Leon Gaer, just really nailed it. I think that really contributed to when it was played for Clive (Davis), I know that it really came across strongly."

    Rubicam: "It was fun, too. We recorded the song, mixed it, and then George literally ran to the airport with it and met Clive, who was getting on a plane, because he wanted it. And we thought, 'Well, best get it to him in person and we'll have more of an impact,' So he took it with him and listened to it on the plane."

    Merrill: "I gave him a cassette, by the way. I said, 'You know, Clive, we're feeling great about this, and we're in the midst of doing a Boy Meets Girl album, and if you could get back to us on it and let us know if you don't want it for Whitney, we'd like it for the Boy Meets Girl album.' He had had a quick listen to it, he just looked at me and he said something I can't repeat."

    Rubicam: "Yeah, he was very friendly. He meant they were gonna keep it, no way could we have it back."
  • Houston sang this very upbeat and light, but the lyrics are quite emotional, which is why they included "(Who Loves Me)" after "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" in the song title. Says Rubicam: "Many of our friends were in this boat - 5 o'clock comes around, they start getting restless and it's, 'What am I gonna do?' and 'I can't stand to be alone again tonight,' and 'I really don't wanna just go party, I'd really like to find somebody, try and find somebody to love.' So it's more of that long-term partnership that people want."
  • This fell in the middle of a remarkable seven-song run of US #1 hits for Whitney Houston that were spread across her first two albums. "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)" was the lead single from her second album, Whitney. It was guaranteed airplay but exceeded even the sky-high expectations that came with it - the single sold 3 million copies in America while the album moved 9 million. The upbeat tune was the perfect song to kick off the album; the next single was the ballad "Didn't We Almost Have It All."
  • Brian Grant, who did Houston's video for "How Will I Know," also directed this one. Dance is a key component of the clip, so he had a tough challenge because Houston couldn't dance. Working with choreographer Arlene Phillips, they solved this problem by surrounding Houston with real dancers and keeping her dance moves minimal.
  • According to Narada Michael Walden, who produced this track, Houston came up with the "Don't you wanna dance, say you wanna dance" part in the studio.
  • The song was re-released in 2012 following Houston's death. This time, it went to #25 US and #20 UK.
  • Credits on this track are:

    Narada Michael Walden: drums
    Walter Afanasieff: synths
    Randy Jackson: bass synth
    Corrado Rustici: guitar synth
    Preston Glass: percussion programming
    Mark Russo: alto sax
    Greg "Gigi" Gonaway, Simmons Sterling: synth horns
    Background Vocals: Jim Gilstrap, Kitty Beethoven, Kevin Dorsey, Myrna Matthews, Jennifer Hall, Whitney Houston
  • This won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female. It also took the American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Single.
  • Prince Harry and Meghan Markle chose this song as their first dance at the evening reception following their wedding.
  • The singer-songwriter Bootstraps did a slow, ambient version of this song that was used in the 2014 "You Be Illin'" episode of Grey's Anatomy. The duo Marion Hill gave it a brooding electro feel when they covered it for the 2016 charity album The Time Is Now! Another popular cover came in 2018, when Fall Out Boy released their version. David Byrne and Jessie J both sang it live.
  • The song's writers, George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam, split up around 2000, but continued making music together, including The Wonderground, a 2003 album dealing with the emotions of complex relationships. They can be found at www.boymeetsgirlmusic.com.

Comments: 7

  • Matteo M. from Saratoga Springs,nyGeorge and Shannon probably are referring to their TEAC 3340 4 track Recorder.
  • Ruby from Western Australia Love you Whitney
  • Sony from Bangalore, IndiaI love this song..miss you Whitney..she looks so cute and fresh in this video and so full of herself..RIP angel
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxOne of her best and easily her most 'fun.' I would have liked to heard Merrill and Rubicam cover it, though. They sounded great together.
  • Matt from Dalton, PaAnnabelle,

    The voices singing "Dance!" at the end of the song following Houston's high notes are Jim Gilstrap and Kevin Dorsey. They were the only male backup vocalists on the song. All of the other background vocals (during the choruses) were performed by Houston, Myrna Matthews, Kitty Beethoven, and Jennifer Hall.
  • Caitlin from Upper Township, NjLike the song. it reminds me of girls just wanna have fun by cydni lauper
  • Annabelle from Eugene, OrIn the end of the song, when Whitney sings those high notes, after those bursts of high notes, there's a bunch of bass voices that say, "Dance!". Who are those guys?
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