Back in 2012, when news of Whitney Houston‘s death came out, there was a massive outpouring of love for her work. Her legendary career and persona had an effect on music fans of all ages and backgrounds. There were tributes, vigils, and in at least one case, an impromptu dance party.
Justin Keller, the artist behind the band Land of Leland, recently recorded his version of Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” but the story behind the song goes all the way back to the day the news of Houston’s death broke.
According to Keller, “I saw a friend’s band play in Brooklyn, and after her set, the sound person put on [“I Wanna Dance With Somebody”]. It was an amazing moment — a mix of sadness, joy, and togetherness, as all these strangers danced and remembered the feelings Whitney’s music had given them.”
The 1987 original’s production did not age well; the tinny electronic drums and bold synths could only come from the late-’80s. Houston’s voice is still amazing, however, and Keller reveals that the song still has plenty to offer. His beach-party rhythm guitar and laid back vocals strip the song down to its elements while maintaining enough backbeat to still be danceable. The second line of the chorus has an interesting key change and the addition of ghostly backing vocals adds a bit of melancholy to the song as well. “I tried to tap into the feelings I had that night, so I hope the listener gets a little of that, too.”
Listen below to see if you experience the mix of feelings from Land of Leland’s version. You might even be tempted to throw an impromptu dance party of your own.