Sam Smith Turned Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know” Into a Stunning Ballad

Slate's Culture Blog
June 21 2014 9:32 AM

Sam Smith Turned Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know” Into a Stunning Ballad

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INDIO, CA - APRIL 13: Singer Sam Smith performs with Disclosure onstage during day 3 of the 2014 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 13, 2014 in Indio, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella)

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella

Earlier this year, Sam Smith debuted a snippet of his rendition of Whitney Houston’s classic “How Will I Know” in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, and ever since, fans have clamored to hear the full version. For a video today from SiriusXM, Smith finally performed the song in full, and—as we’ve come to expect from Smith—he killed it.

In the original version, Houston’s vocal range isn’t the focus; it’s more of an upbeat dance track with the occasional run. And that dance production masks the song’s lyrics—“Falling in love is all bittersweet/ This love is strong/ Why do I feel weak?”—which are sadder than you might realize. Those words seem to have struck a nerve with Smith: In his version, he’s restructured the song, slowing it down to a dramatic ballad. With his angelic falsetto at the forefront, “How Will I Know” becomes a stunning love song. I only wish it were a bonus track on In the Lonely Hour.

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Dee Lockett is Slate's editorial assistant for culture.