Critique of "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (who loves me)" by Whitney Houston

Updated: Jul 14, 2020

21/F - In Search of Sexual Freedom


Source/Lyric Credits: LyricFind

Songwriters: George Robert Merrill / Shannon Rubicam

Photo: Yohan LIBOT via Unsplash


INTRO:


This song is highly underappreciated. Yes, on one level, it’s about going out to the club and finding a long lasting burning love. Our alternative theory is about a woman that wants sexual freedom. She could play with herself if she wants to. She can be dick downed on her own terms. This wasn’t appropriate in the “Say No to Drugs” 1987 world, so it’s cleverly and succinctly disguised. Just hear us out.


First, Have a Listen:


STANZA 1:

“Clock strikes upon the hour And the sun begins to fade Still enough time to figure out How to chase my blues away I've done alright up to now It's the light of day that shows me how And when the night falls, loneliness calls”


Nighttime is associated with changes and transformations. Freaks come out at night, werewolves transform, vampires wake up, owls start doing whatever owls do…”Clock strikes upon the hour,”. Something’s about to change inside her as the “sun begins to fade.” She has to find a way to relax and unwind from her crappy day, but “when the night falls, loneliness calls.” What kind of loneliness are we talking about here missy? Either way, she’s getting revved up, ready to change and unleash the other side of her.

CHORUS:

“Oh, I wanna dance with somebody I wanna feel the heat with somebody Yeah, I wanna dance with somebody With somebody who loves me"


She wants to “dance” with somebody. We already know this is a double entendre. Sure, she might want to go out on the town and hit the clubs, but we know otherwise. She “wanna (wants) to feel the heat with somebody,” as well. She could be dancing, since that makes us sweat, but ewww gross, sweat in public as a classy female? She wants to be “with somebody who loves me (her).” We can interpret that she wants to “dance” with somebody for the rest of her life, a major metaphor for marriage and life together. Either that, or she really loves dancing and wants to find a loving dance partner.


We don’t think so. She wants the “heat” of passion and sex. We think she wants the D in a time when women didn’t publicly express themselves in such a manner. That final line about love, is likely there because of 1987. It’s an afterthought. It’s why it’s the last line of the chorus. It’s also why it’s officially in the song title (go check your Spotify). She wants heat, but oh, wait, she’s a lady. It supposed to be with “somebody who loves me,” or else she’ll be judged.


STANZA 2:

“I've been in love and lost my senses Spinning through the town Sooner or later, the fever ends And I wind up feeling down I need a man who'll take a chance On a love that burns hot enough to last So when the night falls My lonely heart calls”


So wait a second. She’s been in a mad, blind, senseless, love before? So maybe the song isn’t about finding love because, “sooner or later, the fever ends”. She’s saying that the “fever” of love doesn’t last. Neither does the one that is, um, a bit lower near her mid-section. Ultimately, she ends up “feeling down,” meaning that love disappoints her. She rejects love but at night, “her lonely heart (still) calls”. She’s “feeling down” but down for what? That slang has been around for some time. Sure, she might just mean she’s still looking for her one true love, but the rest of the song tell us otherwise.


She needs a “man who’ll take a chance / On a love that burns hot enough to last.” If a man has to take a chance on her as wife, then she’s either a damsel in distress with very low self esteem since no man wants her unless they’re willing to take a gamble on her worth or she means some other type of gamble. We think she means, “chance” as in “risqué”. Young man, take the risk, and go over to her place “when the night falls” and her “lonely heart calls.” There’s plenty of warmth in that bed waiting for you because she needs a man “that burns hot enough to last.” Bring your “A” game son.

STANZA 3:

“Somebody oo Somebody oo Somebody who loves me yeah Somebody oo Somebody oo To hold me in his arms oh I need a man who'll take a chance On a love that burns hot enough to last So when the night falls My lonely heart calls”


Stanza 3 along with Stanza 4 (below) is when the song goes completely off the rails, in a subtle way. Whitney Houston sings the rest of these lyrics with glee. It feels like she’s having an orgasm. “Somebody oo / Somebody who loves me yeah,” …Right somebody that loves her, yeah right! Further, the lyrics repeat about someone taking that chance. This emphasizes Stanza 2 but adds a few other subtle thoughts; she’s saying come take a chance with her because behind this prudish 1987 image, there’s “love that burns hot enough to last,” from her as well. She’s the “love that burns hot enough to last”. We believe the image we’re supposed to have is that she’s ready and beckoning the man to come get her. She wants it just as bad as men do. In the background of the song, before the next stanza, she says “Now get with this,” after laughing and giggling. She sounds like she’s having a ball. Yes, it is time to get with that.


STANZA 4:

“Don'tcha wanna dance with me baby Dontcha wanna dance with me boy Hey Don'tcha wanna dance with me baby With somebody who loves me

Don'tcha wanna dance say you wanna dance Don'tcha wanna dance Don'tcha wanna dance say you wanna dance Don'tcha wanna dance Don'tcha wanna dance say you wanna dance With somebody who loves me”


The repetition mirrors a conversation. She calls him “boy,” like if she’s in control now. She asks “Don’tcha wanna dance say you wanna dance,” like if she’s telling him (or herself) yes, let’s “dance”. After beckoning for someone to take a chance on her, she’s now got what she wants. She’s determines her sexual desires and partners, not this “boy”.


Hopefully, they used protection.


We love you Whitney Houston.