Following close on the heels of the release of his debut album, In the Lonely Hour, Sam Smith stoked the fires while breaking hearts this weekend with a cover of Whitney Houston‘s 1985 hit, “How Will I know.”
Smith takes the tempo way down from Houston’s exuberant original, bringing a new searching, aching quality to the song. A snippet of Smith’s cover appeared in a recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy, and the full version was recorded live at SiriusXM’s studio.
The 21-year-old British soul phenom recently put the track at the top of the list of 10 great R&B voices that he assembled for Rolling Stone. “A Whitney Houston song that makes me happy – it’s a feel-good song,” he said, ironically. “I love the juxtaposition of a melancholy lyric with an upbeat sound. People forget that’s how she rose to fame. The more mature Whitney, like ‘I Will Always Love You,’ came later.”
Houston was among many women on Smith’s list, which also included Mariah Carey , Etta James and Aretha Franklin, and he told Rolling Stone that he became acquainted with the great ladies of soul through the music his mom would play in the car while she was taking him to school. “My whole family has a lot of powerful women, and so hearing women sing about empowerment and independence, it reminded me of my family and the amazing women in it,” he said.