Whitney Houston appears on Billboard‘s Pop Songs radio airplay chart for the first time in almost two decades, as the late icon’s “Higher Love,” with Kygo, launches at No. 34 on the survey dated Oct. 5.
Houston had last ranked on the survey on July 29, 2000, with “Could I Have This Kiss Forever,” with Enrique Iglesias. She banked 15 entries, including the nine-week No. 1 “I Will Always Love You” in 1992-93, between the chart’s 1992 inception and 2000 before she died in 2012.
The Pop Songs chart measures total weekly plays, as tabulated by Nielsen Music, among its reporting panel of 166 mainstream top 40 stations.
“Higher Love,” billed as by Kygo X Whitney Houston and released on RCA Records, reworks Steve Winwood’s anthem, which topped the Billboard Hot 100 in August 1986. The Whitney Houston estate offered Kygo the archival recording of her original cover, which was previously released as a Japan-only bonus track on the physical version of her 1990 album I’m Your Baby Tonight.
“I couldn’t deny how interesting and outstanding the tune is,” says Kid Kelly, vp of pop programming for SiriusXM, whose Venus channel played the song 31 times in the week ending Sept. 29 (and has spun it nearly 600 times total). SiriusXM’s Hits 1 channel also played the track 12 times last week.
“We believe in Kygo and the folks involved with the project and just went with instinct.”
The collaboration has also topped Dance Club Songs and reached No. 2 on the Official UK Singles chart. It’s concurrently climbing the Adult Contemporary (No. 16) and Adult Pop Songs (No. 26) airplay tallies.
“It really makes us appreciate Whitney; her vocals are chilling, so strong,” says WBLI Nassau, New York, program director Jeremy Rice. “Higher Love” was the station’s eighth-most-played song last week (57 detections) and has received over 400 plays to date. “New York and Long Island respect the old-school, and the song just works.”
Rice also notes that the song hits a sweet spot between older and younger listeners, given Kygo’s modern production and Houston’s vocals on an ’80s classic.
“When you get the adults and the kids at the same time … boom.”