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Whitney Houston in 2007.

Mario Anzuoni/Reuters/Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

How Will I Know (1985), from the album Whitney Houston

A perfect blend of powerhouse singing and pop optimism, this song – ostensibly about the terrors of romantic doubt – became an emotional life preserver for those millions of pop fans who wondered whether their latest crush felt the passion as intensely as they did. Perfectly bloodless pop product brought to life by Houston's impassioned vocal.

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I Will Always Love You (1992), from the soundtrack to The Bodyguard

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However easily mocked, there's no denying the visceral impact of Houston's singing here. If love is meant to be river deep and mountain high, Houston's performance is the Rand McNally of vocal passion, reaching higher highs and greater depths than any previous single had ever dreamed.

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The Star Spangled Banner (2001)

Although originally recorded at Super Bowl XXV in 1991, Houston's plangent evocation of "the bombs bursting in air" took on new resonance as the single was reissued after the September 11th attacks of 2001. How convincing was her performance? It even climbed to No. 5 in Canada.

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