“Exhale (Shoop Shoop)”

’90s No. 1s Revisited: “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)”

The ninety-fourth No. 1 song of the 1990s was “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” by Whitney Houston, off the soundtrack to Houston’s film Waiting To Exhale. The track, written and produced by Babyface, debuted at No. 1 and spent just one week there before being knocked out by “One Sweet Day” by Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men. Houston consequently spent 11 weeks sitting at No. 2 as “One Sweet Day” proceeded to become the longest-running No. 1 single in history, a record it still holds to this day (as of this writing).

After a tremendous run logging 11 chart-toppers in as many years, Houston would never appear at No. 1 again in her lifetime after “Exhale.” She would go on to reach the Top 10 six more times. Posthumous re-entries aside, her last appearance was in 2009, with “Million Dollar Bill,” which peaked at No. 100.

“Exhale” is, in most respects, a traditional Babyface offering, but there are a few twists: the ongoing and beautiful use of light bells, the curiously lyric-less chorus, and the atypically mellow vocal performance from Houston, who was so capable of singing powerfully that she did so even when it was potentially unnecessary. On “Exhale,” she stays pretty tame and relaxed throughout; perhaps by this point she no longer felt she had to prove her vocal talents at every opportunity. The song’s themes touch on the importance of friendship and the peace of surrendering control of one’s fate.

Take a few minutes to listen to “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)”:

This song is restrained, balanced and lovely, but it doesn’t have much impact. Perhaps it isn’t meant to, as the song is advising the listener not to take anything too seriously. Regardless, this was a nice song to revisit for a few minutes, but we’re not dashing to add it to our playlists. Had it not been riding the waves of The Bodyguard, “Exhale” would have, we suspect, been less successful.

Was it dope? Not really. It was intended for middle-class, middle-aged women of color, the target audience for Waiting to Exhale. There was nothing particularly forward-thinking about this recording; cool kids weren’t cranking up “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” on their Sony Discmans. Therefore we liked it, of course.

Does it hold up? This track would be considered by most Houston fans to be “later Whitney,” i.e., after the iconic ’80s smashes, and after The Bodyguard. As a result, we don’t sense much feverish modern interest in “Exhale.” Its YouTube views put it on par with Houston’s lesser-known, lower-ranking hits like “Step By Step” and “I Learned From The Best.” The track’s Babyface-specific production dates it.

Dopeness: 3 out of 5 Birkenstocks

BirkenstockBirkenstockBirkenstock

exhale
Whitney Houston
“Exhale (Shoop Shoop)”
1 week at No. 1, starting Nov. 25, 1995
Preceded by: “Fantasy,” Mariah Carey
Followed by: “One Sweet Day,” Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men

’90s No. 1s Revisited is a regular feature on “Was It Dope?” where we walk through every No. 1 song of the 1990s on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in order, give it another listen, and answer two critical questions: Was it dope? And does it hold up?

John

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