The remake of Steve Winwood’s 1986 No. 1 is Houston’s first posthumous entrance.
Whitney Houston charts her first posthumous debut on the Billboard Hot 100, as "Higher Love" with Kygo enters at No. 63.
The song (billed as by Kygo X Whitney Houston and released on RCA Records) reworks Steve Winwood's anthem, which topped the Hot 100 dated Aug. 30, 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.
The Hot 100 blends all-genre U.S. streaming, radio airplay and digital sales data. All charts (dated July 13) will update on Billboard.com tomorrow (July 9).
The remake also enters the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart (which employs the same methodology as the Hot 100) at No. 2. It launches at No. 4 on the all-genre Digital Song Sales survey with 24,000 first-week downloads sold, according to Nielsen Music, while sporting 6.6 million U.S. streams and 1.3 million airplay audience impressions.
Houston died on Feb. 11, 2012, at age 48. "Higher Love" marks her first Hot 100 debut since "Million Dollar Bill" spent a week at No. 100 on Sept. 19, 2009. In between, Houston last appeared on the Hot 100 just after her passing, led by her 14-week 1992-93 No. 1 "I Will Always Love You," which spent three weeks on the chart, at Nos. 7, 3 and 30 over three weeks in February and March 2012. Her 1987 No. 1 "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)" also returned in 2012, reaching No. 25, as did her 1986 leader "How Will I Know" (No. 49).
Overall, "Higher Love" marks Houston's 40th charted Hot 100 title. She boasts 11 No. 1s, the seventh-best sum in the chart's six-decade history, among 23 top 10s.
Kygo collects his sixth Hot 100 hit (all collaborations with vocalists). He has risen highest with "It Ain't Me," with Selena Gomez (No. 10, May 2017).
"We knew Kygo would be the right producer to enhance Whitney's vocal performance on 'Higher Love' to the standards and expectations that [her] fans have recognized for over three decades," said Houston's sister-in-law Pat Houston in a statement. "The resurgence of this archival performance will carry Whitney's musical legacy to a younger generation. [It's] a testament to Kygo's incredible talent, and a reminder of why we fell in love with Whitney."
"I saw the email about if I could make this work, and I ran to my studio and tried to produce around this amazing vocal," Kygo subsequently told Apple Music's Zane Lowe. "This is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a collaboration I never thought was going to happen, so I just had to make it as good as I can."
Winwood wrote "Higher Love" with Will Jennings, who has now co-penned two Houston Hot 100 hits: her "Didn't We Almost Have It All," written with Michael Masser, led the list in 1987. (Jennings also co-wrote, among other classics, Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes' 1982 No. 1 "Up Where We Belong," Winwood's 1988 leader "Roll With It" and Celine Dion's 1998 No. 1 Titanic love theme "My Heart Will Go On.")
As previously reported, Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road," featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, rules the Hot 100 for a 14th week, becoming one of just 10 smashes to dominate for at least that long. The track is two weeks from potentially tying the record for the chart's longest reign, shared by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito," featuring Justin Bieber, in 2017, and Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men's "One Sweet Day," in 1995-96.