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Whitney Houston - Where Do Broken Hearts Go (1988)

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  • 80's Score80's Score 80's score: 1.72
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"Where Do Broken Hearts Go" is the fourth single from Whitney Houston's second album, Whitney. The ballad was released on ...

"Where Do Broken Hearts Go" is the fourth single from Whitney Houston's second album, Whitney. The ballad was released on February 25, 1988. The song was written by Frank Wildhorn and Chuck Jackson and produced by Narada Michael Walden. Due to Wildhorn's previous working relationship with Arista Records CEO Clive Davis, he had been approached about potentially writing for Houston. He contacted Jackson, who came up with the title, after which Wildhorn completed the music and lyrics for the song. Smokey Robinson originally wanted to record the song; however, Wildhorn and Jackson held the song for Houston.

Initially, Houston did not want to record the song, feeling there was no special message to convey. In a 2000 interview, Houston reminisced that she "hated the song". However, Davis believed the song would go to number one if she recorded it, so she agreed. It indeed became a number one, Houston's seventh consecutive number-one single in the United States—a record for consecutive number-one singles that still stands to this day.

Houston remained perplexed by the song and its lyrics. Wildhorn later recalled that Houston sent him a letter essentially asking: "Where do broken hearts go? I have no idea."

Critical reception

AllMusic's Ron Wynn highlighted the track in his review of the Whitney album. Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times described it as a ballad "that raises questions without making you care about the answers." People said that songs like "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" "have some substance". Pop Rescue noted it as a "classic big 80s power ballad", adding it as "the perfect ending to a school disco."

Chart performance

"Where Do Broken Hearts Go", released off Whitney as the fourth single in February 1988, debuted at number 47 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart in the issue dated February 27, 1988. Within four weeks of its release the single reached the top ten on the chart, and finally peaked at number one in the issue dated April 23, 1988 after nine weeks on the chart, making Houston the only artist in pop history with seven consecutive number-one hits. In addition, she became the first female artist to achieve four number-one singles from one album, Whitney. To date, only four other albums by women have yielded four Hot 100 number-one hits; Paula Abdul's Forever Your Girl in 1988, Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 in 1989, Mariah Carey's self-titled debut in 1990 and Katy Perry's Teenage Dream in 2010. Houston also had the most number-one hits (7) by a female artist in the 1980s, a feat equaled only by Madonna. The song topped the chart for two weeks, and spent 18 weeks on the chart. It entered the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart (formerly "Hot Black Singles") at number 60, the issue date of March 5, 1988 and nine weeks later reached a peak of number two (behind "Nite and Day" by Al B. Sure!), becoming Houston's ninth R&B top five hit. On the Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary chart, the single peaked at number one, the issue dated April 2, 1988, and remained there for three weeks, making it her sixth No. 1 single on the chart. It was ranked number 33 and 47, on the Billboard Top Pop and Top Black Singles year-end charts for 1988, respectively. The single also placed at number two on the Top Adult Contemporary Singles year-end chart of the same year. In Canada, the song entered RPM Top 100 Singles chart at number 76, the issue date of March 5, 1988, and peaked at number six on the chart on May 14, 1988, becoming Houston's eighth top ten hit in the country.

Worldwide, "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" was not as commercially successful as her previous singles from the album Whitney. The single debuted at number 30 on the UK Singles Chart, the week ending date of March 12, 1988, and three weeks later reached a peak of number 14 on the chart. In Ireland, it peaked at number two, the highest chart position of the song outside the United States. The song also reached number 48 in Australia, number 24 in Italy, number 47 in the Netherlands, and number 23 in New Zealand. The song was very popular in the Philippines, and it became one of the main focus of the 2014 indie romantic film That Thing Called Tadhana.

Music video

The music video (directed by Peter Israelson) features Houston breaking up with a boyfriend and reflecting on happy memories; asking herself the title question, "where do broken hearts go?" At the conclusion of the music video, the couple reunites.

Houston is depicted in various "glamour girl" shots throughout the video; Arista executives reportedly joked at the time, "there's her screen test", referring to rumors about Houston's Hollywood ambitions. In 2002, Israelson told Liquid Assets, a British TV documentary series focused on the net worth of celebrities, that Houston's performance in the video's 1940s-themed train station scene (filmed at Newark Penn Station) convinced Kevin Costner of her acting abilities for The Bodyguard.

The video was moderately controversial since the ambiguous ethnic background of Houston's love interest (reportedly Houston's then real-life love interest, New York restaurateur Brad Johnson) highlighted the racial sensitivities that accompanied Houston's success during the 1980s. The singer had been criticized for "selling out" and "acting white". A mostly-black audience jeered when "Where Do Broken Hearts Go" was nominated for an award at the 1989 Soul Train Music Awards.

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