Exhale (Shoop Shoop)

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This article is about the Whitney Houston single. For other uses, see Exhale (disambiguation).
"Exhale (Shoop Shoop)"
The face of a woman smiling. She has a brunette hair and is wearing dark-colored lip color. To the right of the image, the words "Whitney Houston" are printed, below which are the words "Exhale" and "Shoop Shoop." To the bottom of the image, "From the original soundtrack album Waiting to Exhale" is printed.
Single by Whitney Houston
from the album Waiting to Exhale: Original Soundtrack Album
B-side "Dancin' on the Smooth Edge"
Released November 7, 1995 (1995-11-07)
Format CD single, 12" single
Recorded 1995
Genre R&B, soul
Length 3:25
Label Arista
Writer(s) Babyface
Producer(s) Babyface
Certification Platinum (US)
Whitney Houston singles chronology
"Something in Common"
(1993)
"Exhale (Shoop Shoop)"
(1995)
"Count on Me"
(1996)
Music video
"Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" on YouTube
Waiting to Exhale: Original Soundtrack Album track listing
"Exhale (Shoop Shoop)"
(1)
"Why Does It Hurt So Bad"
(2)

"Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" is a song by American recording artist Whitney Houston, featured on the soundtrack for the film Waiting to Exhale. It was released as the lead single from the soundtrack on November 7, 1995, by Arista Records. The song was written and produced by Babyface. A mid-tempo R&B ballad, composed in the key of C major, the song's lyrics speaks about growing up and learning to let go. The song garnered mostly positive reviews from critics, many of whom noted Houston's vocal maturity in the song.

In the United States, it became the third single to debut on top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart in Billboard '​s history, and Houston's eleventh (and final) number one single. It was later certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), for shipments of one million copies. The song also reached number one in Canada and Spain, and the top 10 in Finland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Sweden. Additionally, it peaked within the top 20 in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. At the 39th Annual Grammy Awards, held on February 26, 1997, "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" received four nominations, including the Grammy Award for the Song of the Year, and won in the category of Best R&B Song. The song also won four other awards, including a Soul Train Music Award.

The music video for the song, directed by Forest Whitaker, shows close-up scenes of Houston inter-cut with scenes from the film Waiting to Exhale. Houston performed the song at the 39th Grammy Awards ceremony, and on the HBO special Classic Whitney Live from Washington, D.C. in October 1997. It was included in the set-list of Houston's three tours and select dates of various concerts.

Background and release[edit]

In 1994, Houston signed with 20th Century Fox to play the role of Savannah Jackson in the film Waiting to Exhale, which was adapted from the novel of the same name by Terry McMillan.[1] Initially, she had no interest in recording songs for the film's soundtrack, as she wanted to concentrate on her acting. The film's director, Forest Whitaker, hired Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds to compose the film score and the accompanying soundtrack.[1] Though Babyface visited the set of the film and tried to convince her, Houston was determined not to record songs for the soundtrack. She finally agreed after hearing Babyface play one of the songs she liked.[1] In an interview with Fred Bronson, Babyface explained the development of the song:

"When Whitney first heard the song, she figured I'd lost it—I couldn't come up with words anymore. And, actually she's right. I couldn't think of anything for that particular part. It felt like it should groove there. But I knew it couldn't groove without any vocals, so I started humming along with it and that's what happened. The 'shoops' came. But they felt so good, I thought 'Why not?' It doesn't have to mean anything."[1]

Babyface produced the song,[1] and it was released as the lead single from Waiting to Exhale soundtrack on November 7, 1995, through Arista Records.[2] The b-side of the single includes four songs:[3] "Dancin' on the Smooth Edge", which was initially included as the b-side to "All the Man That I Need" (1991), "Moment of Truth", "Do You Hear What I Hear", which Houston recorded for the compilation A Very Special Christmas album (1987), and her duet with Aretha Franklin, "It Isn't, It Wasn't, It Ain't Never Gonna Be" (1989).[3] "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" is also featured on Houston's compilation albums Whitney: The Greatest Hits (2000), Love, Whitney (2001), The Ultimate Collection (2007), The Essential Whitney Houston (2011), and I Will Always Love You: The Best of Whitney Houston (2012).[4][5]

Composition[edit]

A 20-second sample of the song's final chorus features the "shoop de shoop"s and Houston ad-libbing "shoo-pay."

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" is an R&B ballad[2][3] written in the key of C major.[6] The song is set in common time with a tempo of 80 beats per minute.[6] It has the sequence of F(add9)–C/E–Dm7–C as its chord progression throughout the track, and Houston's vocals span an octave and a perfect fifth, from G3 to D5.[6] The song's instrumentation includes quiet bells and strings, and the whole arrangement is mellow.[3] According to Steve Knopper of Newsday, the bells resemble electronic Christmas bells, and Houston ad-libs "shoo-pay" over the chorus.[7] The chorus repeats the phrase "shoop de shoop".[7]

According to Bronson, the song summarizes the movie's philosophy.[1] His opinion was somewhat echoed by Ted Cox, author of the book Whitney Houston, who noted that the soothing quality of the song fitted perfectly with the mood and texture of the movie.[8] He described that the song has a "slow groove" that features the most relaxed singing of Houston's career.[8] The Miami Herald described the song as a model of "refined, easy-going soul",[9] and Kyle Anderson of MTV described it as a "smooth jam" with a "crazy-catchy groove".[10] Describing the instrumentation as "silky," Larry Flick of Billboard wrote that Houston's performance was more soulful than before, with far more "vocal colors".[11] Stephen Holden of The New York Times commented that the song is reminiscent of 1960s girl group records, and the verses speak about growing up and learning to let go.[12]

Critical reception[edit]

"Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" received mainly positive reviews from music critics; most of which were positive about Houston's 'soulful' performance and vocal maturity.[8] Jean Rosenbluth of Los Angeles Times praised the song, saying "Houston's elegant 'Exhale (Shoop Shoop)' [...] exude[s] maturity without resorting to the relentlessly big vocals that characterize so many R&B records aiming for adult audiences."[13] Geoffrey Himes of The Washington Post wrote, "Sounding like someone who has just emptied her lungs after holding her breath a long time, Houston brings a surprisingly mature, world-weary tone to the song."[14] Robert Hilburn, pop music critic of Los Angeles Times, noted Babyface's achievement in the song, saying "he [Babyface] brings Houston down to earth, trading her normal vocal exuberance for convincing warmth."[15] Larry Flick of Billboard called the song "a surprisingly understated shuffle-ballad with soul and far more interesting vocal colors than all the shrieking can provide."[11] Rome News-Tribune wrote that " '​Exhale' has an easygoing, infectious charm", and that Houston "delivers a soulfully relaxed vocal."[16] Anthony Violenti of The Buffalo News gave the song a positive review, commenting that Houston's vocals were intoxicating.[17] The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in their review of the soundtrack, viewed the song as "easy and understated".[18] Steve Knopper of Newsday wrote that the song was "irresistibly catchy" and irritating at the same time.[7] However, Patricia Smith of The Boston Globe wrote that the "Shoop Shoop"s were "annoying".[19] While reviewing Houston's compilation Whitney: The Greatest Hits (2000), Christine Galera of Orlando Sentinel also expressed her dislike for the song, stating the songs from Waiting to Exhale, including "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" and "Why Does It Hurt So Bad," were too mellow.[20]

"Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" was voted number twenty-three on The Village Voice '​s 1996 Pazz & Jop critics' poll, tied with five other songs, Eels' "Novocaine for the Soul", Everything but the Girl's "Missing", Garbage's "Only Happy When It Rains", Rage Against the Machine's "Bulls on Parade", and Underworld's "Born Slippy".[21]

Awards and nominations[edit]

"Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" won Best R&B/Soul Single, Female award and was nominated for Best R&B/Soul or Rap Song of the Year at the 10th Annual Soul Train Music Awards on March 29, 1996.[22][23][24] Houston won two National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Awards for Outstanding Song and Outstanding Female Artist at the 27th annual ceremony, broadcast live on April 23, 1996.[25][26] The song was nominated for Best Song from a Movie at the 5th MTV Movie Awards on June 8,[27] and for Best R&B/Soul Single – Solo at the Second Annual Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards on September 9, 1996.[28] The song received four Grammy nominations―Song of the Year (Babyface), Best R&B Song (Babyface), Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media (Babyface), and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance (Houston), and won in the category of Best R&B Song, at the 39th Grammy Awards, held on February 26, 1997.[29][30] Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds won a Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) Pop Music Award for the song at the 45th annual ceremony, held on May 13, 1997.[31]

Chart performance[edit]

In the United States, "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and the Hot R&B Singles chart, the issue dated November 25, 1995, with 125,000 copies sold in its first week. It became the third number-one single to do so in Billboard '​s history, following Michael Jackson's "You Are Not Alone" (1995) and Mariah Carey's "Fantasy" (1995).[32][33] In addition, it became Houston's 11th and seventh number one single on the Hot 100 and the Hot R&B Singles charts respectively, and was Houston's last number one hit on the Hot 100 chart.[34] The single stayed at the top of the Hot 100 for just one week, and was replaced by "One Sweet Day" by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men. It descended to the number two position and spent 11 consecutive weeks there, from December 2, 1995, to February 10, 1996, setting the record for the longest stay in the runner-up position.[35][36][37] On the Hot R&B Singles chart, the single remained at the summit for eight consecutive weeks from its debut week, making it Houston's second-longest stay on the top position since "I Will Always Love You" (1992), which remained atop the chart for 11 weeks.[38] The song peaked at number five on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, spending a total of 26 weeks on the chart.[39] The song placed at number 14 and number 18 on the 1996 Billboard year-end Hot 100 and Hot R&B Singles charts respectively.[40][41] It has sold over 1,500,000 copies in the US and was certified platinum for shipments exceeding 1,000,000 copies by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on January 3, 1996.[42][43][44] In Canada, the single entered the RPM 100 Hit Tracks chart at number 90, on November 13, 1995.[45] Eight weeks later it topped the chart and spent two weeks at the top spot, becoming Houston's eighth number-one single in Canada.[46] The song was ranked at number 20 on the RPM Year-end Top 100 Hit Tracks chart for 1996.[47]

In other countries, the single performed moderately on the chart. In the United Kingdom, it debuted at number 11 on the UK Singles Chart for the week dated November 18, 1995.[48] The next week it dropped to number sixteen before descending the charts steadily.[49] According to MTV, the single has sold about 100,000 copies in the UK.[50] In the Netherlands, "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" peaked at number seven and stayed on the chart for a total of 11 weeks.[51] It made number 79 on the Dutch Singles year-end charts.[52] In Australia, the song entered the ARIA Charts at number 30, the week dated December 10, 1995.[53] The following week, it ascended to its peak position of number 18, before descending the charts.[53] In Switzerland, "Exhale" debuted at number 16, the week dated December 10, 1995.[54] Three weeks later, it peaked at number 13.[54] The song fell to number 16 the next week, and exited the chart at number 49, the week dated March 24, 1996.[54] The song also reached number six in Finland[55] and number four in New Zealand,[56] and number 10 in Sweden.[57] It peaked within the top 20 of the singles charts in a few other countries: number 15 in Austria,[58] 16 in Belgium (Wallonia)[59] and Ireland,[60] 14 in Norway,[61] and 13 in Switzerland. However, in few other countries, the song managed to reach only the top 40; it peaked at number 22 in Belgium (Flanders), 23 in France, and 26 in Germany.[62][63][64]

Music video[edit]

Houston personally asked Forest Whitaker (pictured) to direct the video.

The music video for "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" was directed by Forest Whitaker, who also directed Waiting to Exhale.[65] The video focuses mainly on close-ups of Houston, sporting a short and mature coif, as she sings.[66] Scenes of the movie are inter-cut between her scenes. In a Making of the Video segment of "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)", which aired on Japanese satellite television channel NHK-BS2, Houston explained:

"I wanted him [Whitaker] to do it. And he said 'yeah'. I said 'are you sure you can? Because you've got so much to do.' He said 'I think I can do this.' I kinda got afraid because I knew he was working so hard."[67]

According to Houston, the song was direct, so she wanted the video to be direct and concentrate on her face and on the lyrics.[67] Whitaker also expressed a same opinion of the song. He said, "I've seen the video [...] It's like a thing she has, you know, that I guess people would say is like a charisma kinda thing that it zooms, you know, comes up. It's beautiful [...] It's magic, it's spirit."[67] The video aired on MTV on October 10, 1995.[68] According to Marla Shelton, a writer for Camera Obscura, a journal of feminism and film theory, "the video concept's originality stops with Houston's hair style as its stark simplicity underscores the 'straight and narrow' politics of the film."[66] When the film was released, the video was shown as a trailer prior to the beginning of films on 450 General Cinema screens in some major US media markets.[69]

Live performances[edit]

Whitney Houston performing in Milan during her Nothing but Love World Tour, in 2010

Houston performed "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" live a number of times, between 1996 and 2009. In February 1997, Houston performed it as the third song of her 'Waiting to Exhale Medley'―"Sittin' Up in My Room" by Brandy, "Not Gon' Cry" by Mary J. Blige, "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" by Houston, and "Count on Me" by Houston, CeCe Winans, Brandy, Blige, Chaka Khan, and Aretha Franklin―at the 39th Grammy Awards.[70][71] Houston sang the song live on the HBO special "Classic Whitney Live from Washington, D.C." on both October 3 and 5, 1997. Houston's solo performance was followed by ad-libs of its chorus. She was joined by BeBe Winans, Monica, and Shirley Caesar, who was seated in the audience and invited onstage by Houston.[72] Houston used the song throughout the entire run of her The Pacific Rim Tour (1997). She performed it again during the entire run of her My Love Is Your Love World Tour (1999), as a part of the promotion for her fourth studio album, My Love Is Your Love (1998). In April 2000, Houston performed the song on the 25th Anniversary Celebration of Arista Records. She was backed by a seven-piece band, a 14-piece string section and four background singers. Houston started by saying "We all need to exhale sometimes", and proceeded to sing the song.[73] The song was included in the set list of her Nothing but Love World Tour (2010) promoting her seventh studio album, I Look to You (2009).

Covers[edit]

Babyface performed the song with Beverly Crowder on MTV Unplugged on October 18, 1997.[74] The performance was released on CD in November 1997, and on DVD and VHS in August 2001, titled Babyface MTV Unplugged NYC 1997.[75][76] In April 2012, possibly as a tribute to Houston following her death, R&B singer Robin Thicke covered the song and released his rendition as a single.[77][78]

Track listings and formats[edit]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" single liner notes.[87]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Chart procession and succession[edit]

Preceded by
"Hand in My Pocket" by Alanis Morissette
Canadian Singles Chart number-one single
January 8–15, 1996
Succeeded by
"One Sweet Day" by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men
Preceded by
"Shut Up (and Sleep With Me)" by Sin With Sebastian
Spanish Singles Chart number-one single
November 6–13, 1995
Succeeded by
"Chasis" by Ricardo F.
Preceded by
"Fantasy" by Mariah Carey
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
November 25, 1995
Succeeded by
"One Sweet Day" by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men
Preceded by
"You Remind Me of Something" by R. Kelly
Billboard Hot R&B Singles number-one single
November 25, 1995 – January 13, 1996
Succeeded by
"Before You Walk Out Of My Life" / "Like This and Like That" by Monica

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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