Why Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston Never Performed a Duet

A duet between Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston undoubtedly would have dominated the pop charts like few songs in history. Both Jackson and Houston stayed popular for many years and made music in the same genres. A duet between them probably would have worked musically and commercially. However, plans for a Jackson/Houston duet fell through twice.

Michael Jackson wearing his iconic glove
Michael Jackson | David McGough/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

The first aborted Michael Jackson/Whitney Houston duet

The story of why Jackson and Houston never collaborated begins with … Barbra Streisand. According to The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits, Jackson wrote a ballad called “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.” The track was included on his 1987 album Bad. He wanted it to be a duet between himself and Streisand. Jackson’s manager, Frank Dileo, said Streisand turned down the song simply because she didn’t like it.

Then, Jackson discussed performing “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” with Houston. According to Pop Crush, Houston’s label, Arista Records, thought that, if she performed on the song, it might detract from the promotion of her sophomore album, Whitney. Ultimately, a different singer duetted with Jackson on “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You:” Siedah Garrett. Interestingly, Garrett co-wrote another one of Jackson’s ballads called “Man in the Mirror” and performed backing vocals on it. Garrett remains known primarily for her work with Jackson to this day.

“I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” by Michael Jackson

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“I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” could have brought Garrett’s career into the stratosphere but it didn’t. Perhaps this is because Jackson never made a music video for the song. To this day, “I Just can’t Stop Loving You” doesn’t get as much airplay as other songs from Bad. However, many fans feel it is a beautiful ballad.

The duet where Michael Jackson was replaced with George Michael

Jackson and Houston came close to duetting together a second time. The book Michael Jackson: All the Songs says producer Rodney Jenkins later wrote a song for Jackson called “If I Told You That.” He wanted Jackson and Houston to record the song as a duet. Jackson initially liked the idea, but sources differ as to why he never recorded the song.

“If I Told You That” by Whitney Houston and George Michael

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Michael Jackson: All the Songs says that, after news of the collaboration leaked, Jackson changed his mind about recording “If I Told You That.” However, Smooth Radio reports Jackson was simply unavailable to record the song. Regardless, he missed the opportunity to perform “If I Told You” with Houston.

Houston instead released a version of the song with a different 1980s pop icon: George Michael. According to AllMusic, Houston released the song on her 2000 album Whitney: The Greatest Hits. Billboard reports the song did not chart at all in the United States, which reflects how Houston was not as prominent as she was in the 1980s and 1990s. Perhaps “If I Told You That” would have performed better if Jackson had been on the track. Although Jackson and Houston never worked together, they still made lots of great music.

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