Whitney Houston (album)

Whitney Houston
Studio album by Whitney Houston
Released February 14, 1985
Recorded 1983–1984
Length 46:54
Label Arista
Whitney Houston chronology
Whitney Houston
Whitney Dancin' Special
Singles from Whitney Houston
  1. "Hold Me"
    Released: May 24, 1984
  2. "Thinking About You"
    Released: January 11, 1985
  3. "You Give Good Love"
    Released: January 29, 1985
  4. "All at Once"
    Released: February 5, 1985
  5. "Saving All My Love for You"
    Released: April 30, 1985
  6. "How Will I Know"
    Released: September 3, 1985
  7. "Greatest Love of All"
    Released: January 28, 1986

Whitney Houston is the eponymous debut album of American R&B and pop singer Whitney Houston. It was released on February 14, 1985, by Arista Records. The album initially had a slow commercial response, but began getting more popular in the summer of 1985. It eventually topped the Billboard 200 for 14 weeks in 1986, generating three number-one singles — "Saving All My Love for You", "How Will I Know" and "Greatest Love of All" (a cover of "The Greatest Love of All", originally recorded in 1977 by George Benson) — on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, which made it both the first debut album and the first album by a solo female artist to produce three number-one singles.[3][4] The album topped the albums charts in many countries, including Canada,[5] Australia,[6] Norway[7] and Sweden,[8] peaking at number 2 in the United Kingdom,[9] Germany,[10] and Switzerland.[11] The album was certified diamond for shipments of 10 million units or more on March 16, 1999, and later 13× platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America on July 29, 1999,[12][13] making it one of the top 100 best-selling albums in the United States.[14] It has sold over 25 million copies worldwide.[15][16]

In 1986, at the 28th Grammy Awards, Whitney Houston received four nominations; including Album of the Year[17] and won one, Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for "Saving All My Love for You".[18] For the 29th Grammy Awards of 1987, the album earned one nomination for Record of the Year for "Greatest Love of All".[19] In 2003, the album was ranked number 254 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.[20]

In honor of its 25th anniversary, the album was reissued as Whitney Houston – The Deluxe Anniversary Edition on January 26, 2010, an expanded edition with five bonus tracks including the a cappella version of "How Will I Know" and the original 12-inch remixes, a booklet tracking the history of the original album, along with a DVD of live performances and interviews by Whitney Houston and Clive Davis.[21]


Jermaine Jackson produced and recorded duets with Houston for the album.

After seeing Houston perform in a New York City nightclub, Clive Davis believed the singer had the potential to crossover and be the next big superstar. He signed her in 1983 and the two began work on her debut album. Initially Davis had a hard time finding songs for her. Even after elaborate showcases in New York and Los Angeles, many producers turned down the chance to work with her.[22] During the time, rock bands and dance oriented acts were popular; many songwriters felt Houston's gospel voice didn't fit in the pop landscape. It took a year and a half for Jerry Griffith, then Arista's A&R chief and had recommended Whitney to Davis, and Davis to amass suitable songs for the album.[22] Finally the songwriter-producer Kashif offered to produce "You Give Good Love". Jermaine Jackson, who had emerged from the shadow of his younger brother Michael, produced three songs. Narada Michael Walden came in to revise and then produce "How Will I Know". And Michael Masser covered the pop side of the tracks, producing four of his own compositions, including "Saving All My Love for You" and "Greatest Love of All", which had originally been recorded in 1977 by George Benson as "The Greatest Love of All" and was the main theme of the boxer Muhammad Ali biopic "The Greatest" in the same year. After two years of recording, the album was ready for release. Budgeted at $200,000, it finally cost almost $400,000.[22]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Entertainment WeeklyA-[24]
Los Angeles Times[25]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[28]
The Village VoiceC[29]

Whitney Houston was well received by music critics upon its release. Stephen Holden of The New York Times, praised the album and especially her singing style, stating, "along with an appealing romantic innocence, she projects the commanding dignity and elegance of someone far more mature."[30] Liam Lacey of The Globe and Mail commented that although some "arrangements frequently border on formulaic but such ballads as Saving All My Love for You, Greatest Love Of All, and Hold Me are some of the loveliest pop singing on vinyl since the glory days of Dionne Warwick." Lacey added, "Houston has a silky, rich, vibrant voice that moves between steely edges, or curls sensuously around the notes."[31] Los Angeles Times complimented Houston on her excellent vocal ability, writing, "neither the frequently listless arrangements nor the sometimes mediocre material of this debut LP hides the fact that Houston is a singer with enormous power and potential" on their reviews for 1985's releases.[25]

Don Shewey of Rolling Stone described her as "one of the most exciting new voices in years" and stated that: "Because she has a technically polished voice like Patti Austin's, [...] her interpretive approach is what sets her apart" and "Whitney Houston is obviously headed for stardom, and if nothing else, her album is an exciting preview of coming attractions." But he expressed a little disappoinment about undistinguished pop-soul tunes, commenting "many of the songs here are so featureless they could be sung by anyone. They make what could have been a stunning debut merely promising."[1] In his consumer guide for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau complimented Houston's "sweet, statuesque voice", but called the songs "schlock" and believed "only one of the four producers puts any zip in—Narada Michael Walden, who goes one for one."[29]

Contemporary reviews have paid attention to the significance and the value of it in music history. Stephen Thomas Erlewine from Allmusic defined Whitney Houston as "the foundation of diva-pop" and stated that certainly, the ballads such as "Greatest Love of All" and "Saving All My Love for You", provided "the blueprint for decades of divas". However, he gave higher marks to the lighter tracks like "How Will I Know" and "Thinking About You", commenting these tracks "are what really impresses some 20-plus years on" and "turns the album into a fully rounded record, the rare debut that manages to telegraph every aspect of an artist's career in a mere ten songs."[23] Brad Wete, on a feature article to celebrate for Vibe magazine's 15th anniversary in September 2008, wrote "never before has an African-American woman earned such crossover appeal so early in her career. [...] [Houston] had an explosive solo debut" and commented "Whitney's prodigious pop set [...] was a fresh serving of precocious talent compared to 1985's mildly flavored R&B buffet."[32] Allison Stewart from The Washington Post stated that the album "provided a blueprint for the pop/dance/R&B-melding careers of Mariah Carey and others, and introduced the world to "The Voice", an octave-spanning, gravity-defying melismatic marvel."[2] In The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), music journalist J. D. Considine gave the album three out of five stars and stated, "Although utterly calculating, Whitney Houston does have its moments, particularly when Houston leans toward R&B, as on 'You Give Good Love.'"[28]


The album received good response from major publications. Three major critics of the Los Angeles Times listed the album on their year end critics list. The album ranked #79 on Robert Hilburn's list,[33] #2 on Paul Grein's list and #5 on Dennis Hunt's list.[34] In November 2003, the album was ranked #254 on Rolling Stone's publication of the 500 greatest albums of all time, and ranked #46 on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Definitive 200 List in 2007.[35] In addition, ranked #71 on Q magazine's "100 Women Who Rock The World" in 2002 and took the #15 spot on Yahoo! Music's 30 Most Significant Albums In Black Music History list in 2010, with Brandy's comments on the album; "The first Whitney Houston CD was genius. That CD introduced the world to her angelic yet powerful voice. Without Whitney many of this generation of singers wouldn't be singing."[36][37] In 2013, the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame[38] giving Houston her 1st Grammy Hall of Fame Award and her 7th Grammy Award.

Commercial performance

Released on February 14, 1985, Whitney Houston debuted on the Billboard Top Albums Chart the week of March 30, 1985, at number 166.[39] Sales were low initially. However, with the success of the first single "You Give Good Love", the album began climbing the charts and finally reached the number one on Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart (formerly "Top Black Albums") in June and the top 10 on the Billboard 200 (formerly "Top Pop Albums") in August 1985.[40][41] Thanks to successive hit singles and winning at the Grammys, eventually Whitney Houston topped the Billboard 200 album chart in March 1986.[42] With the album taking 55 weeks to hit number one, it became the slowest climb to the top of the charts since Fleetwood Mac took fifty-eight weeks to reach the top in 1976, with the band's second eponymous album.[43][44]

Whitney Houston spent 14 non-consecutive weeks at the top of Billboard 200 chart from March until late June 1986, which was short of one week for Carole King's record of 15 weeks for the longest running #1 album by a female artist.[3] It was the second-longest running No.1 album among the debut albums in Billboard history, behind Men at Work's Business as Usual, which had 15 weeks on top in 1982-83.[3] The album exhibited massive staying power, remaining on the Billboard 200 for 162 weeks.[45] It also spent a record 46 weeks in the top 10, beating Carole King's record with Tapestry.[46] But the record was later broken by some artists in 1990s—Paula Abdul's Forever Your Girl, Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill and Celine Dion's Falling into You. Houston's debut was the best-selling album of 1986 in the United States and the #1 album of the year on 1986 Billboard year-end charts, making her the first female artist to earn that distinction.[47][48] She became also the #1 pop artist of the year.[49] The RIAA certified it Diamond on March 16, 1999 and later 15× platinum on July 29, 1999, for shipments of 15,000,000 copies of the album in United States.[12][13]

The album was successful worldwide. In the United Kingdom, it peaked at number two on the albums chart, spending 119 weeks on the chart.[9][50] It was certified 6× platinum for shipments of 1,800,000 units of the album by the British Phonographic Industry(BPI), becoming the fifth best-selling album of 1986.[51][52] In Canada, the album reached the top spot on the albums chart and remained there for 17 weeks to become the longest stay at the summit by a female artist. On March 31, 1987, it was certified 10× platinum for sales of over one million copies, making it the best-selling album of 1986, and later Diamond by the Canadian Recording Industry Association(CRIA).[53][54] Whitney Houston was also the 1986's top selling album in Australia, staying at number one of the Kent Music Report albums chart for 11 weeks, the longest stay by a female artist at the time.[55] It became the first time an African American artist had a number 1 album in Australia. In Japan, the album was ranked number two on list of the 1986's best-selling album by a foreign artist, with a total of 450,000 units combined sales of LP, CD and Compact Cassette, only behind Madonna's True Blue.[56] Besides, the album reached the number one on the albums chart in Norway for ten weeks and Sweden for six weeks, the number two in Germany, Switzerland, and the number three in Austria and New Zealand.[7][8][10][11][57][58] Worldwide, Whitney Houston has sold over 32 million copies, becoming one of the best selling albums in the 1980s.[59][60] According to the Nielsen SoundScan began tracking sales data in 1991, as of 2009, the album sold over 1,038,000 copies in the United States.[61]

The week ending of February 12, 2012, following Houston's death on February 11, the album re-charted on the Billboard 200 at No. 72 with 8,000 copies sold.[62]

Grammy Awards

At the 28th Grammy Awards in 1986, Whitney Houston received four nominations—Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for "Saving All My Love for You", Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "You Give Good Love" and Best Rhythm & Blues Song for "You Give Good Love"—and won Houston's first Grammy, Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female.[17][18] In addition, the album earned one nomination for Record of the Year in 1987 for "Greatest Love of All", a cover of "The Greatest Love of All", originally recorded by George Benson in 1977, ten years before and was the main theme of the boxer Muhammad Ali biopic "The Greatest" in the same year.[19]

Best New Artist controversy

In February 1986, the controversy was caused at the 28th Grammy Awards by the absence of Whitney Houston's name for the Best New Artist.[63][64] Although Whitney Houston was her debut album released in 1985 and many people bet that she would be crowned Best New Artist, she was not nominated in that category, because of her disqualification as a new artist. Upon hearing that Houston would be denied the opportunity to compete in the Best New Artist category for 1985, Clive Davis, then the president of Arista Records, sent a letter of complaint to Michael Greene, the president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), and had been told that "Whitney was banished from the circle of newcomers because she had appeared as a duet guest vocalist on one song on Jermaine Jackson's album, and one on the comeback album by Teddy Pendergrass, both in the preceding year (1984)." He claimed that "Whitney was simply an unknown vocalist making a 'cameo' appearance on just one of eight or nine songs contained in a major artist's album. She was not even a member of a continuing artistic duo. [...] Whitney was merely a featured vocalist, not the artist, and certainly not the focal point of the song." But Green replied to him, writing "The rule that disqualified Whitney is perfectly clear. It reads: An artist is not eligible in the best new artist category if the artist had label credit or album credit, even if not as a featured artist, in a previous awards' year."[65]

Davis, on his commentary in Billboard magazine the issue of January 18, 1986, pointed out the misapplication of the literal meaning or the board of trustees' rules, stating that "[perfectly clear] is often a matter of opinion. [Through my review], it became obvious that this NARAS rule had been interpreted very liberally in the past."[65] According to his review of each past winner and nominee, some artists such as Cyndi Lauper, Luther Vandross, the Power Station, Carly Simon and Crosby, Stills & Nash, had already received credits on other albums or been previously very well known as a member of other acts prior to their Grammy nominations.[65] He added that "it is a conspicuous injustice that Whitney will not be getting her shot. When someone comes along and makes an impact such as Whitney has, it'll come as a big surprise to quite a few people that, according to the rules of NARAS, sometimes new isn't New."[65]

Despite Davis' coherent and well-founded refutation, the NARAS stuck by its decision to disallow Whitney Houston from competing for best new artist in the balloting. Green, in a statement, said that "The determination of eligibility or ineligibility in the best new artist category is not made capriciously or taken lightly. [...] If differences of opinion arise as to the extent of identity a solo artist may have had while with a previously released group, we take a vote and abide by the majority."[66] Green noted firmly that "Houston's two duet recordings were entered in the 1984 Grammy Awards process for consideration for nomination. That alone was sufficient to make her ineligible this year for best new artist according to academy criteria. Aside from that, her performance on these recordings made a substantial contribution to their success and merit [with the Pendergrass duet achieving impressive chart positions on both the black and adult contemporary charts]."[66] Finally, the NARAS nominated a-ha, Freddie Jackson, Katrina and the Waves, Julian Lennon and Sade for Best New Artist. The award went to Sade.[63]

But after 1986, whenever the controversy involving Grammy Award for Best New Artist arose, Houston's ineligibility for that category was often mentioned. Those were the cases with the past winners such as 1988's Jody Watley and 1999's Lauryn Hill, established their "public identities" through their work with Shalamar and the Fugees respectively. When Shelby Lynne received the trophy in 2001, more than a decade after charting several singles on the country charts, so did it. Richard Marx, ruled ineligible for nomination as Best New Artist in 1988, stuck it to the NARAS about their inconsistency, on the feature article about him of Orange Coast magazine, stating as follows: "[...] But so did Whitney Houston for the same reason. And frankly, I don't have a lot of respect for N.A.R.A.S., the Grammy people's ruling system, because it's so inconsistent. They deemed me and Whitney Houston ineligible, and yet they nominated Jody Watley, who made records with Shalamar."[67]

In 2000, Geoff Mayfield of Billboard magazine, on his column, criticized the NARAS for their vague application of criteria, commenting that "the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences need again to rewrite its definition of [new artists]."[68] (The official guidelines read, "for a new artist who releases, during the eligibility year, the first recording which establishes the public identity of that artist.") He added that "the category has already had its twists and turns. In 1986 Whitney Houston was not considered because, prior to the release of 1985's Whitney Houston album, she had appeared on a Teddy Pendergrass single in 1984. But in '88 Jody Watley, who had been a lead vocalist in Shalamar which first charted in 1977, won the best new artist Grammy."[68]


The label, wanting Houston to have a solid urban fanbase first, released "You Give Good Love" as the first single.[22] The soulful ballad would top the R&B chart and surprise the label by crossing over and reaching number three on the pop chart while the singer was playing at nightclubs in the United States.[69][70] The jazzy-pop "Saving All My Love for You" was released next and really put her on the map. The single was an even bigger success hitting number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[71] It would reach number one in the United Kingdom and was successful around the world.[72] With her first number one, Houston began appearing on high-profile talk shows and became the opening act for Jeffrey Osborne and Luther Vandross. Thinking About You was released as the single only to R&B-oriented radio stations. It peaked at number 10 on the Hot Black Singles chart and at number 24 on the Hot Dance/Disco Club Play chart.[73][74]

In 1985, "How Will I Know" was released as the third single officially. With its colorful and energetic video, the song brought the singer to the teens and MTV, which black artists have traditionally found tough to crack.[22] It became another number one single for Houston, topping the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart and Hot Black Singles chart respectively.[75][76] The final single, "Greatest Love of All", is a cover of "The Greatest Love of All", originally recorded in 1977 by George Benson and would become the biggest hit off the album with a three-week stay atop the Hot 100. As a result, it became the first debut album – and the first album by a female artist – ever to generate three number one singles.[4] With "Greatest Love of All" and Houston's debut album both at #1 on the singles and albums chart, respectively, she became the first female artist to have the number one pop single and album simultaneously since Kim Carnes in 1981 with "Bette Davis Eyes" and Mistaken Identity.[4] "All at Once" was released only to Adult Contemporary and Urban AC stations as a radio airplay-only single later in 1986. It received heavy airplay and can still be heard on AC stations. However the single received an official release in Japan and many European countries.

Promotions and appearances

Date Title Details
February 12–16, 1985
  • Houston made a debut as a solo artist at Sweetwater's club in New York, performing songs from her debut album.[77][78][79]
April 5, 1985 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
  • Houston performed "You Give Good Love."
April 19, 1985 Show Van de Maand (Dutch TV Show)
  • Houston sang "Aan de Andere Kant Van de Heuvels" (it means "On the Other Side of the Hill" in English) a duet with the Dutch singer, Liesbeth List, who called Whitney one of the best upcoming singers in 1985. The song was List's hit single released in 1971.
  • After having a short interview with List, she performed "Greatest Love of All".
August 28, 1985 Late Night with David Letterman
September 15, 1985 Silver Spoons
("Head Over Heels": Season 4, Episode 1)[80][81]
  • Houston appeared opposite Franklyn Seales as Dexter Stuffins who falls "head over heels" with the gorgeous and sumptuous young Houston and follows her to LA.[81][82]
  • She sang "Saving All My Love for You" changing some of the words – "making love the whole night through" was changed to "holding each other the whole night through" – for the censors on the episode.
December 4, 1985 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
(Guest Host: Joan Rivers)
  • Houston performed "Saving All My Love for You" and was interviewed by Rivers.
January 27, 1986 The 13th American Music Awards
  • Houston received 6 nominations and won 2 of them including her first AMA – Favorite Soul/R&B Single.[83][84]
  • After she was introduced as 'the most promising female vocalist' by the host Diana Ross, performed "How Will I Know". At the first part of her performance, the sound system had a problem, a little bit, but she finished the song professionally.
February 25, 1986 The 28th Grammy Awards
  • Houston received 3 nominations including Album of the Year. Also "You Give Good Love" was nominated for "Best R&B Song" award, given to songwriter.[17]
  • After she performed "Saving All My Love for You" captivatingly, won her first Grammy, Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female with honored by her cousin, Dionne Warwick, and Julian Lennon.[85]
April 5, 1986 Champs-Élysées (French TV talk show)
  • There was an incident when Houston met France's greatest pop icon, the beloved Serge Gainsbourg on this live talk-show, which was then the most watched Saturday evening show in France.[86]
  • Having sung "Saving All My Love for You", Houston was brought by presenter Michel Drucker over to the couch where drunken Serge was waiting. Gainsbourg sat down next to Houston and immediately said in heavily accented English, "I want to f*** you". Houston was more than a little shocked by his rather crude display of appreciation, but she stayed nonetheless and sang a duet with him before the end of the show.[87]
September 5, 1986 The 3rd MTV Video Music Awards

Track listing

1."You Give Good Love"  La LaKashif4:36
2."Thinking About You"  
  • Kashif
  • La La
3."Someone for Me"  
  • Raymond Jones
  • Freddie Washington
Jermaine Jackson4:58
4."Saving All My Love for You"  Masser3:58
5."Nobody Loves Me Like You Do" (duet with Jermaine Jackson)
6."How Will I Know"  Walden4:23
7."All at Once"  Masser4:01
8."Take Good Care of My Heart" (duet with Jermaine Jackson)
9."Greatest Love of All"  
10."Hold Me" (duet with Teddy Pendergrass)
  • Creed
  • Masser
Total length:47:23



Weekly charts

Chart (1985–86) Peak
Australian Albums Chart[6] 1
Austrian Albums Chart[57] 3
Canadian Albums Chart[5] 1
French Albums Chart[88] 13
Finnish Albums Chart[89] 2
German Albums Chart[10] 2
Italian Albums Chart[90] 11
Japanese Albums Chart (CD)[56] 2
Japanese Albums Chart (LP)[56] 4
Japanese Albums Chart (CT)[56] 6
New Zealand Albums Chart[58] 3
Norwegian Albums Chart[7] 1
Swedish Albums Chart[8] 1
Swiss Albums Chart[11] 2
UK Albums Chart[9] 2
U.S. Billboard 200[91] 1
U.S. Top Black Albums[92] 1
Chart (2012) Peak
Austrian Albums Chart[93] 44
Argentine Albums Chart[94]
The Deluxe Anniversary Edition
Swiss Albums Chart[11] 71
U.S. Billboard 200[95] 9
U.S. Top Pop Catalog Albums (Billboard)[62] 4
Chart (2015) Peak
UK R&B Albums (OCC)[96] 34

Year-end charts

Chart (1985) Position
U.S. Pop Albums[97] 29
U.S. Top Black Albums[92] 4
Chart (1986) Position
Australian Albums Chart[6] 1
Austrian Albums Chart[98] 17
Canadian Albums Chart[99] 1
Japanese Albums Chart[100] 17
Swiss Albums Chart[101] 1
UK Albums Chart[102] 5
U.S. Pop Albums[97] 1
U.S. Top Black Albums[92] 1
Chart (1987) Position
Italian Albums Chart[103] 43
U.S. Pop Albums[97] 22
Chart (2012) Position
US Billboard 200[104] 198

Decade-end charts

Chart (1980–1989) Position
Australian Albums Chart[105] 5


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[106] Platinum 70,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[107] Platinum 50,000*
Belgium (BEA)[106] Gold 25,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[53] Diamond 1,000,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[106] Gold 25,000^
France (SNEP)[108] Gold 100,000*
Finland (Musiikkituottajat)[109] Gold 29,109[109]
Germany (BVMI)[110] Gold 250,000^
Hong Kong (IFPI Hong Kong)[111] Gold 10,000*
Japan (RIAJ)[112] Million 1,000,000^
Netherlands (NVPI)[113] Platinum 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[114] 2× Platinum 30,000^
Norway (IFPI Norway)[115] Platinum 50,000*
Sweden (GLF)[116] 2× Platinum 200,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[117] Platinum 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[51] 6× Platinum 1,800,000^
United States (RIAA)[118] 15× Platinum 15,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

See also


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  2. 1 2 Allison Stewart (August 31, 2009). "Recordings: With 'I Look to You,' Whitney Houston Eyes a Comeback". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 17, 2010.
  3. 1 2 3 Paul Grein (July 5, 1986). Chart Beat: 'Youngster' Janet Jackson hits No.1. Billboard. Retrieved June 17, 2010.
  4. 1 2 3 Paul Grein (May 17, 1986). Chart Beat: Houston has 3rd No.1 from debut. Billboard. Retrieved June 17, 2010.
  5. 1 2 "Whitney Houston on Canadian Albums Chart". RPM. March 8, 1986. Retrieved June 1, 2010.
  6. 1 2 3 Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, New South Wales: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. NOTE: Used for Australian Singles and Albums charting until ARIA created their own charts in mid-1988.
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Further reading

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