>I honestly didn’t think this was going to happen, but Whitney Houston is actually all set to release her 6th studio album “I Look to You“. This is 7 years since her last effort “Just Whitney”, and as we all know A LOT has happened in her professional and personal life since that release. Even years before that, her once massively successful career was tarnishing. The worst of it, her voice was always and still is regarded as one of the best voices in recorded music, and through her personal and professional struggles it seemed her voice was ruined. Her 2002 “Just Whitney” was not a terrible album on the production end, but her voice was obviously struggling (her remake of “You Light Up My Life” is especially horrific to listen to with flawless ballads of her past like “I Will Always Love You” and “Didn’t We Almost Have it All” in mind.).
What I can say about this new effort, is that her voice doesn’t detract from the polished production on this album. Clive Davis and the label heads made some very calculated and very smart moves with the direction of the album. Whitney started her career just singing whatever was thrown at, her voice was that strong she could tackle the Bubble gum pop songs, the dancer floor House songs, the R&B slow burners and the Pop Torch Ballads. Her voice always sounded best to me when she was doing more mid tempo R&B, which is why her 1999 “My Love Is Your Love” album was my favourite. It stressed more urban numbers as opposed to her previous Ballad filled albums. “I Look to You” is actually more urban, more contemporary, very radio ready with a few very good Ballads mixed in. It’s a expertly crafted Pop/R&B album, and I’m actually a little proud of Whitney for being able to keep up with the producers who obviously came to work on this album.
Her voice isn’t necessarily outstanding on any of these songs, however she does her best to not get drowned out on most tracks. I think that some of the ballads were maybe aiming a little too high for her vocal strengths at this point, but Whitney was obviously up for the challenge this time. As opposed to the vocals on “Just Whitney” where you could obviously tell she was straining and in some sort of vocal pain while singing, she breezes through alot of the vocals. There aren’t any huge belts or long notes, like Whitney in the 80’s, but there’s enough to tell that she has been working on improving.
There’s actually not much to complain about on the album, there are a few songs I can go without (and mind you, I’m writing this as I’m listening to it. First time I’ve done this). The producers really came with really strong songs. I think alot of these songs were hit-ready even without Whitney. I can’t say that she makes something that would have been Good Great, but she does bring an attitude and a life to a handful of the tracks. She worked well with Stargate on their two contributions, “Call You Tonight” and her remake of “A Song For You”, which isn’t a slow by the numbers R&B ode, but a Houser to remind us of the late 90’s Whitney Club Queen era. Akon’s two tracks are very breezy and complimentary of her voice. And surprisingly she works well with Danja on “For the Lovers” and my favourite track off the album “Nuthin But Love”. The lyrical content is somewhat personal on this album, you hear her fessing up to having problems and trying to make it right (“I Didn’t Know My Own Strength”, “Nuthin But Love” on which she says ‘to anyone who tried to hate on me, the ones who tried to break me, the ones who tried to take me down… Nuthin But Love’ later saying‘I ain’t blaming nobody if i ain’t got my stuff worked out’). However the album isn’t brought down by too much testimony, and she sticks to light love songs throughout most of the album.
This is definitley a proper comeback, there’s enough potential hits on the album. Still, she hasn’t shot a video and isn’t promoting the album which is due to be released on Tuesday. We have yet to see if she can back this all up live. If she is up for that challenge, she should sweep the Grammy’s and have a really long and succesful run from this album. The thing is, she’s coming back into an industry that doesn’t expect much from it’s artists, and putting together an album that has a majority of great tracks and a female vocalist that actually has some skill and is sounds alive is alwasy impressive. Having said that, in my eyes at least, Whitney has actually risen back to the upper echelon of the Pop/R&B world. Bring on the Live Performance!