First Impressions: Whitney Looks To A Promising Comeback

Monday, August 31, 2009

We know all about "The Ballad of Whitney Houston". We know about the dramas, we scratched our heads over the men in her life, we know that some certain substance is "cheap", we even gave hearty chuckles at the its time to put all that aside and focus on the musical return of one of music's top-notch singing divas. The long awaited, and much anticipated, comeback from Houston has arrived and it glides in quite stylishly, giving the golden songbird room to fully return to past form. While its obvious to the listener that her voice isn't the same as it was when she was belting out "I Have Nothing" in a sequined head wrap and telling folks she wanted to dance with someone who loved her, there is still some spark left in Houston's vocals to know she hasn't fully lost her momentum.
I Look To You starts out mighty strong, with three stellar opening cuts that lean into modern R&B/Pop uptempo territory and are well on their way to radio airplay. The Alicia Keys' penned "Million Dollar Bill" glistens while the excellent Nate "Danja" Hills' "Nothin' But Love" rocks and reels on an electro-dance pulse that is sure to be a DJ's remix dream. Stargate production "Call You Tonight" is slick, sexy and just screaming to be hit single. Akon's bubbly sway "Like I Never Left" was obviously tweaked from the first time it was heard back in 2008 after an Internet leak, and actually, it was altered for the best as it fairs 10x's better the second hearing around. Surprisingly, the ballads are a toss-up and are few in far between, giving inkling that Houston (or supervisor/producer Clive Davis) wanted to wade in the shallow end. The title track, is fashioned with caution and floats on a lullaby mindset, but it is lovely. On the other hand, the Diane Warren and David Foster calculated, "I Didn't Know My Own Strength" just kind of sits in its own soggy puddle leaving not too much to desire.
Weak moments like "I Didn't Know My Own Strength" have me back on my theory that Whitney has never been an "album" artist, where she has had strong singles but never a strong album. Beg to differ, but from my ear, most of her albums are a mixed bag of goods, where some songs are classically and wondrously executed and others compositions border on just plain awful. Like in the terms of Whitney trying her hand at Donnie Hathaway's classic, "A Song For You". While this sounds like a great idea on paper, upon listen you will hear a simple soul ballad transform into a pulsating Euro-dance track. The whole execution is unnecessary and just terrible, considering that it takes the shine away from the original composition and turns the classic tune into an afterthought.

I Look To You colors in the lines for the most part, not straying out of thick bold barriers that it's wrangled in. Even when Whitney musters up some grit on the final track, "Salute", she does the R. Kelly produced track with such sweetness, that she really doesn't belt out. She's at attention, arms at her side, and she doesn't flinch, and for the most part, this type of stance is done throughout the album collectively. While its the most cohesive effort, Miss Houston has had since 1998's My Love Is Your Love, its nowhere near being a classic due to the shaky, somewhat uninspired musical content, but in the sense of Houston's comeback, it will be noted for that reason alone. On the other hand, the best thing about I Look To You is that this is a mature offering, that manages to have Houston with an updated sound that doesn't make her sound like she's trying too hard to connect with a younger set. Nothing pains me more to hear a grown woman talking about boos, being off the chain, and spitting about haters, and thankful Whitney acts her age, and not her shoe size on this.
In fairness, I Look To You is not something to be overlooked, as there are some glistening moments nestled in there that are in league with some of the best material 2009 has to offer. Whitney Houston does succeed at having an album that is structured sharply enough to give her a sizable and well deserved comeback.

Rating: 8.5/10
Release Date: August 31, 2009

Nothin' But Love
Call You Tonight


  1. I agree with you, the album has "uninspired musical content".
    I really want another My Love is Your Love, but I guess this will have to do.

    I'm glad Whitney is back though. "Call You Tonight" grabbed me immediately when I heard it; I really like that one.

    I hope she has a video for "Million Dollar Bill" in the works

  2. "Call You Tonight" is going to be massive. Just watch.

    Numbela! Numbela! Nothing, nothing but love!

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