Due in stores August 31, 2009.
In the closing song "Salute," Whitney Houston echoes LL Cool J's classic "Mama Said Knock You Out," with, "Don't call it a comeback..." Unfortunately things here are not nearly as exciting as that comeback. Legendary label chief Clive Davis pulled out all the stops to make this the music event of the year. Major producers and songwriters were hired, music industry elites were wined and dined, and the public was teased with promotion that makes I Look to You look like the second coming. Unfortunately, listening to the album is a distinctly underwhelming experience.
Hampered By Weak Material
The biggest negative on I Look to You is the material seems weak. Most of the original songs here sound like they were taken off a top songwriter's growing pile of homeless songs and passed along as something Whitney might sink her vocal teeth into. The mediocre "I Didn't Know My Own Strength," for example, is simply Diane Warren painting by numbers.
In the past Whitney Houston has sometimes had her greatest success cherry picking previously recorded songs and turning them into her own classics. "I Will Always Love You," "The Greatest Love Of All," and "Saving All My Love For You" were all essentially cover versions. Here she does try her hand at Leon Russell's classic "A Song for You," but the production is supremely misguided turning it into a cheesy dance song that would be laughed out of a number of contemporary clubs.
Whitney Houston's Vocal Changes Have Been Over-Emphasized
One of the primary concerns in press leading up to the release of I Look to You is the status of Whitney Houston's legendary voice. It is true that she no longer possesses the formidable power that made her Super Bowl XXV "Star Spangled Banner" performance a legendary moment, but the changes in her voice have been over-emphasized. She has not made her career entirely on bombastic ballads. In fact her more recent hits such as "My Love Is Your Love" succeed first as tremendously well-written songs. The best track here, "Nothin' But Love," bursts with emotional lyrics that fit Whitney Houston's story perfectly in a Danja production that would work perfectly on pop and R&B radio of the moment while being ripe for club remixes. Houston delivers the track in winning fashion without relying on sheer vocal power.
Top Tracks On 'I Look To You'
- "Million Dollar Bill"
- "Nothin' But Love"
- "Call You Tonight"
- "Worth It"
Still an Artist of Impressive Talent
Whitney Houston remains a formidable talent. The warmth in her voice, enhanced with the years, is presented positively on "Call You Tonight." She looks amazing on all of the publicity for the album and in recent paparazzi photos. The best news about the album I Look to You is that this is a Whitney Houston we recognize. However, a more concerted effort to choose top level material is an absolute necessity the next time around if she is to make a true, lasting comeback.