I don’t know whom she looked to in the preparation of her new album, but I Look To You ain’t much of a looker.
I really wanted to love this album because I love Whitney Houston and knew that she would survive her troubles, but if all we are left with is this empty album, better it would have been had she never sung again.
Misplaced trust and doubtful instincts are probably to blame here. In general, the songs on this album all contain too many words per note. This gives them a desperate and nervous tone. Also, the most gorgeous voice in the world has been humbled by her tough years. It seems to be in the process of transforming itself into the voice of Etta James who also had her tough years. Unlike Etta, this Whitney is not so believable, not a female made wise and cynical by what has befallen her. This is a Whitney still in hiding. I’d have rather heard her scream and miss the notes she used to own (as she did yesterday in Central Park) rather than hear her hobbled and cautious in her choices.
The album’s “big” song, Million Dollar Bill is forgettable. It is more like a losing lottery ticket that could have been worth a million dollars but instead is worthless. Odd that Alicia Keyes who professes idolatry for Whitney would have written this for her. See what I mean about bad instincts and choices?
A Song for You could have been the star of the album but falls flat. Why? The speculating about this is exasperating. Surely she couldn’t have been pleased with her cover of this great song. Surely she knew the song’s potential for her at this point in her career.
I am however looking forward to remixes of For the Lovers, a song that reminds me very much of Donna Summer’s recent and wonderful Stamp Your Feet.
Many people will buy this album. In a Park Slope restaurant this weekend, an unauthorized release was playing as we claimed table, and when I wondered aloud if this was “the new Whitney thing”, our breathless twink waiter gushed “Oh yes.”
Whitney needs to avoid everyone involved with I Look To You and try it again, looking only inside herself, and maybe at her mother and Auntie Dionne. I’ll be waiting.
Yesterday in Central Park. The review is actually too harsh. She seemed nervous as she ran on stage. Justifiably. She dispatched the Million Dollar Mess swiftly. She could barely hit the midrange of I Look To You with her backup girls supplying the intended notes. But an undeniable high point was her My Love is Your Love which showed us that the devolution of a diva is not always a bad thing. She has the whole realm of reggae and soul under her command and that should be her future product. There were hints of Aretha in her delivery.
If this album and her Central Park performance are evidence of her strength, I must assume that she can no longer hit and sustain those notes that roost in the pinnacles of the Chrysler Building. She is no longer Every Woman (Her closing song in Central Park) but she is some really good woman and I'm glad she's back.