September 6, 2009

SPOTLIGHT REVIEW: Whitney's "I Look To You"

I have been a Whitney Houston fan since she first blasted on to the scene in the '80s. You heard the voice and you knew you were listening to a gift. Then there was the image of the beautiful African American model-esque young woman to which both white and African American audiences could relate. Then there were the anthems: Greatest Love of All, I Wanna Dance With Somebody, I'm Every Woman, It's Not Right but It's Ok and, of course, I Will Always Love You. Voice. Image. Anthem. Then slowly things started falling apart with our national treasure -- the image, the anthems then the voice were replaced with water cooler speculation and confirmation, gossip fodder for a reality show which made our treasure a supporting caraciture in a train-wreck; crack-is-whack we made fun of but always feeling a little heartbroken for her. She got rid of the always-being-lame-bobby-brown and finally allowed her mentor Clive Davis dictate what would happen in her life. I've talked with producers who over the past seven years have started going into the studio with Whitney to try and make her "comeback" album. Each instance I was told: no honesty; no no comeback. Whitney is back in the spotlight and for me it's bitter sweet. To see her stunning and beautiful it makes me so proud that she is "our voice" our shining star. Then to hear her much deeper, raspier, shallowed voice or to see her on a morning news program fumbling both physically and vocally it makes me realize "our voice" and our shining star is just a human being trying to handle things with as much grace as she possibly can. So there will be no "review" of this album. I will tell you that there are glimpses of that woman who belted "I Have Nothing" or "The Star Spangled Banner" out into the universe effortlessly. But our voice and shining star at 46 is not where it or she should be. She's made a very respectable "comeback" album which will keep her on the radio (why they started out with first single like "I Look to You" I'll never know). Whether or not Whitney Houston will "come back" still is in question. My test for a good-to-great album is whether or not there are at least 4-5 really great songs/performances. If you squint on this then there's not really a misstep on the entire set. "I Didn't Know My Own Strength" will make you cry and you just want to hug her. The real surprise on this album is the cover of "Song for You." I recommend that you listen to the entire album and save this track for the very end. Close your eyes and listen. You will hear consistent glimpses of our voice; you will be so appreciative of the voice that she has found for now. New voice. Better Image. Personal Anthems. Welcome back. We missed you.

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