First off, don't ask me how I got invited to the L.A. listening party at the Beverly Hilton for Whitney Houston
's upcoming album, I Look To You
. It was a super-classy affair, emceed by Clive Davis
and boasting Halle Berry
, Jane Fonda
, Magic Johnson
, Diane Warren
and Stevie Wonder
in the audience—and me, hair dissheveled, wearing jeans and, truthfully, not exactly Whitney's biggest fan.
But, I showed up nonetheless, expecting a trashy set of cougar ballads and subpar dirges that would pale in comparison to those from Whit's Bodyguard
peak era. Thankfully, I was wrong...for the most part.
Clive introduced each song with an anecdote or back story, and cautioned that we'd only hear nine of the album's ten tracks because the record was still being worked on. At the very end, Whitney herself came on stage and rattled off a bunch of thank-yous to various songwriters and people no one has ever heard of.
Comically, Clive would sit down while each track played, but you could still see the old broad behind the podium, bobbing his head up and down and doing a little shimmy-twirl. At one point, he looked like a giddy old lap dancer, sliding up and down the stripper pole.
But enough about that sly old minx—here are some notes I scribbled about I Look To You
's nine songs that we were played, followed by a rating. (The album is released September 1.)
1. "Million Dollar Bill"
(written + produced by Alicia Keys
and Swizz Beats
) Things get kicked off with a surprising thumping of beats and bass. This uptempo pop/R&B jam has "single" written all over it, and if this were 1992, it'd be #1 for weeks. But it's been a long time for Whitney, and radio might need a bit of coaxing. (3/5
2. "Nothing But Love"
(produced by Danja
+ Fernando Garibay
) One of the album's three highlights. It's dancey, spacey and chockful of electro squiggles. So this
is what a Danja track can sound like with a decent singer! (Uh, no offence, Britney
3. "Call You Tonight"
(written by Johnta Austin
, produced by Stargate) Midtempo toe-tapper that's more refreshing than Ne-Yo
—who Stargate frequently collaborate with—because it obviously has a masterful feminine touch with the vocals. Well, more
feminine than Ne-Yo usually offers up, at least. (3/5
4. "I Didn't Know My Own Strength"
(written by Diane Warren
, produced by David Foster
) There's something totally missing from this by-the-numbers ballad—like someone under 2,000 years old writing and producing it. That said, if there's a world tragedy, God forbid, expect this to no doubt become the theme song for it (a la Enrique Iglesias'
"Hero" ). Overall, pretty weak choice for Whitney's comeback single. I'd have gone with one of the more upbeat numbers, but I'm no Clive Davis. (2/5
5. "Like I Never Left"
(written by Claude Kelly
, produced by Akon) Love the pop-infused chord progression in this duet with Akon! If Stock Aitken Waterman
were still making music together today, they'd hopefully be crafting songs like this. Generally, it's a bit twee, but when Akon gets it right, he gets it so, so right. (4/5
(written + produced by R. Kelly
) Pretty dull ballad with an okay bassline. Totally knocks off the beat from Jordin Sparks
' "Tattoo," which itself was pretty derivative. (2/5
7. "I Look To You"
(written by R. Kelly, produced by Tricky Stewart
+ Harvey Mason, Jr.
) Another bland R. Kelly downer. This is where I got up to take a piss. (2/5
8. "Worth It"
(written by Johnta Austin
, produced by Eric Hudson
) You might find yourself checking your ears to make sure you're not actually hearing Mariah Carey
on this cheesy track, which sounds exactly like "Touch My Body." With its "This is for the lovers holding hands in the car" refrain, it also conjures up the opening of Mimi's "Bye Bye" ("This is for my people who have lost somebody...") (3/5
9. "A Song For You"
cover) Starts off like a piano ballad but soon ignites into a four-on-the-floor dance jam. High marks for strangely sounding reminiscent of Steps
' "You'll Be Sorry"! (4/5
I zipped out of there as Whitney was air-kissing the audience, and ended up two feet behind Barry Manilow
while walking through the lobby. That old bat's wig was highlighted and flat-ironed so much, he looked like a hot pink Troll doll.
Labels: album review, Clive Davis, Whitney Houston