Whitney Houston has not had an album out since the 2002 release of “Just Whitney.” The album was overshadowed by her infamous interview with Diane Sawyer and her incomprehensible tirade on Wendy Williams’ radio show. Now, seven years later, with the drama of her life behind her, Houston has released a forgettable set of tracks with “I Look to You.”
You might think that with producer Clive Davis and artists such as Alicia Keys writing the tunes, this album couldn’t miss. It is a formula for success: Legendary producer + talented writers and musicians= hit album. However, the key to this formula, which is the singing talent, is missing. Houston’s voice is not what it once was.
The arrangements in songs such as “Worth It” attempt to hide her lackluster vocals, and when Houston’s voice begins to crack, the background vocalists and harmonies are there to mask it, making the song sound as if it should have been produced for a group rather than a solo artist. “Call You Tonight” is a decent track, but it goes on 30 seconds too long. The fadeout will have you looking at your I-Pod to try to figure out if you’re hearing the end of this song or the beginning of “I Look to You.” Incidentally, the demo of “I Look to You” sounded much better than the studio version. Whoever sang on that demo deserves a record deal.
The lyrics of the title track “I Look to You” and “A Song For You” come across as syrupy – in a bad way. Instead of a tribute to her fans, both songs handled by Houston lack the powerful punch that she gave mediocre tracks on previous albums.
“Salute” is yet another disappointing song that sounds like the watered-down version of “I Learned From The Best.” Added into that track are LL Cool J’s lyrics (“Don’t call it a comeback/I’ve been here for years”), which are supposed to turn it into an anthem of empowerment. Instead, it turns into an awkward moment for the listener – you begin to cringe to think if, to top off this lackluster album, she’s going to end it by rapping (thankfully, this isn’t the case).
Actually, all the songs sound like lesser versions of Houston’s previous hits. The duet with Akon is the best song on the record. Toward the end, Houston hits a high note reminiscent of “I Have Nothing” from the “Bodyguard” soundtrack. Unfortunately, it’s the only high note here.
Essentially, Houston’s voice is gone. She is no longer capable of successfully telling a story through song. The large talented cast that Davis assembled to help Houston with her comeback cannot cover the seemingly irreversible damage done to her voice. After her appearance on “Good Morning America,” it is not clear if Houston should tour to promote this album. After all, the three songs she tried to sing live revealed what the studio album unsuccessfully attempted to keep under wraps. Perhaps Houston should have taken more time to rehab her voice before trying for a comeback.