Whitney Houston and label guru Clive Davis were on hand to give music writers a sneak peak at the diva’s new album “I Look At You” in London last night (July 14).
What is already being deemed as the singer’s comeback, the album includes guest features from artists like Alicia Keys, Diane Warren, Stargate, Akon and R. Kelly (who could probably use a positive comeback himself).
Davis claimed the album was just about finished and played, for the group, nine of the completed tracks. “Call You Tonight” was deemed the likely first single. The other songs previewed were “Million Dollar Bill,” “Nuthin’ But Love,” “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength,” “Like I Never Left,” “For the Lovers,” “I Look to You,” “Worth It” and Houston’s take on Leon Russell’s “A Song for You.”
Below, we chronicle some first impressions of those writers present at the ultra-small gathering. After, check out a teaser video of some of Whitney’s finest career moments.
The Daily Telegraph (U.K.)
Houston’s voice (surely the most important part of the equation) sounded rich and strong, although a little huskier. It has all the famous ululating flexibility of yore but I kept waiting for the big key change and power note, which never arrives. These days, when she goes for the highest register, she does it with soft falsetto. Many tracks sounded over-thought and contrived, from a Diane Warren power ballad ‘I Didn’t Know My Own Strength’ (full of self-referencing lines like ‘I did not crumble”, “I was not built to break”) to a host of club friendly contributions from contemporary stars, including Alicia Keys and R Kelly.
I am not quite sure what a gospel soul singer once acclaimed as “The Voice” is doing duetting with Akon, the new king of autotune. Best of the bunch was an old fashioned hi energy disco version of Leon Russell’s ballad ‘A Song For You’, on which Houston really sounds like she’s enjoying herself, and not trying too hard to prove she’s back and she’s still hip.
The overall feel of the album was notably contemporary, while retaining Houston’s trademark vocal flourishes. The up-tempo songs “Nuthin’ But Love” and “A Song for You” received the best reaction from the invited audience of international media, while Davis particularly praised slower songs like the Warren-penned ballad “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength” and R Kelly’s title track, hailing Houston as “the premium balladeer of our time.”
The Mirror (U.K.)
But we didn’t like it… we loved it.