Album Review: Whitney Houston - 'I Look To You' - Celebrity Bug


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Album Review: Whitney Houston - 'I Look To You'

After an intensely-publicized battle with drugs and a seven year hiatus, during which she ended her unstable relationship with singer Bobby Brown, Whitney Houston marked her return earlier this week when she released her new album, I Look To You.

Absent is the notable voice that belted out classic tunes “I Will Always Love You” and “I Have Nothing”, and now present as a replacement is a huskier tone that proves to be less vigorous and extra sultry.

With songs ranging from her traditional ballads to uptempo numbers, all of which embody conventional Whitney, but are given slight enhancements to work in today’s mark. A task that can be credited to ‘the man with the golden ear’ Clive Davis and her impressive list of contributors, who include Nate ‘Danja’ Hills, Swizz Beatz, Tricky Stewart, Akon and more.

“Million Dollar Bill”: When it comes to balladeers like Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and Toni Braxton, people can easily forget that they have each delivered their fair share of solid up-tempo numbers. Whitney is no expectation to that clause (“I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and “How Will I Know”) and as depicted on this track, the vocals don’t necessary lose priority, given she begins by belting out some of those lovable Whitney notes. The Swizz Beatz-produced and Alicia Keys-penned jam is simply a fun cut that see the songstress living in the happiness of finding love, and though Keys can freely come through as an influence, the blithe track rides on the realms of winning.

“Nothin’ But Love”: This track sees the singer declaring “Nothin’ But Love” for her haters, supporters, and anyone who falls in between. The Nate ‘Danja’ Hills-crafted cut takes a slight step back into the 90s, which neither adds nor subtracts from the song, but for me, this was one of my least favorite songs on the album. The message and laid-back ore are great, but that pretty much sums it up.

“Call You Tonight”: The Johnta Austin and Stargate-crafted cut simply sums up the word ‘beautiful’ as she indulges in a type of love that mirrors that of a fairytale, but provides a sense of maturity that keeps it from becoming too high school. She characterizes love leaving you breathless (“I can’t catch my breath cause you take it away”), without words (“the best writer in town could not find words to say”), and being written in the clouds (“Destiny, I believe in it”).

“I Look To You”: Serving as one of her two lead singles (the other being “Million Dollar Bill”), this R. Kelly-penned track contains stellar lyrics that are catapulted to new heights with the raw emotion of her voice. She doesn’t overdue it, by any means, there is a simplicity to her vocal approach on the track, but that is ultimately, one of its driving factors.

“Like I Never Left”: Originally I deemed this song as ‘disappointing’, which wasn’t exactly a stretch when I thought it was set to serve as the official single, but since that isn’t the case my opinion has altered. It’s equipped with a message or concept that can be taken two different ways depending on how you depict the song, one being from the lover’s stance and the other directed towards her fans regarding her return (“I want you to love me like I never left”). Either way, Akon provides a nice vibe and it seems forthright on both of their parts.

“A Song For You”: Beginning as a slow and touching piano ballad, Whitney transforms the Leon Russell-originated song into a European dance-driven mixture, once it meets the 1:30 mark. Not a bad song, by any means, in fact, her take on the classic is as unique and vibrant, as some of remakes that line her history. With that said, it can tend to feel a little misplaced within the sequence, but that still takes nothing away from the song itself.

“I Didn’t Know My Own Strength”: This Diane Warren-penned and David Foster-produced cut, along with “I Look To You”, are among the premier offerings that mirror what most consider to be ‘classic Whitney’. Her vocal approach is elevated with a sense of realism, emotion and heart, and although the ballad’s lyrics could easily pit it into the cheesy zone, Whitney grabs the reigns and lands in winning territory.

“Worth It”: Standing as one of my three favorite offerings from the album (the others being “For The Lovers” and “Call You Tonight”), this cut is one of the few that reaffirms Whitney hasn’t lost her ability to create for the current musical medium. She reestablishes her position as a baby-making assistant (“I know somebody's gonna make love to this song tonight”), and from this particular collection of songs it serves as her reply to Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together” and Mary J. Blige’s “Be Without You”. Simply, top-notched.

“For The Lovers”: As I said within “Million Dollar Bill”, people seem to forget that Ms. Houston has supplied her fair share of upbeat numbers, and this one joins the ranks of those previously mentioned classics. “So throw your hands up, for the next three minutes, it’s about the lovers”, she boasts during the chorus, which is so infectious that you will undoubtedly find yourself singing along by the song’s end. Aside from the songstress holding more than her own, the production verges on excellent and this encompasses all the makings of ‘single-worthy’.

“I Got You”: As the last of Akon’s contributions, which I must add Whitney serves as a co-writer for both, it has a laid-back and island encapsulated vibe. Slight closer to the material that Houston served on 1998’s ‘My Love Is Your Love’, it differs in the fact that it fails to make a move. Not what I would label a bad song, but the fact that there seems to be no sort of climax, easily destructs its value.

“Salute”: On the second of R. Kelly’s two songs, she celebrates the departure of an ex that was less than worthy (irony much?). The lyrics can tend to feel a little reminisce of Ne-Yo’s writing style, but here it is the Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” version and not that corny and repetitive side that has visible, as of late. That said, Whitney sells the stellar mid-tempo and at a key point of the song she exclaims, “Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years”.

Final Verdict:
All in all, I Look To You, is an enjoyable journey of a woman that has overcome struggle and climbed out of the darkness. It reaches both staggering and disappointing, with the first make more appearances, but more than anything, it reasserts her relevance in the current industry’s atmosphere, while still offering us some classic songs that will be rolling off our tongues, ten or twenty years from now.

3.5 out of 5

Celebrity Bug’s Key Tracks: “Million Dollar Bill”, “Call You Tonight”, “I Look To You”, “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength”, “Worth It”, “For The Lovers” & “Salute”.

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