Coming Out Party...
Los Angeles Times: Whitney Houston
enjoys a coming-out party
July 24, 2009 | 5:39 pm
Celebrities and record-industry heavies get a
preview of her comeback album. 'I Look to You' is scheduled to be released
Whitney Houston did not have to sing a note Thursday night to
spark a rousing ovation from a crowd of celebrities and record-industry
Houston -- whose hugely successful singing and acting career has been
shadowed in the last several years by tabloid headlines, including her
tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown and allegations of substance abuse
-- made a triumphant appearance at the Beverly Hilton at the end of a
preview of her upcoming comeback album, scheduled for release Sept. 1.
As the throbbing beat of her up-tempo version of Leon Russell's usually
intimate ballad "A Song for You" filled the standing-room-only ballroom,
Houston emerged from behind a curtain, smiling and clapping as some audience
members danced in front of her.
Looking slim and wearing an elegantly simple knee-length black dress,
Houston seemed genuinely moved by the reception from the audience -- an
eclectic mix from the worlds of movies (Jane Fonda, Halle Berry and Penny
Marshall, the last of whom directed Houston in 1996's "The Preacher's
Wife"), music (Stevie Wonder, Barry Manilow and Brian McKnight), industry
honchos (Suzanne De Passe, Diane Warren and Richard Perry) and sports (Magic
Also in attendance were several family members, including her teenage
daughter, Bobbi Kristina, and a newly adopted son.
"God bless you all," Houston said, blowing kisses and
stretching her hands out to the crowd. "I am humbled. Thank you all for
coming." She seemed particularly excited when she spotted Berry and Fonda
("I almost croaked when I found out Jane Fonda was coming to my listening
party. How cool am I?")
Coming after Houston's six-year absence from the studio, the album, "I Look
to You," has long been enveloped by speculation about whether Houston has
lost the vocal prowess and charisma that made her one of the most successful
female singers of the last two decades.
That speculation has been fueled by some appearances in the past in which
her singing voice sounded scratched and strained.
But music mogul Clive Davis -- who discovered Houston and has been
spearheading her comeback, including a performance at his pre-Grammy party
in February -- said the album should leave little doubt that Houston is
still "one of the all-time great vocalists."
He said the album took more than three years to complete "because we kept
wanting to set the bar high, in the tradition of the great vocalists, such
as Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan and Lena Horne."
"I took my time," Houston later added.
Thursday night's unveiling came on the heels of listening parties in London
and New York.
Before Davis presented the songs, a clip was shown of Houston performing
some of her most popular hits, including "I Will Always Love You," "I Wanna
Dance With Somebody" and "One Moment in Time."
Her new album, based on the nine "unfinished versions" previewed, appears to
be a mix of dance tunes, mid-tempo songs and power ballads, with
state-of-the-art production surrounding Houston's confident, smooth stylings.
Writers and producers who worked on the album include Warren, David Foster,
Akon and Alicia Keys. R. Kelly, who has his own notorious past, contributed
two songs, including the title track, an ode to spirituality and a higher
Many of the songs were greeted enthusiastically, with the Keys-written
"Million Dollar Bill" generating one of the loudest ovations.
Some of the songs appeared to subtly reference Houston's struggles. Warren's
"I Didn't Know My Own Strength" contains the line "I was not built to
break," and the singer said she related to the song because of her struggles
as a single mother. In "Nothin' but Love," Houston maintains she has nothing
but love for "the family that raised me, the teachers that praised me" and
"even the ones who tried to break me."
She mentioned her troubled history during her remarks later that evening,
when she paid an emotional tribute to Davis. "Those years when we were
apart, I was lost," Houston said to Davis. "But now I'm home, where I
MUSIC SUPERSTARS: Sony exec Clive Davis, left,
Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder at the Beverly Hilton. Houston paid
emotional tribute to Davis at the album preview. Both photos Associated
24 JULY 2009