Rap-Up.com: Preview - Whitney Houston 'I Look To You'
“The Wait Is Over…” read the monitors inside
the ballroom at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills on Thursday (July 23).
Whitney Houston heralded her return to music with the last of three ritzy
listening sessions for her first studio album in seven years, I Look to You.
Rap-Up.com was inside and has a play by play of the evening’s events,
including our impressions of the nine previewed tracks.
The stars turned out in droves including Halle Berry, Jane Fonda, Stevie
Wonder (who arrived fashionably late), Magic Johnson, Jackie Collins, Barry
Manilow, Brett Ratner, Beverly Johnson, Diane Warren, Penny Marshall, Brian
McKnight, David Foster, and Garcelle Beauvais. Phones and cameras were
prohibited, although many disregarded the restriction.
Clive Davis introduced the album and played a video montage highlighting his
protégé’s impressive achievements. The music mogul spoke about the
19-year-old girl he molded into one of the most successful artists of all
time, selling 170 million albums, singles, and videos worldwide. He joked
about how “American Idol” contestants get flak for attempting to cover
Whitney songs because only the originator can do them justice. Whitney asked
Clive if she should start writing her own songs, but he told her to only do
so if she felt she could deliver something stellar. He then began playing
each of the nine songs, starting with “Million Dollar Bill.”
During the last song, a cover of Leon Russell’s “A Song for You,” the
45-year-old singer walked on stage to a standing ovation and roaring cheers,
wearing a black cocktail dress. She looked happy and healthy. “I am so
humbled and so thankful for you all for coming. There is so much love in the
room and I thank you and I feel it,” she told the crowd.
She hugged Stevie Wonder (“How much I love that man, I can’t even tell you”)
and acknowledged the other celebrities in attendance including her close
friend Halle Berry (“How’s the baby?”), Jane Fonda (“I almost croaked. Jane
Fonda at my listening party?!”), Beverly Johnson (“Baby, you are America’s
Top Model”), R. Kelly (“One of the best singer-songwriters in the
industry”), Diane Warren (who she impersonated), and David Foster.
“It took me three-and-a-half years,” she said about the recording process.
“I took my time.” Clive and Whitney worked closely together on the project.
“I’m back home where I belong,” she said looking at Clive, before joking
that he parties like a rock star. She recalled when Clive once told her,
“You’re just impossible!” After seeing plaques from legends like Mick Jagger
and Janis Joplin on his office walls, she asked, “I’m the impossible one?”
The new album is contemporary, but you can expect to hear the same Whitney
Houston you’ve come to know and love. The empowering songs have a feel-good
vibe, complemented by Whitney’s strong vocals (in fine form) and memorable
melodies courtesy of today’s top producers and songwriters such as Alicia
Keys, Swizz Beatz, Akon, R. Kelly, Danja, Eric Hudson, Diane Warren, David
Foster, Claude Kelly, and Tricky Stewart. The music feels natural and not
trying to pander to what’s hot at the moment.
Whitney exited the stage just as she entered, to a standing ovation and
thunderous applause. “God bless you. I love you. Peace!”
Below are the nine tracks we heard. They are unfinished versions in many
cases, according to Clive.
1. “Million Dollar Bill”
Swizz Beatz/Alicia Keys
As we first reported here, Swizz Beatz produced this track. Alicia Keys
wrote it after personally asking Clive to write for Whitney’s album. The
song doesn’t have a typical Swizz sound and feels more old-school R&B. It
puts you in a good mood, but don’t let the title fool you. This is not an
attempt at being a hip-hop club banger. It was the favorite for many. No
doubt this will become a single.
2. “Nothin’ But Love”
Uptempo, danceable, hand-clapping beat. Whitney’s vocals are on prominent
display as she belts out several long runs. Urban radio will eat this up.
3. “Call You Tonight”
A contender for the lead single. It features a guitar riff common in
Stargate productions (“With You” and “Irreplaceable”). “I wish that I could
stay, but I gotta go/ Let me call you tonight, just as soon as I get home,”
4. “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength”
David Foster/Diane Warren
A version of this previously leaked to the Internet. Clive likened the power
ballad to “I Will Always Love You.” It was recorded after her separation
from Bobby Brown and tells of triumph in the face of diversity. Clive told
Diane Warren, “You’ve written one of your great copyrights.”
5. “Like I Never Left” feat. Akon
Another track that leaked last year. The version that was played sounded
more complete with added bass. Clive said Whitney wanted an island song, so
they reached out to Akon. Clive started to dance to this one, which was
pretty entertaining in itself. We didn’t love this when we first heard it,
but it has grown on us considerably.
Militaristic, marching beat. R. Kelly also has his vocals featured (“Eh eh
eh”). One of our personal faves. “I’m a soldier girl/ In this world/ I stand
alone/ I can be strong/ I walked the lines/ I made it home/ It’s good to
know without you I made it.” Whitney even throws in an LL Cool J reference:
“Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years.”
7. “I Look to You”
R. Kelly/Tricky Stewart/Harvey Mason Jr.
Powerful piano ballad that sums up the album. “When all my strength is gone,
I look to you,” she sings. “This song says all I wanted to say,” explains
Whitney of the title track. Clive did not mention it being the first single,
although it has already leaked to radio.
8. “Worth It”
Eric Hudson/Johnta Austin
Midtempo piano ballad. “I know somebody’s gonna make love to this song
tonight,” she coos. A great groove and the dark horse of the album.
9. “A Song for You”
Leon Russell/Harvey Mason Jr.
A cover of Leon Russell’s 1970 song. Starts off slow with a piano intro,
then speeds up towards the middle. Some of the audience got up and danced
when they heard this. An unexpected take on a classic.
Whitney Houston’s 7th studio album I Look to You arrives September 1.
24 JULY 2009