Whitney Houston Takes Back The Microphone

noah | August 31, 2009 10:00 am

Our look at the closing lines of the week’s biggest new-music reviews continues with a roundup of reactions to I Look To You, superdiva Whitney Houston’s first studio album since 2002: • “For danceable tracks, the album draws on other current hit makers, including Fernando Garibay, Stargate and Nathaniel Hills (a k a Danja). And Ms. Houston collaborates with the producer and singer Akon on midtempo songs promising reconciliation — with a man, but also, perhaps, with the audience that now listens to Beyoncé, Keyshia Cole, Rihanna and Ledisi. At times, in the wistfully insinuating ‘Like I Never Left,’ her voice is nearly indistinguishable from Akon’s computer-tuned croon. She’s tentatively climbing back into the pop machinery, no longer invincible but showing a diva’s determination.” [Jon Pareles, New York Times] • “But should we begrudge the fact that Whitney Houston now has to work at singing? It’s all to her credit. What’s hard to give up is the dream of painless perfection that the young Houston represented, back in the yuppie era, when her voice sounded like the easy money that was flowing everywhere. Of course, that didn’t turn out so well for anyone else, either. Though I Look to You doesn’t soar like the old days, it’s fine to hear Houston working on her own recovery plan.” [Ann Powers, Los Angeles Times] • “Step back from the competent but hardly inspiring quality of most of this material, and another theme emerges: that Houston is making music again at all is something of a small victory. Sure, she rides the production because her voice isn’t what it used to be. But then neither is the music industry that she once ruled.” [Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune] • ” It would have helped if, in the new lyrics, Houston admitted more of the pain she must gone through during her awful time away. But I Look To You isn’t about making admissions or allowing vulnerability. It’s about declaring endurance and asserting strength: emotions that stir us but don’t bring us close. In the final number, ‘Salute,’ Houston won’t even admit she’s making a comeback at all, instead stooping to quote L.L. Cool J’s classic line, by insisting she’s ‘been here for years.’ She hasn’t been anything of the kind, of course, And until Houston can own up to that — both in her lyrics and, more importantly, in her delivery — she won’t find a way to give her current self the new power it deserves.” [Jim Farber, New York Daily News]Stream I Look To You [WhitneyHouston.com]