mardi 1 septembre 2009

Whitney Houston's come back and it is as if she's never gone...

Already time for another review guys and it's only been two days that I have this album but I can't wait more to entice you go and grab yourself a copy of it in musicstores anywhere...
This must-have CD is I look to you, the big comeback album by the forever one and only US diva Whitney Houston. Well, I know it may sounds too much, because her latest offerings, 1998 My love is your love and 2002 Just Whitney (I don't talk of the christmas CD One wish in 2003) were a little so-so, with so many collaborations but so NOT what miss Houston is : a mainstream singer, made to sing big ballads and soul/R&B inspired pop, not to record tuneless hiphop with top rappers of the current billboard charts. What songs will she be remembered for : Whatchulookinat, My love is your love ? Maybe Heartbreak hotel and It's not right but it's OK, but only by the kids... Only her duet with Mariah Carey, When you believe, was a great moment of the post-Bodyguard era...
What we needed was the return of the diva who sang Saving all my love for you, The greatest love of all, Where do broken hearts go, One moment in time, All the man that I need, I have nothing and the unforgettable I will always love you. The comeback of the Voice who could sing her heart out in joyful and dancing pop numbers like Love will save the day, I wanna dance with somebody (who loves me), So emotional, I'm your baby tonight, Queen of the night, I'm every woman, Step by step.
Clive Davis, the artistic director of the lady on all her first albums, knew all that. Her personal problems with drugs, the violence from her man Bobby Brown, nothing should have let her away from her fans a year more. This album is her redemption, her resurrection, the comeback to life for a great artist, rising up above the ashes of past years' bad times. Some will say her voice has lost some power, because of the drugs and, like it shows on the CD cover photograph, she's 43 now. But (nearly) all songs on I look to you, and there's only 11, sound like top material recorded by a top performer. All I have to say is "Go buy it !"

It starts with Million dollar bill and it sounds like a very retro disco/funk winner. Penned and co-produced by Alicia Keys, this first single (but not first title used for promotion) has a good organic rhythm and arrangements with a catchy chorus that will instantly makes you feel good, nod your head in rhythm and get your feet tapping. At 3:24, this old school pop winner is way too short : you want to push the Repeat button when it's finished. Nothin' but love
follows and this one is a collaboration between producers Fernando Garibay and Danja with help from Harvey Mason. It is a hand-clapping uptempo song with nice background vocals supporting the lady. Despite what usually works with Britney on Danja's productions, there is no sign of vocoderized vocals here but the track sounds very modern and club friendly. The tempo is calmed down a little with Call you tonight, a nice and pleasant mid-tempo summer popsong, with a great guitar arrangement all along and sing-a-long chorus. This Babyface inspired number is written and produced by StarGate and I can't help but think these norwegians may have lost one third of the team when they decided to relocate their studios in the US but their talent is still intact and their greater-by-each-day success is truly deserved.
A simple piano starts the R.Kelly song that gives its name to the album, I look to you
, and we're back when Whitney's singlehits were big anthemic ballads where her voice alone could take some lyrics and empower them into a torching song that made every lovers around the world watch the sundown hand in hand and kiss before the film "the end" credit appears. Is it too Cliché for you ? Not for me. Despite my love for dance/house, I'm a true romantic at heart and that kind of big ballad takes me away and have me singin' along for my neighbours' shame. Will it be a single or not ? Who cares ? Nowadays, singles are only promos for radios and with albums like that, nearly all songs are singles in our hearts (and iPods).
Next is the only song of the album that features a vocal contribution by another artist and it is Akon who gets this special treatment. Written and produced by him, this standout track, that was one of the first recorded and destined to be a single, says it all in its title : Like I never left
. And it's a sure hit. It's got a finger-snapping beat, an instantly memorable chorus, the trademark nasal vocals by Mr. "#1 hit" Akon and I even wonder why it hasn't been the first single. It is followed by the only cover version of the album, A song for you, originally by Leon Russell, and it all starts with an accoustic and somewhat jazzy piano intro. It sounds as if we were in an old smockey bar next to an old pianist doing his thing with closed eyes, with a classy lady singing next to him for the audience. But then it surprisingly changes, with a nearly housy beat and electro loops, into a full-on clubby vocal anthem. It is another StarGate production and it definitely is a winner in my heart !
Now is the time for I didn't know my own strength, the first song that was promoed to get prepared for the album's release. Especially penned for Whitney Houston, this classic Diane Warren ballad was one of the first recordings with David Foster on production duties. As if we were still in the golden years when the magic pair had half the Billboard's top ten in their hands. The lyrics are really moving because reflecting somehow Whitney's own bad times and I predict a single release. A dance remix has already leaked and, like for all Diane Warren anthemic ballads, it has becomed a fabulous club anthem, in the hands of Rafael Lelis. Worth it, co-written and produced by Eric Hudson, trendy producer (Mary J.Blige, Jesse McCartney, Brandy, Leona Lewis...) and son of one of Madonna's Holiday songwriter, is another old-school inspired mid-tempo with a hand-clapping beat that makes you want to sing along to it. At 4'45, it is the longest song out there and Whitney's voice sounds really inspired on it, making me think of Mariah Carey at her best, sometimes. Strangely enough, its chorus sees Whitney going "This is for the lovers... this is for you" when the following track's name is For the lovers. So track #9 already is another Danja production and at its first notes, it makes me think of a Michael Jackson song, with a syncopated beat pulsating all through the song. When the chorus comes, it sounds all the more uplifting but I should confess this one really sounds modern in the electro/R&B trendy way that nowadays american girls want to sound (think Rihanna, Lady Gaga, etc) but it suits the 46 year old lady with ease, and there's single potential for sure with this one.
Next is the other Akon song/production and I got you
starts with flashing synthé sounds before the chant begins. A spanish accoustic guitar stays in the sonic background while Whitney Houston tries to give life to this really flat mid-tempo. Wasn't there something better recorded in the studios to just include this second Akon song inside the 11 tracks CD ? That makes me wonder why the album is so short. By current standards, it should have featured a couple more songs at least, but I know it wouldn't have been the guarantee for more quality. With Salute, it's already time to close this album and it's a pleasant mid-tempo written (and produced this time) by R.Kelly. I especially like the "salute" word closing the chorus and the nice work done on the background vocals but let me say the two last songs on the album don't do justice to the rest of it. There is something missing to finish it in a grande finale ; there's not even a hidden track or something to cheer it up a little after the last two more depressing than joyful rhythms... But we still have got the perfect 9 first tracks to be replayed if you use the Repeat button so what are you waiting for ? ...Repeat.

04/09/09 Edit : I've just discovered Million dollar bill is being promoed with ...a Freemasons remix : I just can't wait to see it get a full release !

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