Saturday, May 1, 2010

Crack is wack, but Whitney's Back!!

Queen of the Night, the "Voice," Nippy...Whitney has had many names over the years, and you can add "Comeback Queen" to that list.

Its been nearly seven years since Houston released the underrated, floptastic Just Whitney, and while this decade has Whitney more known for her tabloid stories than her music, what Whitney is, was, and always will be known for is her voice and her music. I Look To You took about three years to make, and for those wondering if Whitney's still got it; let's just say she still makes Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera look like Jessica Simpson.

Think of I Look To You's first single, " Million Dollar Bill" like quicksand; it pulls you in and does not let go. Don't worry though, the sultry grooves and feel-good vibes make it a funky ride down. Add in the familiar sweet voice of Houston and you have a soon-to-be-classic that joins the ranks of, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and "I'm Every Woman." It wouldn't be a Whitney album without the ballads. Though, like Just Whitney, the album doesn't have many, but it does have just enough to make the fans happy.

The albums' two pop-ballads "I Turn to You" and "I Didn't Know My Own Strength" both bring the listener into Houston's secret world of pain and triumph. While the ballads aren't bland, they aren't the next "I Will Always Love You" or "Saving All My Love For You." The two songs tend to slide into the sappy side, making them more comparable to "Run to You" or "Where Do Broken Hearts Go?" "I Didn't Know My Own Strength," has so far become the only track remixed for the clubs, yet both Peter Rauhofer and Daddy's Groove mixes have put Houston back in the clubs to remind people what a true dance diva sounds like, and it sure as hell is NOT Lady Gaga.

Her cover of Leon Russel's "A Song For You," proves to be one of the albums' standout tracks The dramatic track has one of Houston's finest vocal performances ever. She ranges from gritty to soulful to powerful in the half-ballad/half-disco track. While some may feel the trance mix during the second half of the track ruins any intended emotional feeling of the song, others may feel that the mix enhances the song. One thing is for sure, Whitney turns the song into something that neither Cher nor Karen Carpenter did.

Easy-breezy Whitney chills out on tracks like "Like I Never Left," which has a nice mellow tune that reminds one of Whitney's early smooth-jazz track "I Belong To You," but becomes a skipable track once the inclusion of Akon's flat, lifeless vocals come into play. Perhaps there is a Akon-less version out there? Needless to say, their other collaboration, the filler-track "I Got You," proves to be even more worthy of the "skip" button. Final say on her working with Akon? I'll take a cue from Houston and say, "it's not right, but it's okay." On that note, "Nothin' But Love" and "For the Lovers," while sweet little ditties, are more forgettable than anything else.

Aside from "Million Dollar Bill," two songs bound to become classics are the R. Kelly produced "Salute" and Stargate produced "Call You Tonight." While "Salute" is a classy, laid-back stab at an ex which says exactly what we always wanted Whitney to say to Bobby Brown: "It took me all of these years, to realize that you don't belong here. I can do better." "Call You Tonight" with its mix, Whitney's yearning vocals and the midnight-feeling to the production, perfectly capture the feeling one gets looking up at the moon, wishing they could be with the one they love.

While the music samples from the sounds of Mariah Carey, Beyonce and other R&B divas, one thing is for sure; Whitney shows both Beyonce and Mariah how to take average R&B material and bring it to life.

Where as Beyonce's I Am..Sasha Fierce gave us a taste of banality, and E=MC2 became Mariah's formulaic mess, I Look to You rises above that trap. None of the songs on I Look to You have the legendary sound of "I Will Always Love You" or the sassy, fierceness of "Queen of the Night," but that's not what the record is about. I Look to You is simply a collection of well-crafted songs sung with soul and personality by one of the greatest vocalists of our time. Long time fans will love the inclusion of ballads, dance tracks, and soul tracks. New fans will discover a voice than moved hundreds of millions over the years that still remains in tact. If you're looking for some tasty R&B mixed in with heavenly soul, catchy-pop, dance grooves, and more? Look no further than I Look To You.

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