dispatches from the pop scene...minus the corn syrup.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Hands-Down Classiest Review You'll Read Of Whitney Houston's 'I Look To You'

First off, don't ask me how I got invited to the L.A. listening party at the Beverly Hilton for Whitney Houston's upcoming album, I Look To You. It was a super-classy affair, emceed by Clive Davis and boasting Halle Berry, Jane Fonda, Magic Johnson, Diane Warren and Stevie Wonder in the audience—and me, hair dissheveled, wearing jeans and, truthfully, not exactly Whitney's biggest fan.

But, I showed up nonetheless, expecting a trashy set of cougar ballads and subpar dirges that would pale in comparison to those from Whit's Bodyguard peak era. Thankfully, I was wrong...for the most part.

Clive introduced each song with an anecdote or back story, and cautioned that we'd only hear nine of the album's ten tracks because the record was still being worked on. At the very end, Whitney herself came on stage and rattled off a bunch of thank-yous to various songwriters and people no one has ever heard of.

Comically, Clive would sit down while each track played, but you could still see the old broad behind the podium, bobbing his head up and down and doing a little shimmy-twirl. At one point, he looked like a giddy old lap dancer, sliding up and down the stripper pole.

But enough about that sly old minx—here are some notes I scribbled about I Look To You's nine songs that we were played, followed by a rating. (The album is released September 1.)

1. "Million Dollar Bill" (written + produced by Alicia Keys and Swizz Beats) Things get kicked off with a surprising thumping of beats and bass. This uptempo pop/R&B jam has "single" written all over it, and if this were 1992, it'd be #1 for weeks. But it's been a long time for Whitney, and radio might need a bit of coaxing. (3/5)

2. "Nothing But Love" (produced by Danja + Fernando Garibay) One of the album's three highlights. It's dancey, spacey and chockful of electro squiggles. So this is what a Danja track can sound like with a decent singer! (Uh, no offence, Britney.) (4/5)

3. "Call You Tonight" (written by Johnta Austin + Stargate, produced by Stargate) Midtempo toe-tapper that's more refreshing than Ne-Yo—who Stargate frequently collaborate with—because it obviously has a masterful feminine touch with the vocals. Well, more feminine than Ne-Yo usually offers up, at least. (3/5)

4. "I Didn't Know My Own Strength" (written by Diane Warren, produced by David Foster) There's something totally missing from this by-the-numbers ballad—like someone under 2,000 years old writing and producing it. That said, if there's a world tragedy, God forbid, expect this to no doubt become the theme song for it (a la Enrique Iglesias' "Hero" ). Overall, pretty weak choice for Whitney's comeback single. I'd have gone with one of the more upbeat numbers, but I'm no Clive Davis. (2/5)

5. "Like I Never Left" (written by Claude Kelly + Akon, produced by Akon) Love the pop-infused chord progression in this duet with Akon! If Stock Aitken Waterman were still making music together today, they'd hopefully be crafting songs like this. Generally, it's a bit twee, but when Akon gets it right, he gets it so, so right. (4/5)

6. "Salute" (written + produced by R. Kelly) Pretty dull ballad with an okay bassline. Totally knocks off the beat from Jordin Sparks' "Tattoo," which itself was pretty derivative. (2/5)

7. "I Look To You" (written by R. Kelly, produced by Tricky Stewart + Harvey Mason, Jr.) Another bland R. Kelly downer. This is where I got up to take a piss. (2/5)

8. "Worth It" (written by Johnta Austin, produced by Eric Hudson) You might find yourself checking your ears to make sure you're not actually hearing Mariah Carey on this cheesy track, which sounds exactly like "Touch My Body." With its "This is for the lovers holding hands in the car" refrain, it also conjures up the opening of Mimi's "Bye Bye" ("This is for my people who have lost somebody...") (3/5)

9. "A Song For You" (Leon Russell cover) Starts off like a piano ballad but soon ignites into a four-on-the-floor dance jam. High marks for strangely sounding reminiscent of Steps' "You'll Be Sorry"! (4/5)

FINAL NOTE: I zipped out of there as Whitney was air-kissing the audience, and ended up two feet behind Barry Manilow while walking through the lobby. That old bat's wig was highlighted and flat-ironed so much, he looked like a hot pink Troll doll.

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  • At 10:42 AM, Anonymous shel said…

    Hot pink troll doll... Ginch! I love you so.

  • At 10:52 AM, Blogger Phil said…

    I was introduced to Barry once. He was like a puppet. I kept expecting to see strings. And the thickest make-up I ever saw up close. I breathed in a lungful of Max Factor and choked a "Hello"...

  • At 11:45 AM, Blogger Mike said…

    Sounds incredibly classy! I have a soft spot for Whitney and I'm hoping this album is a return to form. At least it's not the set of mid-tempo ballads I was expecting.

  • At 11:51 AM, Blogger Paul said…

    i'm officially excited about this album now. Hurrah etc. Sounds absolutely what i expected - part ace, part mediocre, but i'll take what i can get!!

  • At 11:56 AM, Blogger Joshua said…

    I'm shocked you weren't more excited to see a diva like Whitney up close and personal! How lucky for you!!!

  • At 12:45 PM, Blogger hun*ter said…

    Dude, that was awesome! Thanks for sharing.

  • At 10:00 PM, Blogger JimmyD said…

    What? You didn't take a pic of Barry?!

  • At 10:14 PM, Anonymous shanaynay lachild said…

    that post warmed the cockles of my ghetto hart. I use da have a relative just like Clive - my Auntie LeRoy. Child, I miss her! U gotz 2 luv clive.

    did he invite wendy williams? i'd like to see thems fireworks on stage, ooooh child!

  • At 9:21 PM, Anonymous oPaul said…

    So you thought her voice sounded good? Or at least better than Britney's, which, well we all know what faint praise that is...

    That title "I Look to You" is so awkward. It sounds like the wonderful Xtina's tune from the olden days "I Turn to You".

    I would never say anything bad about Barry Manilow. Just couldn't. Love him.

  • At 11:12 AM, Blogger will said…

    amazingness! love love love. u should give "i look to you" another go. it's lovely.

    and yes, i'm pretty sure they were thinking "Steps" all the way when they were arranging "A Song for You"... WTF?? hahaha :p

    thanks for sharing!!

  • At 3:08 PM, Anonymous oPaul said…

    Poor Barry. He probably didn't even want to be at that shindig in the first place. I bet he's Team Bobby.


  • At 4:01 AM, Blogger David Minogue said…

    You lucky fecker!

  • At 11:42 AM, Blogger Adem With An E said…

    Thank God it's not all ballads. I was bloody worried, that Diane W track is bloody awful.

    Your review has reignited excitement for the comeback, so thank you, as I had lost hope.

    Hot Pink Troll Doll. HA.


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