I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t rooting for Whitney Houston’s comeback album to be packed with the kinds of undeniable power ballads (and saucy midtempo jams) that would return her to the top of the charts and introduce children of a certain age — those born, say, after 1992’s The Bodyguard soundtrack — to her legendary voice. Sure, I’m the person who drew the short straw and had to recap Being Bobby Brown for EW.com, but that multi-week journey to hell (to the no) wasn’t nearly enough to make me forget Houston’s contributions to the pop-music universe. Without her, there’d be no “Saving All My Love for You,” no “So Emotional,” no “Heartbreak Hotel,” no dance remix of “It’s Not Right (But It’s Okay).” Nor would American Idol have a longstanding tradition of contestants doing unfortunate things to an innocent ballad called “I Have Nothing.”
And that’s why it makes me sad to report that “I Look to You,” the title track from Houston’s forthcoming CD — which you’ll find streaming and available for free download at WhitneyHouston.com — has the same lack of discernible hook and same trite “overcome the obstacles” lyrics as recently leaked “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength,” without any of the raw emotional edge of the latter song. I mean, I’m okay with a subdued Whitney vocal, but this track borders on somnambulent. Take that flurry of dated, Casio-esque strings that kick in at the 3:08 mark, as Whitney implores, “take me far away from the battle/ I need you to shine on me.” It sounds like the song is building toward something big, that the waves are (finally) about to crash up against the rocks in fine, dramatic fashion, but then, all you get is a little ripple. The general lack of hook, combined with the funeral-dirge tempo, utterly disinterested backing vocals, and weird flights of lyrical fancy (Whitney riffs that “walls are coming down on me” like it’s a good thing! ouch!) and, well, I’m ready to skip past “I Look to You”* and hope that the rest of Houston’s disc (due Aug. 31) contains something more memorable and radio-worthy.
What do you think of “I Look to You” (which, I neglected to mention before now, was written by R. Kelly)? Should it be a contender for the lead single? (Her label rep says that title is still undecided.) Share your thoughts — and when you do, be sure to make mention if you’re a Whitney loyalist — in the comments section below!
*Additional points subtracted for similar title/theme to Christina Aguilera’s heinous “I Turn to You.”