Judging from the early reviews, opinions about Whitney Houston's much-hyped comeback album are largely driven by the listener's expectations. If you're hoping that her voice still sounds like the fine-tuned wonder of nature it once was, you'll be disappointed. However, while she may sound a bit raspy here and there, and she can't hit the same notes she once danced around, in many ways her newfound restraint suits a woman at this stage in her life, and the rough edges lend a sense of vulnerability to the glossy R&B production.
Pop stardom has ?its privileges. Unlike schoolteachers and tax accountants,? creative types with personal demons are often able to take what doesn’t kill them and emerge not only stronger, but with a new sort of depth and pathos — and often, a wider audience for the pain they turn into art. I Look to You, Whitney Houston’s first ? album in seven years, doesn’t pretend to ? offer the unblemished 21-year-old we met on her smash 1985 debut, but it never ?truly lets listeners inside the heart and head of the woman she is today.
It's only been seven years between Just Whitney and 2009's I Look to You, not even Houston's longest time between albums, but it feels much, much longer, her glory days obscured in hazy memories of lost luster chiefly deriving from a bad marriage with Bobby Brown, chronicled in an embarrassing reality show for Bravo in 2004. I Look to You attempts to wash this all away with something of a return to roots -- a celebration of Houston's deep disco beginnings, tempered with a few skyscraping ballads designed to showcase her soaring voice. Houston's rocky decade isn't ignored, but it isn't explored, either: songs allude to Whitney's strength, her willpower as a survivor struggling through some unnamed struggle -- enough for listeners to fill in the blanks, either with their own experience or their imaginings of Houston's life.
The last time we heard from Whitney Houston, on 2002's Just Whitney, she was furiously denying there was anything up with her. Seven years and a visit to rehab later, the ravages are clear. Her vocals are rougher, although that isn't always a problem, particularly if you found the kind of ballad in which her voice battered you like a gale-force wind difficult to stomach.
WHITNEY HOUSTON“I Look to You”(Arista) Without adversity, a diva is just a singer. It’s the back story, the tale of struggle and tenacity, that draws audiences to read more than musicianship into her performances. The singer touches on something personal so the listener can feel like a witness, a confidant, a judge, a voyeur, or perhaps all at once.