It's tempting to wonder whether super-producer Clive Davis, in another of his music-biz machinations, arranged for Whitney Houston to whiff last week on Good Morning America, which is reported to have altered Houston's vocals for broadcast after she sounded hoarse during her Central Park mini-concert. After all, the resultant on-line outcry slots right into the embattled-diva comeback narrative Davis has built around I Look to You, Houston's first album since 2002.
If people were beginning to forget about Bobby Brown and crack cocaine, then Houston needed something new to push back against. As it happens, the best parts of I Look to You don't require any context. Opener "Million Dollar Bill" is a delirious disco-soul jam from the desk of Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz; it probably cost Davis a million-dollar bill of his own, but it was almost worth it.
And Houston's version of Leon Russell's American Idol staple "A Song for You" works up to a deliciously cheesy club-pop climax. Still, with a pair of "I Believe I Can Fly"–style contributions from R. Kelly and a blustery Diane Warren ballad called "I Didn't Know My Own Strength," there's no denying the message that I Look to You was designed to hammer home. Expect fresh drama soon.