Album Preview: Whitney Houston – ‘I Look to You’

Whitney Houston

“The Wait Is Over…” read the monitors inside the ballroom at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills on Thursday (July 23). Whitney Houston heralded her return to music with the last of three ritzy listening sessions for her first studio album in seven years, I Look to You. was inside and has a play by play of the evening’s events, including our impressions of the nine previewed tracks.

The stars turned out in droves including Halle Berry, Jane Fonda, Stevie Wonder (who arrived fashionably late), Magic Johnson, Jackie Collins, Barry Manilow, Brett Ratner, Beverly Johnson, Diane Warren, Penny Marshall, Brian McKnight, David Foster, and Garcelle Beauvais. Phones and cameras were prohibited, although many disregarded the restriction.

Clive Davis introduced the album and played a video montage highlighting his protégé’s impressive achievements. The music mogul spoke about the 19-year-old girl he molded into one of the most successful artists of all time, selling 170 million albums, singles, and videos worldwide. He joked about how “American Idol” contestants get flak for attempting to cover Whitney songs because only the originator can do them justice. Whitney asked Clive if she should start writing her own songs, but he told her to only do so if she felt she could deliver something stellar. He then began playing each of the nine songs, starting with “Million Dollar Bill.”

During the last song, a cover of Leon Russell’s “A Song for You,” the 45-year-old singer walked on stage to a standing ovation and roaring cheers, wearing a black cocktail dress. She looked happy and healthy. “I am so humbled and so thankful for you all for coming. There is so much love in the room and I thank you and I feel it,” she told the crowd.

She hugged Stevie Wonder (“How much I love that man, I can’t even tell you”) and acknowledged the other celebrities in attendance including her close friend Halle Berry (“How’s the baby?”), Jane Fonda (“I almost croaked. Jane Fonda at my listening party?!”), Beverly Johnson (“Baby, you are America’s Top Model”), R. Kelly (“One of the best singer-songwriters in the industry”), Diane Warren (who she impersonated), and David Foster.

“It took me three-and-a-half years,” she said about the recording process. “I took my time.” Clive and Whitney worked closely together on the project. “I’m back home where I belong,” she said looking at Clive, before joking that he parties like a rock star. She recalled when Clive once told her, “You’re just impossible!” After seeing plaques from legends like Mick Jagger and Janis Joplin on his office walls, she asked, “I’m the impossible one?” Everyone laughed.

The new album is contemporary, but you can expect to hear the same Whitney Houston you’ve come to know and love. The empowering songs have a feel-good vibe, complemented by Whitney’s strong vocals (in fine form) and memorable melodies courtesy of today’s top producers and songwriters such as Alicia Keys, Swizz Beatz, Akon, R. Kelly, Danja, Eric Hudson, Diane Warren, David Foster, Claude Kelly, and Tricky Stewart. The music feels natural and not trying to pander to what’s hot at the moment.

Whitney exited the stage just as she entered, to a standing ovation and thunderous applause. “God bless you. I love you. Peace!”

Below are the nine tracks we heard. They are unfinished versions in many cases, according to Clive.

1. “Million Dollar Bill”
Swizz Beatz/Alicia Keys

As we first reported here, Swizz Beatz produced this track. Alicia Keys wrote it after personally asking Clive to write for Whitney’s album. The song doesn’t have a typical Swizz sound and feels more old-school R&B. It puts you in a good mood, but don’t let the title fool you. This is not an attempt at being a hip-hop club banger. It was the favorite for many. No doubt this will become a single.

2. “Nothin’ But Love”

Uptempo, danceable, hand-clapping beat. Whitney’s vocals are on prominent display as she belts out several long runs. Urban radio will eat this up.

3. “Call You Tonight”
Stargate/Johnta Austin

This was a contender for the lead single. It features a guitar riff common in Stargate productions (“With You” and “Irreplaceable”). “I wish that I could stay, but I gotta go/ Let me call you tonight, just as soon as I get home,” she sings.

4. “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength”
David Foster/Diane Warren

A version of this previously leaked to the Internet. Clive likened the power ballad to “I Will Always Love You.” It was recorded after her separation from Bobby Brown and tells of triumph in the face of diversity. Clive told Diane Warren, “You’ve written one of your great copyrights.”

5. “Like I Never Left” feat. Akon
Akon/Claude Kelly

Another track that leaked last year. The version that was played sounded more complete with added bass. Clive said Whitney wanted an island song, so they reached out to Akon. Clive started to dance to this one, which was pretty entertaining in itself. We didn’t love this when we first heard it, but it has grown on us considerably.

6. “Salute”
R. Kelly

Militaristic, marching beat. R. Kelly also has his vocals featured (“Eh eh eh”). One of our personal faves. “I’m a soldier girl/ In this world/ I stand alone/ I can be strong/ I walked the lines/ I made it home/ It’s good to know without you I made it.” Whitney even throws in an LL Cool J reference: “Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years.”

7. “I Look to You”
R. Kelly/Tricky Stewart/Harvey Mason Jr.

Powerful piano ballad that sums up the album. “When all my strength is gone, I look to you,” she sings. “This song says all I wanted to say,” explains Whitney of the title track, which is also the first single.

8. “Worth It”
Eric Hudson/Johnta Austin

Midtempo piano ballad. “I know somebody’s gonna make love to this song tonight,” she coos. A great groove and the dark horse of the album.

9. “A Song for You”
Leon Russell/Harvey Mason Jr.

A cover of Leon Russell’s 1970 song. Starts off slow with a piano intro, then speeds up towards the middle. Some of the audience got up and danced when they heard this. An unexpected take on a classic.

Whitney Houston’s 7th studio album I Look to You arrives September 1.

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  1. FYI

    “I Didn’t Know My Own Stregnth” is not a power ballad, it’s just a ballad.


  2. IndyMusicMogul

    The anticipation is killing me… Welcome back Whitney!


  3. IndyMusicMogul

    I believe “I didn’t Know My Own Strength” will be a power ballad on the final cut with added vocals and instrumentation. We have been hearing unfinished music intentionally.


  4. Michael

    The TRUE “Power Ballads” occured way back in the ’80s and early ’90s and had no trace of hip-hop at all, and even rock bands used them a lot. Today’s ballads on AC radio are more staid and boring. I’m afraid while Whitney Houston is a good role model and it will sell better than Mariah’s new album, I just heard Madonna’s new single Celebration, and it is a lot more fun to feel to, and given that Madonna had a Diamond-selling compilation album earlier in her career, this new album (released 4 weeks after Whitney’s album) may be the biggest seller of the year with the possible exception of a Michael Jackson album.


  5. cejay

    fuk yu whitney is gonna sell highest albulm than your bitche mariah,no talent madonna and dead mj


  6. IndyMusicMogul

    (Michael) The above comments refer to power ballads and you bring up Madonna… who has no track record with any such thing. If you want to talk naughty dance tracks, Madonna has made her mark there, but please do not suggest Madonna as an alternative to a Whitney Houston ballad.


  7. gee man

    Sounds very promising. But I heard I look to you though an improvement vocally in recent years for Ms. Houston. I can”t say I am truly. Sold on what I have heard so far. One more thing stop comparing Whitney to everyone else. Everyone is in their own lane.


  8. drtash

    OMG SHE LOOKS AMAZING!!!I’M SOOO EXCITED! CAN’T WAIT!!!THE DIVA OF ALL DIVAS IS BACK!!! I’m sooo excited you have no idea.


  9. bob

    I LOVE YOU Whitney!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  10. Krystal

    I will be the first to say, thank you Rap-Up for providing such a thorough write up


  11. terrence

    So glad to see that Whitney is back doing what she loves to do.It’s always a wonderful thing to see one of your favorite artists make a comeback and she is my #1 girl of all times.


  12. brandy and kelly stan

    ppl need to stop comparing i look to you to mariah’s current project.. Mariah just released a CD last year and its no hype surrounding her project not to mention she already had her comeback.. If you are going to compare I look to you to any album compare it to The emancipation of mimi.. That’s its rival!!!

    Mariah will sell just fine… like she always does..


  13. tina

    I love, I Look to you. I get chills when i listen to it. I will be first in line at the store to cop this album. Can’t wait to hear ‘I song for you’, ‘million dollar bill’ and Kells’ salute.

    Welcome back ms. Houston. Do the Damn thing! YOur voice is a national treaure whatever era you are singing in.


  14. m

    I’m so excited to have whitney back and love what i’ve heard……am I the only one who thinks that her album cover is a bit MEH? Patrick…you could have done better. It’s just not my favorite…(but the again most of her covers sucked)


  15. kapyophi

    Well, I have read many reviews on various boards and I was glad to see that Rap Up had pretty much a consistent view as well. Its gonna be a great cd!
    Whitney is well on her way back to the top.
    I think its us, the fans, that always try to make up some kind of rilvary between these talented women. like some one said, each is unique in their own right. Mariah & Whitney have already proven there are NO hard feeling or dislike between them.I have never seen Madonna say anything negative about Whitney. So how about we follow the same road.
    No matter who we are a fan of, lets appreciate them for their talent and making us happy and giving us great music. Enjoy them while they are here and leave it at that.
    Much success to each and everyone of them on efforts this year!


  16. Real

    Stop hating who told you I didn’t know my own strength isn’t a power ballad STOP LYING TO YOUR SELF FYI!!!It brings a message that we been needing for a long time!!! It’s better than listening to how obsessed a fan is of you THANKS MUCH


  17. KEVIN

    whitney has 5 octaves…madonna 1..if you like madonna go to her page….i look to u is major…also a song 4 u …power…she aint never left…no one has the same power in their voice as 10 years ago


  18. BeBe

    It is so great to see Whitney looking wonderful, and seeing the positive response to the upcoming album. From what I hear Million Dollar Bill is to be the first single, not I Look To You. I think she should for sure come first with a single that will get tons of radio and club play to cement her presence back on the scene.


  19. Nicholas

    Whitney is truly wonderful, I hope the album is good. MC is good too, but getting a bit stale and same old right about now.


  20. telliotti

    Thank God!!Whitney is always in the arms of her loving father and he will never let her go. Sing your heart out, girl. God loves you. Your blessed


  21. rustic pear

    Im soo excited about our Whitney resurfacing after such along time away from the spotlight where she has always needed to be… She is truly the grande dame of pop and rb music… i love her new song and cant wait to listen to her new music over and over again…


  22. Whitney Houston Pushes Album Up | This is RnB - Hot Music News, Latest R&B Videos, Hip Hop Charts

    [...] The album’s tracklisting is below, per Arista Records. Preview nine tracks here. [...]

  23. agustinus panurian

    oooooo my GOD, she’s back! with all her power, talent, her golden voice, new life, new heart, new deeper interpretation, and new LOVE to all her fans …. at this position ….u r untouchable … really queen, really THE VOICE …. Love u sis, we always know u back finally just for us, TQ TQ TQ.


  24. tj

    It will be a hit for sure. Once a superstar DIVA always a superstar DIVA. Go Whitney go whitney go whitney





  26. Sharlene MacLaren

    I will never get enough of “I Look to You”. I bawled my eyes out at the computer upon first hearing it. Wow…Yes! God has truly given her the strength to get through her recent battles, and it rings clear and true in this song.

    Thank you for coming back to us, Whitney. The world needs you NOW–not after you’ve left this earth.

    WE ALL LOVE YOU!!!!!


  27. WhitneyGreatest

    whitney is simply the best and to me better then all the rest!! welcome back ms houston!!


  28. Whitney Houston is BACK!!!!!! zSHARE – Million Dollar Bill.mp3 «

    [...] Whitney Houston the “Million Dollar” treatment on the much-anticipated track from her new album I Look to You. Whitney hit the jackpot with this one. [...]

  29. johnny

    Million Dollar Bill rocks.
    It will be no 1 hit


  30. Charles

    I wasn’t too impressed with the song, it seems like she lost something in her voice with all she has been through. Then again, maybe it was the the online sample I heard. I wish her luck. I’m looking for Leona Lewis’s sophomore album.


  31. marc from france.parıs

    ı look to you ıs wonderful son and whıtney deserves a successful comeback.hope she wıll sell mıllıons of copıes and go on workıng then.


  32. || Whitney Houston Has Grammy in Her Future

    [...] seventh studio album I Look to You, due Monday, is receiving high marks from critics including the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and [...]

  33. Phie

    Welcome back Ms Houston, i love u so much. I cant wait to hear yo new songs.


  34. turban


    [...] || Album Preview: Whitney Houston – ‘I Look to You’[...]…

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