I Look To You
Nevermind The Voice... hide
... it's the new-found attitude that's reviving Whitney's career
The press release ahead of Whitney Houston's run of UK shows takes the unusual step of dealing directly with the negative publicity the star has received over her first tour in 11 years. 'Those saying Houston should not be on tour are misguided,' says one Australian newspaper, apparently. Another review is quoted as stating, 'When she sang the epic note in I Will Always Love You, it was spot on.'
You can't imagine there was any such defensiveness at the end of the Nineties. Then, Houston was at the height of her fame as 'The Voice.' Her album My Love Is Your Love, produced by Wyclef Jean and Missy Elliot, had successfully updated her sound for the hip-hop and RnB scene, the European tour of the same name was the highest grosser of 1999, and she lorded it over Elton John, Tina Turner and Mary J. Blige on the VH1 Divas show.
However, a decade of inactivity and drug abuse seems to have diminished the vocal prowess of the uber diva, who arguably spawned a generation of power warblers, from Mariah Carey to Leona Lewis. Going on the evidence of last year's comeback album I Look to You, the 46-year-old's singing is certainly lower, grittier and less supple than it was in her prime. But it also demonstrates that Houston's career, unlike some of the younger singers who followed in her wake, has been built on more than just being a voice. The leggy teenager from New Jersey managed to break the glass ceiling for female black singers in the Eighties as much for her dazzling confidence, covergirl looks and joie de vivre as for her top notes.
Perhaps the changes in her voice, and status, will be a blessing in disguise, encouraging Houston to experiment with her music a little more rather than relying on juggernaut ballads.
Encouragingly, the new single Nothin' But Love, an urban update on her gospel roots, is built less on Houston's voice than her attitude, a thrilling mix of sweet humility and iron-willed defiance. It's a joyous song that will get her arena audiences up and dancing, celebrating Houston's talent rather than mourning its loss.
Whitney Houston tours the UK from Thursday to April 28; www.whitneyhouston.com