Waiting To Exhale Soundtrack
Sweet and Sour Whitney hide
WHITNEY HOUSTON, others
'Waiting to Exhale'
WHITNEY HOUSTON sets an amazing mood with her music: candlelight, fireplace, maybe a bottle of wine, lots of kissing. Then, too often, she screams in your ear.
But bless Houston for singing just two and a half songs on this 16-song sound track to the movie, "Waiting to Exhale." The first track, "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)," suffers from the problem that makes Houston an incredible talent but rarely a great singer. She tries to fill in every space of the song, leaping from whispery breathing to forceful growling.
"Exhale," the album's first single, is irresistibly catchy and a sure hit. It's also irritating, what with all the electronic Christmas bells in the background and the repetitive "shoop de shoop" chorus (it doesn't help that Houston ad libs "shoo-PAY" while this is going on).
"Why Does It Hurt So Bad" is the better of the Houston tracks (excluding her closing duet with CeCe Winans, which amounts to a shouting contest). It's lower-key and the singer, who also stars in the film, doesn't feel compelled to perform constant vocal feats.
The rest of "Waiting to Exhale" is refreshing. Producer Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds, who co-writes all the tracks except Chaka Khan's wonderful take on the Rodgers-Hart classic, "My Funny Valentine," rescues the cozy mood after Houston finishes with it. Much of the album shimmers with a slow-dancing sensuality.
TLC's "This Is How It Works" is a part-rapped, part-sung set of instructions for men on how to perform in bed: lots of double entendres and a few relevent dirty words. A few songs, including SWV's "All Night Long" and Faith Evans' repetitive "Kissing You," smack of filler. But thanks to Babyface, who knows when to back off and (usually) when to add the bells and whistles, the soundtrack is surprisingly consistent.
Toni Braxton comes off like a crooning Tracy Chapman, which is a good thing; funky electro-bass props up Brandy's "Sittin' Up In My Room"; Mary J. Blige's "Not Gon' Cry" has a desperate growl.
The most confounding track on this collection is Aretha Franklin's "It Hurts Like Hell." The legendary soul diva ought to act like she owns this disc. But instead of simply singing, she mimics Houston's yanking on the vocal chords, making you wonder who's imitating whom.