Here’s a selection of 6 of the 11 tracks set to appear on Whitney’s forthcoming comeback album, which will be released via Arista Records on August 31st.
First is the cancelled first single “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength”, which was recently made available for free download on Whitney’s official website. Penned exclusively for Whitney by common collaborator Diane Warren and produced by the infamous David Foster, its a pretty typical quiet storm ballad. I’ve never been a fan of these sort of cheesy Warren ballads unless they were particularly well executed like Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart” or Whitney’s own “I Learned From The Best” and this one isn’t particularly amazing but its not awful and I can see it was definitely necessary in Clive Davis’ vision of returning Whitney to her former sound.
The R. Kelly-penned title track “I Look To You” has been one of my most anticipated tracks since we heard his own rendition on YouTube quite a while back and Whitney definitely doesn’t disappoint with her version. Although its not amazing production wise, its Whitney’s delivery that is the feature here. This is more the quality of quiet storm ballad I wanted to hear from a Whitney comeback and I hope Kelly delivers more of this sort of ballad for his own albums in future as this style of track (see “I Believe I Can Fly” “If I Could Turn Back The Hands Of Time”) also made him big in his own heyday.
“Like I Never Left” leaked quite a while back and was the first taste of the new album we got to hear but I thought I would include it as it has still made the final tracklist despite failing to become the first single as it was originally intended to be. The track was penned by genius Claude Kelly, who also has 2 other tracks placed on the album and produced by Akon, who I hope has his annoying vocals removed on the album version of this track! The track is another quiet storm ballad with a modern R&B edge and has a double-entendre concept of Whitney returning to her lover and the music-buying public.
Official first single “Million Dollar Bill” is probably my favourite track from the album up to now, I just knew my girl Alicia Keys wouldn’t disappoint with her writing and Swizz Beatz, who I often find myself in a love-hate relationship with, also delivers with the old school R&B-inspired production. I knew from that banging intro of heavy bass, thumping drums and Whitney’s brash “Ohhs” I was gonna love this. As opposed to the non-descript quiet storm anthems I thought this album would be weighed down by, the track is a welcome classic celebratory R&B love song. I hope this does well for Whitney because its completely different to anything at radio right now and is a gorgeous throwback track.
R. Kelly’s second track on the album “Salute” isn’t as anthemic and driving as I expected with its muted, piano-led production but the lyrics are definitely following suit from “I Look To You” and “Didn’t Know My Own Strength” in their defiant, self-glorifying subject matter. I think Whitney will definitely make this track a lot more listenable.
“Call You Tonight” contains StarGate’s usual soft 808 and handclaps of their slow jams with a sample, this time a whirling distorted sound. Although Johntá usually isn’t excellent at singing female demos (see J-Hud’s “My Heart”) he delivers this track well, I love the whole late night ambience of it and I can’t wait to hear Whitney’s stellar vocals deliver what I know will be an even better rendition. I’m also glad this isn’t another upbeat anthem, and I’m hoping there’s more subject matter like this on the rest of the album.
Hearing half of the album definitely has me amped to hear the rest when Whitney finally delivers the album at the end of the month as she and Clive Davis have chosen some quality material to record. I’m still hoping the Timbaland/Jim Beanz/Candice Nelson collabo “Undefeated” which was originally set to be the title track of the album will appear as a bonus track in some form. Beanz recently revealed via Twitter that he was mixing the track so hopefully my dream of hearing this long-awaited track will finally come true!