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New Whitney Houston cut lands; Is an album forthcoming?

July 28, 2008 |  1:35 pm

Whitney_houston_

The artist: Whitney Houston & Akon

The leaked track: "Like I Never Left"

The importance: The diva has been missing from the pop landscape since 2003, when she released a holiday-themed collection. Much of the singer's headlines over the last few years have been more of the tabloid nature, focusing on health issues and her marriage to Bobby Brown. But the public loves a good comeback, as evidenced by Mariah Carey and her "The Emancipation of Mimi." A new Whitney album -- one that's not embarrassing -- would surely ascend to blockbuster status in a matter of weeks, if not days. Indeed, it's not just the Sony BMG brass who would likely be hungry for some new Whitney content. Just check the success that met Leona Lewis, and her Whitney-influenced smash "Bleeding Love."

The verdict: "Like I Never Left," featuring production and a collaboration from Akon, is as much an Akon song as it is a Whitney cut. As such, its mission isn't so much to be a knockout, but to reestablish Whitney as a contemporary artist, even featuring some electronically-manipulated vocals from Akon. But while that's one of the song's more distressing qualities (the other is Akon feeling the need to announce who is singing the song at its start), it doesn't fully distract from what is ultimately an effortlessly light R&B cut. As feather-light as the song is, Houston still sounds pretty good, even though she has nothing to say. If anything, the song definitely doesn't need Akon. Houston is cool, assertive and matter-of-fact, bringing a level of personality to the standard that's absent in the ho-hum lyrics. Akon's production is cheesy-smooth, lacking any sense of grandeur, and putting Houston on par with Mariah.

Is it finished? According to a spokeswoman for Houston, no, the song that was leaked out is not "a finished song at all." But as to when it was recorded and if it will be finished? No comment.

Does this mean an album is coming soon? "Yes your girl is coming back," Houston sings in the song, but don't bet on it, at least not anytime soon. The much-discussed return of Whitney has been years in the making, and a new album has been promised to be on the horizon dating back to 2005. In February of this year, then-J Records head Clive Davis said at his pre-Grammy bash that a new Whitney album would be coming soon, but we've heard that promise before. And Fox's Roger Friedman reports that a new Whitney album is "not nearly ready."

How to find it: Google "Whitney Houston" + YouTube + "Like I Never Left."

-- Todd Martens

Photo: European Pressphoto Agency

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