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Whitney Houston enjoys a coming-out party

Celebrities and record-industry heavies get a preview of her comeback album. 'I Look to You' is scheduled to be released Sept. 1.
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Whitney Houston did not have to sing a note Thursday night to spark a rousing ovation from a crowd of celebrities and record-industry heavyweights.

Houston -- whose hugely successful singing and acting career has been shadowed in the last several years by tabloid headlines, including her tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown and allegations of substance abuse -- made a triumphant appearance at the Beverly Hilton at the end of a preview of her upcoming comeback album, scheduled for release Sept. 1.

As the throbbing beat of her up-tempo version of Leon Russell's usually intimate ballad "A Song for You" filled the standing-room-only ballroom, Houston emerged from behind a curtain, smiling and clapping as some audience members danced in front of her.

Looking slim and wearing an elegantly simple knee-length black dress, Houston seemed genuinely moved by the reception from the audience -- an eclectic mix from the worlds of movies (Jane Fonda, Halle Berry and Penny Marshall, the last of whom directed Houston in 1996's "The Preacher's Wife"), music (Stevie Wonder, Barry Manilow and Brian McKnight), industry honchos (Suzanne De Passe, Diane Warren and Richard Perry) and sports (Magic Johnson).

Also in attendance were several family members, including her teenage daughter, Bobbi Kristina, and a newly adopted son.

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"God bless you all," Houston said, blowing kisses and stretching her hands out to the crowd. "I am humbled. Thank you all for coming." She seemed particularly excited when she spotted Berry and Fonda ("I almost croaked when I found out Jane Fonda was coming to my listening party. How cool am I?")

Coming after Houston's six-year absence from the studio, the album, "I Look to You," has long been enveloped by speculation about whether Houston has lost the vocal prowess and charisma that made her one of the most successful female singers of the last two decades.

That speculation has been fueled by some appearances in the past in which her singing voice sounded scratched and strained.

But music mogul Clive Davis -- who discovered Houston and has been spearheading her comeback, including a performance at his pre-Grammy party in February -- said the album should leave little doubt that Houston is still "one of the all-time great vocalists."

He said the album took more than three years to complete "because we kept wanting to set the bar high, in the tradition of the great vocalists, such as Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan and Lena Horne."

"I took my time," Houston later added.

Thursday night's unveiling came on the heels of listening parties in London and New York.

Before Davis presented the songs, a clip was shown of Houston performing some of her most popular hits, including "I Will Always Love You," "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and "One Moment in Time."

Her new album, based on the nine "unfinished versions" previewed, appears to be a mix of dance tunes, mid-tempo songs and power ballads, with state-of-the-art production surrounding Houston's confident, smooth stylings.

Writers and producers who worked on the album include Warren, David Foster, Akon and Alicia Keys. R. Kelly, who has his own notorious past, contributed two songs, including the title track, an ode to spirituality and a higher power.

Many of the songs were greeted enthusiastically, with the Keys-written "Million Dollar Bill" generating one of the loudest ovations.

Some of the songs appeared to subtly reference Houston's struggles. Warren's "I Didn't Know My Own Strength" contains the line "I was not built to break," and the singer said she related to the song because of her struggles as a single mother. In "Nothin' but Love," Houston maintains she has nothing but love for "the family that raised me, the teachers that praised me" and "even the ones who tried to break me."

She mentioned her troubled history during her remarks later that evening, when she paid an emotional tribute to Davis. "Those years when we were apart, I was lost," Houston said to Davis. "But now I'm home, where I belong."

--Greg Braxton

Related: Clive's pre-Grammy party: Whitney Houston returns, Kelly Clarkson shows sass

MUSIC SUPERSTARS: Sony exec Clive Davis, left, Whitney Houston and Stevie Wonder at the Beverly Hilton. Houston paid emotional tribute to Davis at the album preview. Both photos Associated Press.

 
Comments () | Archives (12)

we you come to a very small town call Crewe Virginia and help our youth that are lost

so glad 2 have whitney back with us. she's still the greatest and her new album sounds HOT man. luv u miss houston

I was there and all the things that are said here are totally false for Whitney'voice sounded graspier than ever and it came to a point where it seemed that she was about to cough in the middle of the song.

Even worst, when she addressed to the assisting audience, her natural speaking voice sounds so hurt and harshed.

It seems that she lost a vocalist status, but one thing for sure she can still sing with a regular beat but without vocal skills.

Wy haven't they Promoted and singles or songs in the radio and music video for Whitney Houston's new Album and f they did they haven't gave it no exposure, Now I understand wy Michael Jackson complained abiut racism, Whitney's new music should have had good airplay by now and hasn't.

Whitney, is just a human being and a beautiful human being; girl you are BLESS!!!!!
TO GOD BE THE GLORY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Good Luck Whitney!!!!!!

Hello Witney i am one of your biggest fans and im so very happy that you have came back and you are very blessed and your(I LOOK TO YOU) song really touches me it brings tears of joy..

To be really honest, I am not judging Whitney Houston as a human, we all have the rights to do wrong, make up and overcome to bring everything to an even path, but now my perspective is as a person who still listens and have always listen to music and knows when a hit is a hit, but I have only heard two songs from her on her latest album on the internet: I didn't know my own strenght and I look to you and I have to be more than honest to her and especially to myself: THIS BEAUTIFUL LADY CANNOT SING ANYMORE AS SHE USED TO and believe me that I would like she could because she has worked so hard for her success and she does deserve it, BUT HER VOICE IS NOT IN GOOD CONDITION AND SOMETHING MUST BE DONE TO GET IT BACK--> for what I understand JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE went throught medical surgery to heal an injured vocal cords, and if it works for him, THIS CAN DO A LOT FOR HER.

By the time she went out from rehab, she made several concerts that I watched in YOUTUBE and I would be in the audience, I whould have demanded to get my money back becuase she sounded REALLY, BUT REALLY BAD and two songs that I have heard from her are really boring and does not leave an everlasting impression as her previous songs.

I am so sorry to say that her new album will a failure, because I know that they have created a lot of expectation and speculation saying that SHE SOUNDS AMAZING, something that is being proved currently as FALSE. Probably, this album will sell a great deal in the first week and but after that, there is no doubt that sales will be decreasing for people will feel that they are cheated until it fades off the charts and stays in shelves.

There is also a good point from reviewers, THE LOYAL FANS that no matter what they will stand through thick and thin forever

OMG whitney coming back cant wait for the new album.Gosh I use too go to high school with her adopted son nick david gordon. He was adopted like around 2005 or 20006 i think, heard he is going to be modeling acting or might be a rapper(he go by Karma)Maybe that might means somthen u knoww caz of whitney and bobbi situationl LOL.He is sooo fineee he loves them very much and I love bobbi kristina i love herrr she is so preety she looks just like her parents.I wish for the best for them all and specially for NIck D Gordon and Bobbi Kristina Brown future career.

OMG whitney coming back cant wait for the album.Gosh I use too go to high school with her adopted son nick david gordon. He was adopted like around 2005 or 20006 i think, heard he is going to be modeling acting or might be a rapper(he go by Karma)Maybe that might means somthen u knoww caz of whitney and bobbi situation.He is sooo fineee he loves them very much and I love bobbi kristina i love herrr she is so preety she looks just like her parents.I wish for the best for them all and specially for NIck D Gordon and Bobbi Kristina Brown future career.

OMG, ALL I HAVE TO SAY IS BAD, BECAUSE YESTERDAY AFTER READING COMMENTS PEOPLE POSTED HERE, I WENT TO YOUTUBE TO TRY TO FIND WHITNEY HOUSTON'S RECENT RECORDS AND OMG AGAIN, I JUST COULD NOT BELIEVE WHAT MY EARS WERE LISTENING, IT TOOK ME AROUND 20 MINUTES TO REALLY BELIEVE THAT I WAS LISTENNING TO A WHITNEY HOUSTON RECORD, I WAS ABLE TO FIND THREE SONGS, I LOOK TO YOU WHICH I FIRST HEARD ON R. KELLY'S VOICE AND IT SOUNDED AMAZING BUT ON WHITNEY (OMG AGAIN), NOTHING TO SAY AND THEN ANOTHER SONG PRODUCED BY DAVID FOSTER (OMG AGAIN) AND THEN A SONG THAT I FELT THAT IT WAS RECORDED IN 1958 OR SO CALLED ON MILLION DOLLAR BILL. WHAT'S ON PEOPLE MIND, I MEAN PRODUCERS OF THIS ALBUM WHAT IS ON CLIVE DAVID'S MIND TO THINK THAT WHITNEY CAN NAIL TO DELIVER A GREAT PERFORMANCE THESE DAYS, I AM SO BUT SO IMPRESSED ABOUT THE BAD WORK DONE, FOR I KNOW THAT ASHLEE SIMPSON IS A BAD SINGER ON STAGE, SHE SOUNDS OFF-PITCH, OUT OF SYNC, BUT SHE SOUNDS AMAZING ON HER STUDIO RECORDINGS, SO WHY COULD NOT THEY DO THE SAME FOR WHITNEY.

ALL I CAN SAY IS THAT SO FAR, THESE THREE SONGS ARE A WASTE OF TIME AND NOT ONLY FOR ME FOR I SEND PEOPLE THE LINK TO WATCH THE VIDEO AND REVIEW THE SONGS AND I HAVE RECEIVED ONLY BAD IMPRESSION, MEANING THAT I AM NOT SO WRONG

Why is she saying she just took a break from the industry to be with her daughter?? Is this a joke!!!

Everyone in the world seen what she was doing on her "break" .

If she is clean..great but don't come out and lie.

Here's to wishing this time around she has some one actually watching her back, some one in her corner. It's high time we gave up this silly notion because our child is a grown up woman, that we can't step in and say "you're making a mistake". I always felt no one was watching out for her.


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