Whitney Houston’s Comeback?

whitneyhouston.jpegSo many people have been working with Whitney Houston on her comeback album (no release date yet) that if the damn thing wins a Grammy there will be a sheer pandemonium just trying to choreograph the bodies onstage for the acceptance speech. Here’s just a partial list of the producer/writer talent lined up by Whitney’s Svengali, Clive Davis: Babyface, R. Kelly, Timbaland, Akon, Christina Aguilera, Wyclef Jon, Lil Jon, John Legend, Kanye West, and Dr. Dre.

In other words, everyone except Michael Jackson and Jay-Z.

There hasn’t been this much pressure on a comeback since Judy Garland played the Palace. And I suspect that Ne-Yo — who was brought in by Davis earlier in the year to listen to several of Whitney’s tracks, and basically pronounced the cuts boring — was probably correct about the first tunes recorded. All the songs “had the same theme,” Ne-Yo said, “which was: ‘My name is Whitney Houston and this is my triumphant comeback.’ We all understand she has gone through a lot. I’m sure we all get that but I think she needs songs about everyday life.”

The big question: through all the drugs and major downs of her (thank God! now ended!) marriage to Bobby Brown, has Whitney’s voice remained intact? I wonder. Even if all its cracks (cracks are whack!) are papered over in the studio, the real test will be when she’s called upon to perform the new tracks live. Will we see the Whitney who appeared looking skeletal and sounding vocally tattered at Michael Jackson’s 2001 anniversary TV special or the woman whose rendition of the national anthem at the 1991 NFL championship game is the greatest non-sports moment in the history of the Super Bowl?

Whatever Whitney’s challenges, she retains an enormous amount of goodwill among the public. I know a lot of young, hip, music-aware twentysomethings who still consider her — despite Mariah and Beyonce and all the other pretenders — the Queen of pop R & B. (Aretha is the Queen Mother.)

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