[CD Review] Whitney Houston, 'I Look to You' (Arista)

With the exception of a collaboration with Akon, Whitney HoustonNs new album, I Look to You—her first studio album in seven years—is almost absurdly gimmick-free. In an era when female pop singers are increasingly self-referential (Britney Spears conceived an entire album, Circus, on this concept), Houston absolutely refuses to play on her tabloid-fodder background.

ItNs almost kind of weird to not hear any Bobby Brown disses or denials of crack-cocaine addictions. ThereNs nothing current or sexed-up about the album at all, much less any attempt to appeal to a younger demographic. Instead, the work focuses on what Houston has always done best: pretty (but never obnoxiously so) R&B for “everyone who believes in love,” as she sings on album highlight “For the Lovers.” ThatNs one of the rare uptempo tracks; the majority, such as “I DidnNt Know My Own Strength,” tend toward rousing, church-choir-ready empowerment ballads. The album sounds out of time, and if one didnNt know better, one might suspect it was released a decade or two ago. But the timeless approach works. ThereNs something extremely refreshing about a performer who refuses to kowtow to whatever theyNre calling the newest generation of brats.

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