Million Dollar Bill
Who would have guessed that the lead single from Whitney's 2009 comeback album would be a disco tinged "re-make" of an obscure 1976 track? As Tommy points out on Disco Delivery, "Million Dollar Bill" basically puts new lyrics to Loleatta Holloway's "We're Getting Stronger". The original writers are credited but I love how Alicia Keys completely forgot to mention it in the interviews she did hyping the song she wrote for Whitney! At least she had the decency to rip off something good. I love everything about this track. The lyrics are great (I'd settle for feeling like a crisp $20 bill!), the production sizzles and it's great to hear Whitney sing something so upbeat and joyous. Oh and the Freemasons remix is a gay man's wet dream.
My beautiful "Million Dollar Bill" CD single!Nothin' But Love
A lot of fans have been calling for "Nothin' But Love" to be the album's next single and I have to agree. This is by far the most contemporary and edgy song on "I Look To You" and one of the few tracks that I can really imagine radio latching onto. Danja's production is crisp and current without making Whitney sound like a desperate cougar who has spent far too much time listening to her daughter's CD collection. Hello, Madonna! The beats come thick and fast and the chorus is ridiculously catchy. Most of all I love the song's theme of moving on with your life. Who better to sell that message than Whitney?
Call You Tonight
News flash - Stargate finally redeem themselves after recycling the same track for the past three years! I was beginning to think the Norwegian producers were the industry's worst one trick pony but they contribute two excellent and very different songs to "I Look To You". In fact, they are probably my two favourite cuts on the album. I love songs that capture an everyday thought or emotion - even something as lame as making time to stay in touch - and "Call You Tonight" does that perfectly. I was even tempted to email this song to a certain someone but decided not to push my luck. I really don't think this is single material but it's completely adorable (particularly when Whitney ad libs "sho' enough") and I find myself coming back to it time and again.
I Look To You
As much as I hate to praise anything connected with vile piss pig/paedophile R Kelly, the album's title track is classic Whitney. A lot of people find "I Look To You" incredibly boring but I think it's timeless and beautiful. I love the inspirational lyrics and splashes of gospel. This is the kind of track that Whitney would have ridden all the way to #1 in the 80s but times have changed and it seems a little old fashioned now. I guess that torpedoes its commercial prospects but it's one of the main reasons I love it - "I Look To You" takes me back to the days when Whitney spent more time talking to Jesus than her dealer. Call me sentimental but it's touching to see her come full circle.
Like I Never Left (Featuring Akon)
Thankfully this is the only track with a cameo appearance by a pointless urban star. Not that Akon's presence is offensive. "Like I Never Left" is actually a sweet mid-tempo ballad and one of only two songs that Whitney had a hand in writing. The lyrics are particularly telling. When Whitney sings "I want you to love me like I never left", you know the lyrics have a double meaning. My biggest problem with the song is its lack of bite. "Like I Never Left" never gets out of second gear - making it perfect elevator music but a bit of a letdown given the tracks that precede it.
A Song For You
I almost had a heart attack when I realised this was Leon Russell's 1970 classic. The Carpenters' version is one of my all time favourite songs and I can't think of a more appropriate track for Whitney to cover. The lyrics take on a whole new meaning in this version. On the face of it, "A Song For You" is a simple love song but you could also interpret the lyrics as an apology of sorts to her fans - "Your image of me is what I hope to be, I've treated you unkindly but can't you see there's noone more important to me". This has to be a single. Stargate's decision to transform the song from a ballad into the album's only real dance track is absolutely inspired. My favourite track on the album.
I Didn't Know My Own Strength
I think I vomited into my mouth when I first heard that Diane fucking Warren was writing Whitney's comeback anthem. As it happens "I Didn't Know My Own Strength" was only a promo single (record companies need to stop pulling that shit - it's completely pointless) and, surprisingly, turned out to be rather lovely. This song is all about the lyrics and Whitney delivers them beautifully. Strangely, I vastly prefer hearing the song live. The studio version is a bit too sterile, while Whitney's performance on Oprah was all the more poignant for her vocal shortcomings. This track also has the best fan nickname - "I Didn't Know My Own Stamina To Take Drugs"!
Now this is a grower. Penned and produced by rising urban hotshot Eric Hudson, "Worth It" is the kind of soulful slow jam that Karyn White and Jennifer Holliday were cranking out in the mid-80s. The emphasis is on mood and atmosphere rather than cheap samples and throwaway hooks. I love Whitney's voice on this and enjoy the song more each time I hear it. "Worth It" is probably best described as quality filler.
For The Lovers
Danja returns for one of the album's few upbeat club bangers. Again, it's restrained and age appropriate but still fresh and edgy. I particularly love hearing those heavy synths and dance loops. I can only imagine how hot the inevitable remixes will be. This could Whitney's biggest club anthem since "It's Not Right But It's Okay". The lyrics are made for the dancefloor - particularly the classy line "and if your lover ain't around, that don't mean you can't get down"! Surely this will be released as a single in the not too distant future.
I Got You
"I Got You" is one of my least favourite tracks on the album. Like Akon's other contribution "Like I Never Left", the song is nice enough but perhaps a little too safe. I like the synths at the beginning but then the song falls into mid-tempo urban mediocrity. One of my few criticisms of the album is the fact that the second half is noticeably weaker than the first half. I guess that's where iTunes comes into its own - you can just pretend the duds don't exist. Interestingly, this is the other track that Whitney co-write. Strangely, it's probably the least personal on the album.
R Kelly packs away his plastic sheets to produce the album's closing track. Again, it pains me to say that I really, really like this. "Salute" reminds me of Destiny's Child at the peak of their late 90s fierceness - particularly with lyrics like "I feel like doing my hair, I feel like callin' some of my friends, I feel like going to my club and partyin'". Think of this as a four minute fuck you note to Bobby Brown, complete with militaristic beat and a plethora of subtle but catchy hooks. All in all, a fitting conclusion to a great album. In the song Whitney sings "don't call it a comeback" but with "I Look To You" she pulls off one of the best in recent memory.
Welcome back, Nippy!