It's been a long wait, but the new album is I Look to You and last night Clive Davis hosted a listening party in the Jazz at Lincoln Center space in the Time Warner Center above Columbus Circle.
When I saw Dionne Warwick and Cissy Houston in the lobby, I knew this was not going to be a normal listening party. (I don't know what a normal listening party is but I knew this would not be one.)
The cocktail area was packed with swells like Bobbi Kristina, Steve Harvey, Gayle King, Martha Stewart, LA Reid, Vivica Fox, and Alicia Keys. Diane Sawyer was there, looking like an ageless superstar, which can only mean that she's got the Whitney exclusive. (Was there
ANYTHING better than that last "crack is whack" interview she did, btw?)
What followed, in the main auditorium, was essentially a master class on Whitney taught by Mr. Davis, the one man capable of the task. He said the reason it'd been three and a half years in the making was that they were searching for the perfect songs, that there were so many
potential singles they didn't know what to release first, and that Whitney always had a complex about not being a songwriter but that he told her to think of herself as what she is, one of the great vocalists of our time in the spirit of Lena Horne and Streisand.
He then played nine tracks from her new album and did a little intro for each. He started with "Million Dollar Bill," which was written and produced by Alicia Keys. Keys was sitting right in front of us and led our section in a dance-jam to her own track, which she video'd on her
flipcam. The song is indeed a jam.
I was into the ballads like Diane Warren and David Foster's "I Didn't Know My Own Strength" and "I Look to You" mainly because her voice was "old Whitney" — VERY strong and bold and clear as a bell. I KNOW both will be remixed and I'll be smoking them like the crack that seems to be a thing that won't be associated with the new Whitney.
After one of the songs, Clive stood up and said, "Did you realize how much you missed her?" The answer was yes. And no.
The last song was Whitney's cover of "A Song For You," which starts as a ballad and turns into a dance hit. I LOVED it. Midway through, as the beat kicked in, the audience was on their feet, the black scrim behind the stage lifted to reveal Manhattan, and Whitney bounded out looking every bit the superstar we want and expect her to be.
She came straight over to our area to kiss and high five Cissy and Dionne, and here's a crappy pic from my Blackberry of her trying to get to Alicia Keys. You can see Gayle King and Dionne looking on ...
Whitney spoke to the audience from her heart and off the cuff. She was lucid and cool and looked fantastic. She told Gayle (from the stage) that she'll be calling Oprah soon. She thanked Martha Stewart for coming and said it was great to see her again. She kissed Bobbi
Kristina. She said she was overwhelmed and excited.
If I were Mariah I'd be scared.
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