Whitney Houston’s new CD, “I Look to You,” got the star treatment tonight. Music mogul Clive Davis played nine tracks from the album, due Sept. 1, for an A-list audience at Jazz at Lincoln Center. When he was done, Houston walked out and got a standing ovation and cheers.
She deserved it, too. The nine songs — there will be 11 altogether — are solid tracks, with several tipped as potential hit singles.
I also found out that Houston has signed with ABC for a special that will air the last week of August, right before her album is released.
In the very buzzy crowd: Alicia Keys, who wrote and produced “Million Dollar Bill,” a surefire hit that got a huge response; Diane Sawyer, who’s having Whitney on “Good Morning America”; plus actress Vivica Fox, Gayle King, Martha Stewart, Nikki Haskell, and lots of family. Whitney brought along mom Cissy Houston, cousin Dionne Warwick, and daughter Bobbi Kristina, who’s blossomed into a beautiful young woman.
Also there were many heavyweights from the music biz including L.A. Reid, Charles Koppelman, and Andre Harrell, whom RCA Records chief Barry Weiss called “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” for reasons of his own.
But it was Whitney’s night. She looked stunning and a little stunned as the audience warmly embraced her and welcomed the new songs. Besides the Alicia Keys hit, the the standouts include an absolute knock-out cover of Leon Russell’s “A Song for You,” which could do for Whitney what “Let’s Stay Together” did for Tina Turner’s 1984 comeback. There’s also a sleeper mid-tempo number called “Nothin’ but Love,” two excellent tracks from R. Kelly including the beautiful title song, and Diane Warren’s David Foster-produced “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength.”
During the Keys track, by the way, Alicia — dressed in black and looking hot — got up and boogeyed around from her seat, and took some video on a Flip camera.
For her part, Whitney got big laughs when she told the invited audience, “I had a plan to go to an island and start a fruit stand.” She said neither her mother nor Davis would allow her to do that. “My mother said, ‘I’m tired of hearing your voice on the radio. I want to hear new songs.’ ”
Davis, remarkable for pulling off this coup, spoke off the cuff before he played the songs. Why, after so many years and so much success, is he still making these albums and coaxing these stars to be as good as they can be?
“I keep doing it because music has been my passion,” he said. “And the report cards have been good.”
Tonight, as usual, he got an A.