Having dominated the tabloid headlines for the past few years, Whitney Houston has cleaned up her act and is back with a gentle bump, rather than a bang. Her voice isn't quite the powerful instrument that it once was, but album number seven is an acceptable clutch of sassy r'n'b tunes and ballads, if just a smite generic in places.
To say that Whitney Houston has had a rough few years is a bit of an understatement. An ugly divorce from Bobby 'Bad Boy' Brown was just the tip of the iceberg of the troubled diva's problems; a reputed addiction to crack cocaine meant that most of the past decade has been a write-off for the one-time megastar. She's certainly kept the gossip rags well-oiled.
Her tribulations are telling by the cover of her first album of original material since 2002, if not by its contents: the 46-year-old looks every day of her age. Still, if her personal life has impacted on her comeback, it's inaudible for the most part, although it's clear that Houston's voice has changed - perhaps prematurely aged. The marvellous full-bodied richness apparent on old hits like 'Run to You' and 'I Have Nothing' is mostly replaced with a subtle reedy, crackly quality, although it's only really noticeable on songs like the title track, where her voice is placed front and centre above the instrumentation.
Otherwise, there's a hell of a lot to like about 'I Look to You'. 'Million Dollar Bill' kicks things off with a nice retro groove and funktastic bassline, empowering ballad 'I Didn't Know My Own Strength' is one of several songs that touches on her turmoil, while 'Worth It' and 'A Song for You' both add generous dollops of the modern r 'n' b to the menu.
Guests include R. Kelly, Alicia Keys and Akon, but their contributions are ultimately purposeless. What people really want to know by listening to this album is whether Whitney Houston has still 'got it'. Well, she's not there yet, and she'll probably never reach the dizzying heights of yesteryear - but still, it's kind of nice to have her back.