She sang only four songs, and in a voice that's gone darker, rougher, less elastic and more easily out of breath. But, hey, a comeback's a comeback, and this is Whitney Houston. Her first major appearance to herald the release of her new album was at Central Park, where fans handed the prodigal diva a rapturous, tearful welcome. The glorious filigree sound of that Stradivarius voice is gone (note how she barely nails her high notes now--and they aren't even close to the triumphant belting of her heyday), but what's left is still, well, inimitable. Or maybe that's just the fan in me talking. Welcome back, Whitney. Never go back to this again, please.
PLUS: Jon Pareles reviews her album for the NYTimes--“Seven years after her last album of pop songs, two years after her divorce, Whitney Houston re-emerges with full diva qualifications on 'I Look to You...' 'I Look to You' [the title song, written by R. Kelly] is a prayer, a desperate appeal to faith: 'After all my strength is gone, in you I can be strong.' Now her voice is thicker and lower, and her improvisatory phrases are shorter. They curve downward as if tugged by gravity, making her approachable, even sympathetic.”