I was glad to see Whitney Houston return to the music space. I like several songs on her new album, “I Look To You,” released Monday. But I am disappointed with her live performance on Good Morning America that aired Wednesday.
Here’s the bottom line, Whitney Houston was the kind of vocalist who could sing the ABCs and make you cry. Her voice was pure, clean, and crisp. The way she approached the notes left you impressed. You always felt that you were listening to someone in the elite class.
I did not feel that way when watching her performance on Good Morning America.
I felt like she was struggling to get through the songs. Sometimes she recited lyrics instead of singing them at all. Other times when singing, she sounded just average.
The title track, “I Look to You,” is a song about triumph, and thanking her support team for sticking by her side. When she performed it, you could feel her emotion. She appeared as if she was about to breakdown as she dedicated the song to her mother, Cissy, who was in the audience.
But she was not able to make the vocals resonate. Considering the dramas she has battled over the years, this song, in particular, should have had everyone at Central Park weeping.
Whitney was better when singing the more up-tempo songs. She opened the set with the Alicia Keys penned and co-produced “Million Dollar Bill,” a fun, ‘80s dance record. The song was too heavy on backing tracks and vocals. It was fine; it just lacked the spectacular moments that were once her trademark.
The same is the case for “My Love Is Your Love.” It got worse when her 16-year-old daughter Bobbi Kristina, who sings on the original 1998 version, joined her mother on the stage to perform her part. Bobbi Kristina is not a singer. It was cute to see her on stage with her mom, but this defining moment of return was not the right time. If Bobbi Kristina was a singer, it would have helped.
Unfortunately, speculation over whether or not Whitney could still deliver an impactful live performance was the big question. And if the Good Morning American performance is the barometer that we are to use to make this determination, the answer would have to be , “No.”
Ironically, I do like her album, even though it is apparent that she no longer hits the high notes like she did on seminal songs “The Greatest Love of All” and “I Will Always Love You.” For the recording, she found a suitable workaround in producing more mid-tempo, soulful songs that are more compatible with her new, thick, husky vocals.
It just appears that these records are best experienced in a controlled environment where the producers have the benefit of cleaning up the gross imperfections that are otherwise magnified in a live setting.