The same day I Look to You, Whitney Houston's first album in seven years, arrived in stores, the singer's long-awaited comeback seemed to stutter during a live appearance in New York. The free show at Central Park's Rumsey Playfield was a taping for ABC's Good Morning America that was attended by some 4,000 fans, some of whom had been in line since the previous night. The performance and brief interview air tomorrow morning.
Houston certainly looked the part this afternoon, dressed in a one-piece outfit and beaming with energy as she ran on to the stage just after 12 p.m., but as her band kicked in with the Alicia Keys-co-written new single "Million Dollar Bill," her voice began to crack and she sounded out of breath halfway through the track. It was a trend that continued throughout her 1998 hit "My Love Is YourLove" which also featured a brief cameo by her daughter Bobbi Kristina.
After taking a break to towel off and adjust her makeup, Houston appeared to choke up during an emotional version of "I Look To You," which she delivered directly to her mother Cissy, who watched from the side of the stage. Following another brief side-of-stage break, the six-time Grammy winner apologized to the crowd for her voice and explained that she had recorded her forthcoming interview with Oprah Winfrey yesterday.
A high-note-free finale of "I'm Every Woman" went some way towards placating an already disappointed crowd but it seemed that this four-song set was too much, too soon for the diva. I Look to You earned three and a half stars in the current issue, and Jody Rosen notes, "Time and hard living have shaved some notes off that amazing range; the clear, bright voice that dominated radio has given way to a huskier tone — less powerful but more sultry."
Houston debuted her album at a series of star-studded events — read our report from the Clive Davis-hosted New York bash here.