Label has high hopes for Whitney Houston comeback

Fri Aug 28, 2009 3:40pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Don't call it a comeback. I've been here for years," Whitney Houston sings on what is, in fact, her latest comeback album.

The 46-year-old pop singer, a long-term resident of the record charts during the 1980s and '90s, officially ends a seven-year hiatus on Monday with the U.S. release of her sixth studio album, "I Look To You."

Early reviews are promising and Houston's Sony Corp-owned Arista Records label hopes it will become one of the biggest sellers of the year.

The music industry desperately needs a hit. Annual U.S. sales in 2009 are on track to slide for the eighth time in nine years, ravaged by the recession, piracy and competition from other forms of entertainment such as video games.

Houston could also do with a hit. Her previous album "Just Whitney" in 2002, also was billed as a comeback and was the worst-selling of her career. She got more attention in the ensuing years for her rocky personal life, including multiple stints in drug rehab and a bitter divorce from former R&B star Bobby Brown.

In fact, she half-jokingly said last month that she had been planning to retire to an island when her mentor, record-industry chieftain Clive Davis, phoned 3 1/2 years ago to lure her back to the studio.

Davis, who has closely overseen Houston's career since signing her at a New York nightclub in 1983, lined up such A-listers as R&B singers Alicia Keys and R. Kelly, and prolific tunesmith Diane Warren to write songs for Houston.


Keys wrote the single "Million Dollar Bill," which received a warm reception at radio stations earlier this month. But will that translate into big album sales, especially when there's a new crop of superstars in the spotlight?   Continued...

<p>Singer Whitney Houston blows kisses at the crowd at the conclusion of her performance at the 2009 Grammy Salute to Industry Icons event, honoring Clive Davis in Beverly Hills, California February 7, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>