It’s been 25 years since Whitney Elizabeth Houston taught the world what a timeless comeback record sounds like. It has millions in global sales, 4 times platinum in the U.S., and 87 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart. Alongside, powerful vocals and pain-staking lyrics, this had all the ingredients for a predictable Whitney Houston classic, right? Wrong. This album was different for Whitney than her past efforts – ‘My Love Is Your Love‘ showed her stamping her love for hip-hop into the ground. This is Houston bringing together the pillars of hip-hop/R&B at the time – Babyface; Lauryn Hill; Darkchild; and Missy Elliott. This is her celebrating Black culture in the late 90s; showing the R&B that she’s listening, loving, and invested in. This was a new sound for her; ushering fans into the new millennium.
First Studio LP in 8 Years
The title track ‘My Love Is Your Love‘ heavily relies on reggae sounds, produced by Fugees legend Wyclef Jean. The song speaks on the world’s destruction, reinforcing how love will uplift and unite us. These aspirational themes of harmony are prevalent across many of Whitney’s albums, which undoubtedly plays a part in her universal appeal.
Wyclef spoke on the recording process for the album, speaking of her calm energy. She had not released a studio effort in 8 years and could’ve fallen victim to the pressure to deliver. However, her new role as a mother to daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown was her primary focus, the industry pressure didn’t faze her. Bobbi was her whole world, with the ‘My Love is Your Love‘ title suggesting this is a message to her daughter as much as it is to her fans. Wyclef noted how obvious it was that Whitney wished to share the creative process with her child. You can hear Bobbi’s cute voice in the title track telling Whitney to ‘Sing, mommy’. With the passing of both mother and daughter in recent years, this song is a true treasure to heartbroken fans.
The song that changed breakup records forever
Still to this day, ‘It’s Not Right But It’s Okay‘ is one of the sassiest, soulful, and cathartic songs to listen to. Even if you’re not going through a break-up, the attitude in Whitney’s voice forces you to sing along like you’ve been wronged. This is an undeniable benchmark for all the break-up songs that came after it. Even modern-day classics like ‘Irreplaceable‘ by Beyoncé, or ‘Bust Your Windows‘ by Jazmine Sullivan, knowingly or not, take direct influence from ‘It’s Not Right But It’s Okay‘. If you seek a gut-wrenching ‘I Will Always Love You‘ ballad, you’ll be disappointed. But Houston’s discography is so much more than that, and this song proves it.
Unafraid and experimental
Houston believed in the single ‘Heartbreak Hotel‘, and rightfully so. Following up on the iconic duet ‘When You Believe‘ with Mariah Carey, ‘Heartbreak Hotel‘ was Whitney’s first non-soundtrack single in years. It’s infused with the glittering sound of the late 90s hip-hop/R&B scene, so decadent to listen to today in all its nostalgic glory. This song really represents the singer’s creative fearlessness. Whilst some artists would make a comeback with their ‘bread and butter’ sound- in her case a heart-wrenching ballad – she tries something new instead. Whitney earned the creative licence to do what she wanted.
Furthermore, she continually spotlights the ladies she thinks are talented. Faith Evans and Kelly Price accompany her, giving a powerful salute to the hip-hop community that loves her so much. Fun fact: TLC was offered this song originally for ‘Fanmail‘, but turned it down. They regretted it when it became a huge hit.
Setting the record straight
It’s commonplace nowadays for artists to try and diffuse false rumours. Fans know online blogs spin narratives about musicians to gain clicks and likes. However, in the 90s, fake news was harder to judge. Whitney’s marriage to Bobby Brown lived in the press and was much debated. Whitney reclaims her narrative on one of the album’s best deep cuts ‘In My Business‘. Written and produced by the timeless Missy Elliott, Whitney sets the record straight and says worry about your own self.
In conclusion, this album is effortless listening. It’s still one of, if not the, most sonically consistent of Houston’s albums. 25 years on, fans will listen to this project with heavy hearts, but it deserves a celebration. This album housed sensational songs, won Whitney her sixth and final Grammy (for It’s Not Right But It’s Okay), and further cemented her legendary status. For those who feel this album is overshadowed by the tragic loss of a once-in-a-generation superstar, let the singer’s words on the title track give you peace. ‘It would take an eternity to break us’.