Whitney Houston appeared at the world premiere of her new album, "I Look to You" (Arista), in London last night (July 14).
A healthy-looking Houston appeared briefly on stage at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge after Sony Music chief creative officer Clive Davis played nine tracks from the album, due to be released Sept. 1 in the U.S. The U.K. release is via RCA on Aug. 31.
Houston thanked Davis for his work on the album, saying: "When Clive called me I was pretty ready to buy my island home [and retire] but he said, 'No, you're going to sing again, people want to hear you.'"
Describing the album as "a labor of love" she said: "I hope that these songs stay with you for a lifetime."
Davis - who worked with Houston for the first time in 10 years on the album - stressed the album is "by no means done," while many of the songs played were still in unfinished form.
"We didn't try to fit Whitney Houston into the market," Davis said. "The copyrights associated with Whitney in the 1980s and '90s are part of the fabric of music today."
Nonetheless, collaborators on the album read like a who's who of contemporary pop/R&B, with songwriters and producers including Alicia Keys, Diane Warren, Stargate, R. Kelly and Akon, who duets with Houston on "Like I Never Left."
The tracks played were "Million Dollar Bill," "Nuthin' But Love," "Call You Tonight" (which Davis said was a likely lead single), "I Didn't Know My Own Strength," "Like I Never Left," "For the Lovers," "I Look to You," "Worth It" and a cover of Leon Russell's "A Song for You."
The overall feel of the album was notably contemporary, while retaining Houston's trademark vocal flourishes. The up-tempo songs "Nuthin' But Love" and "A Song for You" received the best reaction from the invited audience of international media, while Davis particularly praised slower songs like the Warren-penned ballad "I Didn't Know My Own Strength" and R. Kelly's title track, hailing Houston as "the premium balladeer of our time."