We can stop holding our collective breath now. Today, Arista announced Sept. 1 as the release date for Whitney Houston's first new studio album in seven years.
Details were scant but the hype was already in overdrive in a press release that trumpeted "The Wait is over" and proclaimed the project as "the most anticipated album of the year."
The still-untitled project is her first since 2002's "Just Whitney" (she also released a new holiday album in 2003). There's no track listing or hint at a first single, but bits and pieces, all subject to change, have leaked out over recent months. Rolling Stone.com says among those whom Houston worked with on the project are R.Kelly, Diane Warren, David Foster, Swiss Beatz and Akon.
The comeback trail for Houston started at industry legend Clive Davis's pre-Grammy party in 2008 when she showed up at the event in her first public appearance in some time. Davis signed Houston to Arista and has been the guiding force in her career over the last 25 years.
The drum beat for the new album got louder this past February when Houston actually performed at the fete, clad in a tight, leopard-print dress. Associated Press's Nekesa Mumbi Moody called the return "triumphant," but noted that Houston's once unassailable voice did show some wear and tear:
"Houston started off with "I Will Always Love You," but didn't hit the high, sustaining notes that made the song such a dramatic, stirring hit. Instead, she kept her voice at medium power, deciding to croon rather than soar.
But as she got into hits like "It's Not Right, But It's O.K.," her voice appeared to get stronger - and louder, and while she never replicated the vocal gymnastics of some of her past work, delivered a mesmerizing performance nonetheless."
The Sept. 1 release date means the new album misses the Grammy eligibility period by one day. (The cycle is shorter by one month this year because the Grammys will air on Jan. 31, 2010, four weeks earlier than usual). However, we're sure that's not going to stop the label. There are plenty of ways around that, such as releasing a vinyl version a week earlier or some kind of online offering. Or the plan could simply be to have only the first single, which will undoubtedly be released over the summer, be in contention for this year's Grammys and then go for the big push for album of the year the following awards cycle.