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MTV Online's Review

Whitney Houston
My Love Is Your Love

Like Madonna, Whitney Houston has clearly realized that being a walking anachronism at the age of 35 does not a vocal legend become. And since Houston's spate of feature films, made-to-order soundtracks, and incendiary marriage to Bobby Brown have kept her in the forefront of our collective consciousness, it's certainly surprising to realize the woman hasn't released a studio album since 1990's I'm Your Baby Tonight. Do we really need an entire album's worth of sappy bombasticisms in the "I Will Always Love You" mold? Or veiled reworkings of "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" ad infinitum? No? Good for you, 'cause My Love Is Your Love ain't it.

Recorded in a head-spinning six weeks, My Love Is Your Love finds Houston teaming up with Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds once again, but stifle your yawns -- also pitching in on the production end are Wyclef Jean, Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott, Soulshock and Karlin, Lauryn Hill, and 21-year-old wunderkind Rodney Jerkins (Brandy and Monica's "The Boy Is Mine"), and on one track she shares vocal billing with Faith Evans and Kelly Price. If this all smacks of opportunism, guess what… it works. Whitney wears spontaneity well, and judging from her subject matter -- kicking out a cheating man, sorting through the pressures of a high-profile marriage, me-and-you-against-the-world solidarity -- she's laying out her personal life in a manner which, in terms of star power, shrewdness, and the limits of recent memory, compares best to Hole's Celebrity Skin. Seriously. We all know that Houston can get her claws out with the best of them. And what's more, she's pretty darn direct about it, even if she doesn't write her own songs and went out of her way to include a "The events & characters depicted in this album are fictitious..." disclaimer in the notes. Is she kidding?

Well, let's put it this way. When Houston sets up the far-fetched scenario "If I lose my fame and fortune/and I'm homeless on the street" on Jean's reggae-inflected title song, some part of you might just go along with her. She means it, all right, and the looped strings, scratchy-record effects, and exhortation from daughter Bobbi to "sing, Mommy" make it difficult to resist. Houston gets really loose on the Hill-produced "I Was Made to Love Him," a gender-switched (and very appropriate) Stevie Wonder cover. It's included as a "hidden bonus track" -- actually, it was finished after the album art printed -- and what its raw, AM-radio production lacks in originality, it gains from the sheer chutzpah of presenting Houston in a way that's light years from crystal-clear.

Sure, there are moments when the sap leaks out -- all courtesy of Babyface and the Diane Warren power-ballad factory -- but when Babyface gets together with Jerkins (on a Warren song, no less) for the sharp little kiss-off "I Bow Out," it's straightforward, no sap.

Credit to Jerkins? Looks that way. Jerkins' tracks are the standouts, especially "It's Not Right, But it's Okay," whose wicked-cool jack-in-the-box intro leads to Houston calling out her cheating man in a compellingly fed-up fashion, and the staccato "If I Told You That," accented by (processed) disco strings and Jerkins' piano-pounding. Elliott's contributions are fine as well -- "In My Business," a big screw-you to the world at large re: her marriage (it's safe to say this is the first time the word "ho's" has ever been featured on a Houston album), and "Oh Yes," a lengthy slow jam about all that is good re: Bobby. Interestingly enough, Houston's duet mas grande with Mariah Carey, "When You Believe," while palatable enough on its own, comes off as the stiffest number in the bunch. - Kim Stitzel