The last time we heard from Whitney Houston, on 2002's Just Whitney, she was furiously denying there was anything up with her. Seven years and a visit to rehab later, the ravages are clear. Her vocals are rougher, although that isn't always a problem, particularly if you found the kind of ballad in which her voice battered you like a gale-force wind difficult to stomach. There's a bit of that here, particularly on I Didn't Know My Own Strength, as well as a few recriminations - on Nothin' But Love, she decries "haters", who presumably forced her at gunpoint to take drugs, play an imaginary piano during the 2000 Oscar rehearsals, etc - but otherwise the album concentrates on reinstalling Houston, never resident at R&B's cutting edge, as an unchallenging pop-soul diva. This it does with style, weaving flashes of eurodisco thump around hooky melodies.
Alexis Petridis is the Guardian's head rock and pop critic