Just Whitney is the fifth studio album by American recording artist Whitney Houston, released on December 10, 2002 in North America by Arista Records. It was her first studio album in four years, since 1998's My Love Is Your Love, and after signing her new $100 million Arista contract in 2001.
The album debuted at number nine on the Billboard 200, and number three on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, with sales of 205,147 copies in the first week, not only beating her previous high first-week sales of 177,284 units with the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack but also logged her highest debut sales out of her SoundScan-era solo albums. The album received mixed reviews from music critics.
It spawned four official singles―with three; "Whatchulookinat", "Love That Man" and "Try It on My Own" peaking at number one on Billboard's Hot Dance Club Play chart. "Try It on My Own" also peaked at number 10 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary singles. Since its release, Just Whitney... has gone on to sell/ship more than 2 million units worldwide and has also earned Platinum certification in the US and Switzerland and Gold in France, Brazil and other countries. As of 2012, the album's US sales stand at approximately 1 million units. In 2003, Just Whitney... was nominated at the Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards in the category for Best R&B/Soul Album of the Year.
Just Whitney... is Houston's fifth studio album, that she recorded after renewing her contract with Arista for a record $100 million. It is mixed with soulful and R&B ballads to dance songs. Houston said that she wanted to make a "very soul oriented" album, something she felt was missing on the radio. It was a departure in style from her previous album My Love Is Your Love, which was blended with hip hop and reggae jams. Regarding the album's recording sessions L.A. Reid, with whom Houston was working, said
"We really wanted to re-establish a core urban base for Whitney. [...]We made records that were black pop for years. And now, that same black pop doesn't work well".
She started to work with Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, with whom she had worked in her previous albums, Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs who produced songs for TLC, Destiny's Child, and others. Other major producers included Missy Elliott, who worked with Houston on My Love Is Your Love, Teddy Bishop, Gordon Chambers, Rob Fusari and Troy Taylor. Her then husband, Bobby Brown also co-produced one of the tracks along with Jerry Mohammed. Andre Lewis, who met Houston through Brown, also contributed to the project. In addition to these producers, Houston also worked with Rodney Jerkins and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, but their works did not make the album.
In an interview with Billboard, Houston said that the whole recording process was "very loose". She said that she would listen to tracks and Reid would recommend the producers. She also said that she really enjoyed the process, because she got some "really great creative" material. About the process, Reid said,
"I asked her to go in and experiment with different producers, which is something she hadn't done in the past"
Recording took place in various locations including Atlanta Premier Recordings in Atlanta, Capitol Studios in California, Crossways Studios in New Jersey, The Hit Factory-Criteria in Miami and many other locations.
Musically, the album is a mixture of music ranging from R&B and soul to dance. According to Houston,
"[t]his album for me is about surviving, raising a family, being a wife or girlfriend and all the challenges that go along with those things. These songs are more about creating a mood than about anything in particular."
She also said that she wanted to give something to the fans, songs which they can sing along to and love the melody. She also incorporated samples into her songs such as in "One of Those Days" ㅡ album's second single, which sampled The Isley Brothers' song "Between the Sheets". She also covered Debby Boone's classic "You Light Up My Life". The album also contains the rock influenced "Tell Me No", which was produced by Babyface, who also produced some other songs on the album including the ballad "Try It on My Own" and dance-pop song "Love That Man" ㅡ both of which became singles. The song "Whatchulookinat" was produced by Brown and Mohammad 2G and became the project's lead single. The lyrics of the song co-written by Houston herself was taken by critics as an answer to the media for preoccupying her private life and personal travails.
|Atlanta Journal-Constitution||B+ |
|Entertainment Weekly||B− |
|Los Angeles Times|||
Upon its release, Just Whitney received mixed reviews from critics, with aggregated reviews on Metacritic awarding the album 53 out of 100. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic commented that Just Whitney was "an assertion that she [Houston]'s returning to her basics." He also said that the album was a measured attempt to salvage a career that's on the verge of destruction. He concluded by saying, "It would be a good standard-issue Whitney album if it wasn't for her disarming, defensive attempt to defuse every rumor hurled in her direction." Billboard reviewed the album commenting that "Just Whitney appears and sounds more like a work-in-progress than a finished disk" and said that the album showcased an artist simply going through the motions and her voice lacked emotion and verve." Steve Jones of USA Today graded the album two-and-half stars out of four, giving a mixed review saying, "At her best, Houston is full of sass and attitude and, most of all, joy. But with so much emphasis on what's bothering her, you can't help but wonder whether the thrill is gone." According to The Guardian, the album takes "a musical step backwards".
Joan Anderman of The Boston Globe reviewed the album neutrally writing, "[Just Whitney] is as unlikely to get her career back on track" and marked the album as a "shiny, heartless undertaking." Tom Sinclair of Entertainment Weekly graded the album a B- and noted that Just Whitney had a refreshingly "old-school vibe." He also commented, "Whatever her personal problems, our gal [sic] sounds plucky and on top of her game. Still, in her third decade as a diva, Houston remains a formidable role model for American Idolwannabes." Robert Hilburn of Los Angeles Times graded the album one and half stars out of five commenting, "Just Whitney suffers from the sense of career desperation that surrounded Michael Jackson's recent CDs. She and four dozen writers and producers work so hard finding another hit, they lose track of the human qualities that made her music so formidable." Jon Caramanica of Rolling Stone said that the album "lacked any fire whatsoever." He also commented on Houston's cover of "You Light Up My Life" saying, "this cover... only shows an artist vainly trying to reach for what her future once could have been" and graded the album two stars out of five.
Jon Pareles of New York Times wrote, "Ms. Houston's voice sails and spirals through breathy ballads, staccato constructions and big-build anthems; she's strategic and improvisatory at the same time." He summarized by saying that even when she [Houston]'s seething, she's graceful. Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine rated the album two-and-half stars out of five, being disappointed in the fact that Just Whitney was not geared to recapture the crossover R&B success of My Love Is Your Love.
But, Angus Batey from Yahoo! Music UK & Ireland graded the album seven stars out of ten commenting, "[...] this is a cogent, compact and really quite good record, one that mixes upbeat, perhaps slightly clinical R&B with uber-ballads and occasional snatches of what appears to be an attempt at intimacy." Craig Seymour ofAtlanta Journal and Constitution reviewed the album gave a favorable review stating, "On Just Whitney, her first album since 1998, Houston comes off as everything she wasn't during her recent TV interview with Diane Sawyer: warm, lucid, open and sharp. Keysha Davis of BBC gave a favorable review commenting, "With one of the exceptional voices in contemporary music, her latest album, aptly titled Just Whitney sees the diva return to her former glory with a combination of high-voltage ballads and smooth-liqueur R&B. [...] Whitney's return to big ballads will hopefully ensure that this pop princess will be able to lead the rest of her life like a clichéd fairy tale - happily ever after." Mike Bell from Jam! Showbiz, was also favorable in his review, saying "Maybe because of everything that's happened in her past, maybe because of the sideshow, she has the ability to give the songs real feeling, real life." In addition, he stated that her voice was in fine form, "showcasing those incredible pipes that launched a thousand imitators." He concluded by saying, "And it shows up all of those followers with recent releases ㅡ including Mariah Carey and Celine Dion ㅡ because not only does Houston have the lungs, but she has the soul."
On the week ending December 28, 2002, Just Whitney debuted and peaked at number nine on the Billboard 200 and number three on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, becoming Houston's fourth and fifth top ten studio album on each chart, respectively. The album sold 205,147 copies, an amount higher than her previous record of 177,284 copies with Waiting to Exhale: Original Soundtrack Album, in its first week, thus earning Houston's highest first week sales of her career in the Nielsen Soundscan era at that time. The album spent 26 weeks on the charts. It was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipments exceeding one million copies. According to Nielsen Soundscan, the album has sold 1 million copies in the United States.
Just Whitney was a moderate hit worldwide, unlike her previous sets. In Australia, the album reached number 22 on the ARIA Urban Albums Chart. The album debuted at number 85 on the Canadian Albums chart, selling 3,000 copies in its first week. In Austria, it entered the albums chart on December 8, 2002 at its peak position of number 33. In Switzerland, the album saw its second highest peak, when it debuted at number 10 on the charts. It was certified Platinum by the IFPI Switzerland for shipment/sales of 30,000 copies or more. In France, the album charted at number 25 and was certified Gold, for shipment of 50,000 copies. In the Netherlands, it peaked at number 70 on the albums chart. Apart from this, Just Whitney was certified Gold in Brazil for shipment/sales of 40,000 copies or more. In other countries, the album failed to chart or peaked outside top 40 and thus became a moderate seller. In the UK, it peaked at number 76 and has sold 42,114 copies there. The album has sold more than 2 million copies worldwide.
The album saw the release of four official singles - two preceding and two succeeding the album's release.
The lead single "Whatchulookinat"'s lyrics were Houston's reply to media for its negative attraction to her personal life.
"Try It On My Own" - the third single was named a "classic Whitney ballad" by critics.
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"Whatchulookinat" became the album's lead single released on September 17, 2002. The song received mixed to unfavorable reviews from critics. It was seen as woe is Whitney song, a rich girl whining. The single became a moderate success worldwide, peaking inside the top forty in most countries. In the US, it became her tenth Hot Dance Club Play topper. The corresponding music video was also considered as Houston's answer to the media for getting too deep into her personal life. The video showed a white set with cameras all over, following Houston's every move. The set was also full with old movie cameras and people dressed as reporters and photographers. Houston is shown dancing in front of them.
"One of Those Days" was the album's second single and was released on October 29, 2002. The song received positive reviews from critics. It sampled The Isley Brothers' song "Between the Sheets". The single was a moderate success in the US, peaking inside top eighty of the charts. The accompanying music video's plot revolved around Houston and her friends, having a day for themselves and getting away from stress.
"Try It on My Own" became the project's third single and was released on February 11, 2003. The song received acclaim from critics as well as fans; most of them who named it as the album's highlight. The song, like its predecessors, was a moderate success and topped Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. It also reached the top ten on the US Adult Contemporary chart. Internationally, the song performed fair. A music video was released to promote the single.
"Love That Man" was the fourth and final single from the album, released on May 20, 2003. It became another Dance Club chart-topping single, but failed to make the Hot 100. No accompanying video was released for the single.
To promote the album, Houston appeared on the 2002 MTV Europe Music Awards, performing her new single "Whatchulookinat". She also appeared on the 2003 VH1 Divas Duets: An Honors Concert for the VH1 Save the Music Foundation and performed her hits including two songs from the album; "My Love" and "Try It on My Own". Apart from these, she also performed live on Good Morning America. No major tours were arranged to support the album.
|1.||"One of Those Days"||Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs, O'Kelly Isley, Jr., Rudolph Isley, Ronald Isley, Ernie Isley, Marvin Isley, Chris Jasper, Dwight Reynolds, Patrice Stewart||Briggs||4:10|
|2.||"Tell Me No"||Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, Kandi Burruss, Holly Lamar, Annie Roboff||Babyface||3:44|
|3.||"Things You Say"||Charlie Bereal, Kenny Bereal, Missy Elliott, Charlene Keys||CKB, Missy Elliott||4:13|
|4.||"My Love" (featuring Bobby Brown)||Ted Bishop, Gordon Chambers, Greg Charley||Chambers, Bishop||3:28|
|5.||"Love That Man"||Babyface, Rob Fusari, Calvin Gaines, Eritza Laues, Bill Lee, Balewa Muhammad||Babyface, Fusari||3:28|
|6.||"Try It on My Own"||Babyface, Jason Edmonds, Carole Bayer Sager, Aleese Simmons, Nathan Walton||Babyface||4:39|
|7.||"Dear John Letter"||Briggs, Dwight Reynolds, Patrice Stewart, Whitney Houston*||Briggs||4:34|
|8.||"Unashamed"||Darius Good, Luke Paterna, Stephanie Salzman, Troy Taylor||Taylor, Good, Paterna||3:38|
|9.||"You Light Up My Life"||Joe Brooks||Babyface, Rickey Minor||3:42|
|10.||"Whatchulookinat"||Tammie Harris, Houston, Andre Lewis, Muhammad, Harry Palmer, Christopher Stein, Deborah Harry, Lawrence Parker, Jesse West||Bobby Brown, Muhammad||3:33|
|2.||"Tell Me No"||3:44|
|3.||"One of Those Days"||4:10|
|4.||"Things You Say"||4:13|
|5.||"My Love" (featuring Bobby Brown)||3:28|
|6.||"Love That Man"||3:28|
|7.||"On My Own+"||4:39|
|8.||"Dear John Letter"||4:34|
|10.||"You Light Up My Life"||3:42|
|11.||"Whatchulookinat" (P. Diddy Remix)||4:08|
|Limited edition bonus DVD|
|1.||"Whatchulookinat" (music video)||4:11|
|2.||"Love to Infinity Megamix" (Video)||5:15|
|3.||"Whatchulookinat" (Behind the Scenes)||4:52|
Adapted from AllMusic.
|Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)||33|
|Canadian Albums (Billboard)||85|
|Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)||70|
|French Albums (SNEP)||25|
|German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)||16|
|Italian Albums (FIMI)||20|
|Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)||10|
|UK Albums (OCC)||76|
|UK R&B Albums (OCC)||21|
|US Billboard 200||9|
|US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (Billboard)||2|
|Croatian Albums Chart||26|
|US Billboard 200||50|
|US Top Pop Catalog Albums (Billboard)||12|
|US Billboard 200||101|
|US R&B/Hip-Hop Albums||30|
|Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)||Gold||50,000*|
|Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)||Platinum||40,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||Platinum||1,000,000^|
*sales figures based on certification alone