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whitney
houston

At a listening party for her upcoming album I Look To You, Whitney Houston told the crowd that she had been ready to shelve her career as a performer to "live on an island and open a fruit stand." But in a blow to pineapple growers everywhere, she reconsidered, and the pop diva is now angling a stiletto-clad foot back in the spotlight for another comeback. Her decision might have something to do with Clive Davis. The music titan and mentor behind her 1985 self-titled debut is on board for this one, too, so the chances of a multiplatinum hit album—Houston enjoyed a record-breaking string of seven of them—ought to be better than even.

Like Madonna, Houston owed much of her early success to heavy rotation on MTV. Her model looks landed her in the pages of Glamour and Seventeen as a teenager, and her neon makeup and electric curls made a big impact on videos for "How Will I Know" and "I Wanna Dance With Somebody." (Those eighties costumes, by the way, are very now.) Houston has had her well-publicized, uh, ups and downs since then, of course—the messy marriage to Bobby Brown, the even more questionable decision to co-star in the Kevin Costner vehicle The Bodyguard (even if her remake of the Dolly Parton standard "I Will Always Love You" from the film's soundtrack became one of the best-selling singles in the history of music). The singer is nothing if not a survivor, though. Why has she endured as a pop icon? The superstar persona and those Dolce & Gabbana tour costumes didn't hurt, but it all comes down to her awe-inspiring voice. As her fellow Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson once put it, Houston demonstrates "the difference between being able to sing and knowing how to sing."

—Romney Leader

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