Today, the New York Post has picked up on Foxnew.com's 411 scoop about Whitney Houston. In case you missed it, Antonio "L.A." Reid has personally selected the divas big ballad for her upcoming album, and it's none other than "You Light Up My Life."
Yes, the very same 1977 hit that spent weeks and weeks at No. 1 and drove some people crazy with its banality.
"If I told you that Whitney was going to record Dolly Parton's 'I Will Always Love You' ...you'd have said I was nuts then, wouldn't you?" This, from an Arista Records source who claims that Whitney will turn this old chestnut into something better than Debby Boone's treacly ballad.
Houston would not be the first to tackle composer Joe Brooks' work from the infamous flop movie of the same name. Lee Ann Rimes, Kenny Rogers and the late Lawrence Welk all gave it a shot at various times in the last 25 years.
In the movie, which is best forgotten, Didi Conn lip-synchs the song. The vocal was supplied by Kasey Cisyk, a singer who died about six years ago. At the time of the film's release she got no credit for her warbling and the situation became something of a minor scandal.
There's a funny irony here, too. Debby's dad, Pat Boone, was guilty in the 1950s of stealing R&B songs like "Tutti Frutti" from Little Richard and re-recording them as hits. So Whitney doing a Boone number and having a bigger hit would be turnabout as fair play.
Still, word from the Houston camp initially is that there is a real divide about what kind of songs should be on Whitney's album. I was told by one from Houston's camp that "there are no other ballads on the record. L.A. is concerned about making a Clive Davis-like album. He's trying to ghettoize her."
But Arista sources disagree. "Whitney's album will sound like a Whitney album. There will be four or five ballads."
The album, which was originally unofficially announced for release on Sept. 17, has been moved to Nov. 5.
So far Houston has recorded with Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds and with two young producers from Miami whom husband Bobby Brown discovered.
But the usual suspects -- Rodney Jerkins, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, and Wyclef Jean -- have so far not heard a word from Houston or Brown. The latter seems particularly strange since Jean wrote Houston's title song and big hit "My Love Is Your Love" from her last album.
What you lookin' at? It's not a video for Whitney Houston's comeback single "Whatchulookinat," that's for sure.
Golden-throated Whitney decided at the last minute that everything intended for her first new video in two years was wrong -- particularly the script.
So even though makeup people and stylists, a full video crew and a director were all waiting on a video soundstage to start the proceedings, Houston simply said "No" and didn't show up.
As this column reported a month or so ago, "Whatchulookinat" was surreptitiously released to New York radio stations before it was supposed to see the light of day. The record, which has a pretty good groove and outstanding Houston vocals, nevertheless has difficult lyrics.
The lyrics blame the press and everyone else in the world for Whitney's constant battles with the tabloids (the National Enquirer in particular) over her alleged drug abuse and husband Bobby Brown's extracurricular activities.
When it came time to filming a version of this recording, suddenly the song's inherent problems became clear.
"They [Whitney and the director] didn't know what tone to take -- whether it should be a funny video. Or how it would be a funny video," says an insider. "So it was easier just not to do it."
Maybe Houston realized this was not the song to make a video for after all. Both Billboard and Entertainment Weekly panned it, the latter giving it a letter grade of F.
Radio stations, after the initial shock of receiving "Whatchulookinat," have turned a cold ear to it. According to the magazine Radio & Records, which monitors airplay, less than a handful of stations are playing the record.
Nevertheless, the cancelled shoot caused tens of thousands of dollars to fly out the window. Pfffft -- gone. That's not good since, according to one former employee, "They [Houston's office staff] do not pay their bills."
Meanwhile, Houston and Brown had been in Los Angeles, where they were supposed to be cutting tracks with Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds for the album. Some of those sessions may have been missed, I am told, causing the album to be pushed back.
"I could tell you about dozens of missed studio appointments," a former Houston associate told me -- and then did.
For Arista Records, the Houston album is incredibly important. Label head L.A. Reid, who inherited Houston, her remarkable voice and her personal problems from Clive Davis, helped OK an announced $100 million deal with the singer last year.
Even if the deal was for half that (let's say the other half was for headlines), $50 million is a lot of money. (Just ask Michael Jackson.)
Even though Arista is comfortably ensconced on the charts with Avril Lavigne, Usher and Pink, Houston is the label's franchise player. They can't afford an autumn of missed dates and bad press combined with rumors of Whitney's troubled life.
Only a couple of months ago, Houston and Brown pulled their luxury touring bus over in Fredericksburg, Va., so that Brown could be admitted to an emergency room. He was said to have been suffering from some sort of virus.
Houston and crew continued on home to New Jersey, leaving Brown to fend for himself. It was the latest of several recent mysterious hospitalizations for the 33-year-old singer.
But let's not be so quick to jump all over Brown, whom a lot of people point to as the key to Houston's problems. One source tells me the opposite: "Bobby's a great guy. He's fun to be with. He is not the trouble in Whitney's life."
But Bobby -- who found the producers for "Whatchulookinat" and has a good ear for a catchy hook -- may wind up causing problems for Houston that no one has thought of yet. According to two sources, Brown has become enamored of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
"Bobby's sister has joined Farrakhan and she's pushed for Whitney and Bobby to join up too," says one source familiar with the situation.
The word is that the couple's new bodyguard, a man named Curtis Mohammed, comes from Farrakhan's security detail.
Even on a bad day, Whitney Houston has the best voice of her generation, an instrument that has only been fractionally used so far. The lyrics for "Whatchulookinat" may not be the most ingratiating, but one listen makes it obvious she has still the chops.
As for Brown, he has incentive from Arista Records to make Whitney's album come in on time and in line with budgets. If he can do it, I've heard that Reid has promised him his own deal.
Personally, I'm rooting for both of them to pull this off. No one would be happier to let Whitney Houston sing the words "I told you so" than me.