By 1998, Whitney Houston had an insured spot on the entertainment landscape. The multi-awarded superstar had surpassed expectations in music and at box-offices with record-breaking success. She had prized live performances that were still being applauded worldwide. The famed vocalist even had a few vocal offspring under her wing, who were learning the ropes to be a supreme songbird.
With Houston’s name leading headlines and charts for more than a decade, it made it hard to fathom that she had only three studio albums to her credit. All that changed in 1998 when Arista, her career-long record label, announced the arrival of her album My Love is Your Love. The work marked Houston’s first non-soundtrack based album since 1990’s I’m Your Baby Tonight.
The album, which was created in six weeks, found Houston back in the studio with longtime collaborators Babyface and David Foster. She also assembled a bevy of hungry new songwriters and producers like Rodney Jerkins, Missy Elliott and Wyclef Jean to refine her polished sound.
“You have to keep up with the times, no matter how you feel about your own music and what you used to do or did,” she told Billboard in October 1998. “You have to keep it with what the [current] groove is, and I can do that. Ain’t no biggie, ain’t no biggie at all.”
Avowed for her crowning ballads and love-struck lyrics, Houston wasn’t interested in duplicating anything from her discography. “I wasn’t into the syrupy kind of vibe. I just didn’t feel like singing about ‘I Will Always Love You.’ I’m a working mother, I’m a wife, I’m an artist. There are so many things that go into that, and it’s not always like ‘everything is beautiful in its own way.'”
One of many beautiful moments from Houston’s album My Love is Your Love came in the form of a duet with Mariah Carey titled “When You Believe.” Their complementary alliance, which served as Love’s lead single and on The Prince of Egypt soundtrack, earned the chanteuses a top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
Within a year of its release, My Love is Your Love was certified three-times platinum by The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). The album and its supporting singles received multiple accolades and nominations including a Grammy Award for Best Female Vocal R&B Performance (“It’s Not Right but It’s Okay”) in 2000.
On the 20th anniversary of My Love is Your Love, Rated R&B revisits all five singles from this era by ranking them from least epic to most epic.
5. “Heartbreak Hotel” with Faith Evans and Kelly Price
On this over-emotional booking, Houston checks in her scorned feelings under the name ‘heartbreak’ and adds Faith Evans and Kelly Price to the melodramatic reservation. Without ego, each act respectively unleashes their heaven-sent chops and deliver a timeless performance.
4. “I Learned from the Best”
For her final single, Houston returned to her mighty ballad prowess with help from David Foster and Diane Warren. Layered with a dramatic electric and acoustic guitar, this cathartic solo found the gifted vocalist detailing years of hurt and pain to a now remorseful lover. Instead of buying into his web of lies, Houston takes a page from his book of heartbreak and writes him off.
3. “My Love is Your Love”
Daring to enhance her hallmark style while remaining true to her artistry, Houston employs Wyclef Jean and Jerry “Wonda” Duplessis for a reggae-style title track. Even though this offbeat spiritual is upheld by a message of unbreakable love, it finds a gracious way to be an awakening word of peace for the world. The sweet echoes of Bobbi Kristina voice are even more angelic today.
2. “When You Believe” with Mariah Carey
Nothing was more surprising than Houston and Mariah Carey uniting their wondrous voices for an inspirational duet. Curated by the legendary Babyface, the powerful hymn listened to two rip-roaring forces encourage doubtful hearts to hold on to their faith as they waited for the possible to happen.
1. “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay”
Anyone can sing a song but how many artists can carefully convey the descriptive narrative with the melody? Ms. Houston can and proved her golden storytelling knacks on this sassy kissoff. From suspicious credit card statements to deceitful acts, The Voice makes a vow to herself to never settle for anyone less-deserving again.
Replay My Love is Your Love in its entirety below.
Follow An’Twane on Twitter @9thwonderofPR.