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Battle of the Divas

This season, three of America's best-selling divas face off in a high-stakes battle to regain critical success and public recognition. Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton and Mariah Carey all dealt in recent years with an ongoing media frenzy surrounding their respective drug use, financial troubles and mental breakdown.

Whitney Houston has faced incredible public scrutiny with speculations of her out-of-control cocaine addiction and alleged homosexuality. Houston kept going strong, releasing the impressive "My Love Is Your Love" in 1998, which delivered the mega (remix) hit "It's Not Right, But It's Okay."

On her newest, "Just Whitney," the 39-year-old singer sets out to continue her hit streak. Produced by talents such as Babyface, Missy Elliot and Kevin "She'kespere" Briggs, the album has a dominating R&B vibe with some mandatory pop elements.

"Just Whitney" seems to be just that, not delivering the excitement and stamina her previous records showed. On songs such as "Tell Me No" and "Love That Man" the musical arrangements appear uninspired and the melodies rather dull with their one-size-fits-all production.

The singer rebounds briefly at the album's last track "Whatchulookinat," the flopped radio single on which the artist shows her teeth and lashes out against the media for prying into her personal life.

After a string of number one hits and Grammy awards, Mariah Carey encountered the dark side of success when her first feature film "Glitter" and the accompanying movie soundtrack flopped in 2001. At the same time, the singer had to deal with the death of her father and a break-up with Latin singer Luis Miguel.

As a result of all this turmoil, Carey was forced to check herself into a private clinic to deal with severe physical and mental exhaustion.

Carey turns her grief into art on her latest album, "Charmbracelet." The album features Carey writing and co-producing with such A-list producers as Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Jermaine Dupri and others. "Charmbracelet" features some of her most personal songwriting, which is fully evident on songs such as "Through The Rain," "My Saving Grace" and "Sunflower for Alfred Roy."

The singer's emotion-filled lyrics are carefully weaved into sweet-voiced, subtle R&B arrangements that feature Carey's remarkable high-pitch vocals. This album proves that the singer is back at the top of her game writing and performing songs that combine style with real substance.

Toni Braxton is not only a diva, but also an aspiring Broadway actress, savvy business woman and proud mother. No wonder she titled her new album "More Than A Woman." After a shattering bankruptcy and dragging court drama, Braxton came out strong, winning against her record label, getting a hefty pay raise and a new record deal.

On "More Than A Woman," the husky-voiced Braxton introduces an edgier sound with the help of production duo the Neptunes, who are known for producing Britney Spears' "I'm A Slave 4 U." The groovy "Hit The Freeway," the acoustic-flavored "Rock Me, Roll Me" and the rocky "Lies, Lies, Lies" feature the "musical mistress of heartache" in top shape, showing off La Braxton's sexy attitude drenched in an infectious, hip-hop sound.

In this year's battle of the divas, Carey and Braxton clearly prove themselves. Houston stays outside the ring for now, but fortunately, has shown that her diva spirit is strong and will perhaps prevail in the next round.

November 12, 2002 in Music Reviews | Permalink

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