The Grammy committee usually loves comeback stories. Whether it’s artists who left the spotlight for a while and then returned with a vengeance ( Bonnie Raitt , Natalie Cole , Tina Turner ), veterans who reinvented their careers by collaborating with other musicians ( Carlos Santana , Herbie Hancock , Robert Plant ), or artists who struggled with their demons and made great music as a result ( Dixie Chicks , Amy Winehouse ), such rising-from-ashes back stories usually strongly resonate with industry voters. In this regard, Whitney Houston’s “comeback” album I Look To You –released after the singer’s long hiatus, divorce from Bobby Brown , and infamous battles with drugs–seemed a shoo-in for multiple nominations.
Her record label Arista seemed so sure of Whitney’s chances, in fact, that it moved her album release date up in order for it to qualify for this year’s voting window. But Whitney was actually completely shut out, with NO nominations whatsoever–not only was she snubbed in the major categories like Album Of The Year, but even in the secondary Pop and R&B categories. This was a shock considering her Grammy history of 24 nominations and six wins, including winning Album Of The Year and Record Of The Year in 1994.
Many industry people and fans alike are wondering why Whitney was overlooked this time. Some say it might have been all the hype. From the moment it was announced that Whitney would be releasing her first original studio album in seven years, the Arista promo machine went into overdrive–with Whitney hosting a star-studded listening party with her longtime mentor, Arista honcho Clive Davis (at which Clive reminded everyone of Whitney’s millions and millions of albums sold), and doing a headline-garnering Oprah interview about her struggles. And it seemed many were rooting for her, with I Look To You debuting at #1 with more than 300,000 units sold in its first week (it has sold about 800,000 as of this writing), but the hype was still a little overwhelming.