BEVERLY HILLS, California — Every year on Grammy Awards weekend, Clive Davis puts his stamp on the artist he feels will be the next blue-chip performer under his wing. The nod has become almost as important as winning a Grammy itself. This year, however, Davis' biggest splash will be an act he discovered decades ago: [artist id="1158"]Whitney Houston[/artist].
"She's rehearsing around 9 p.m. tonight," Davis said on Thursday afternoon, during practices for his legendary extravaganza at the Beverly Hilton. The music mogul — who has been Houston's godfather figure as much as he has been one of the people guiding her career — hinted that the Grammy-winning singer would have product in the marketplace sooner than we expect.
"You wait for the great songs to be written," Davis said about the long-awaited comeback album from one of his most prized prodigies. "The great hits Whitney has given to the public for so many years — you keep encouraging and setting the bar. [artist id="10489"]R. Kelly[/artist] and Whitney just went into the studio with a great song called 'I Look to You.'
"The same way her debut album took a while to put together, you just don't do it by going into a computer. You wait for the material to justify a new album," he added. "Pretty much, it's come in."
Davis said that Houston is going into the lab with hitmaker David Foster next week to record a ballad called "I Didn't Know My Own Strength."
Another very strong woman was on hand at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday. [artist id="2481017"]Jennifer Hudson[/artist] was going over "Spotlight" with little body movement but still showing that her hiatus in the wake of her family tragedy hasn't diminished her pipes whatsoever.
"Oh, baby, I don't like it," she sang, getting more soulful toward the end of the song. "Living under your spotlight!"
"There's no mistaking that this is Miss Jennifer Hudson," Davis beamed. "Her voice just soared."
Clive and Hudson hugged after her rehearsal.
In 2008, when Hudson sang "And I Am Telling You" from "Dreamgirls" at the Davis party, labelmate [article id="1581245"]Leona Lewis ushered in "Bleeding Love."[/article]
"There was something about 'Bleeding Love' and her digging deep and the edginess," Davis said, explaining why he picked the song as Lewis' first single a year ago. "There was no disagreement."
Lewis, who is working with [artist id="1231683"]Justin Timberlake[/artist] on her new album, had fond memories of performing at last year's event. "To have Clive introducing me and debut here, that's having someone so amazing and prestigious in music ... it was great," Lewis said. "I think when Clive speaks, people listen. I'm glad I got the opportunity to perform. I'm performing this year. Clive's being celebrated. I can't wait. It's gonna be a great evening."
Davis' Pre-Grammy Gala takes place Saturday night in Los Angeles.
Will Lil Wayne grab all the gramophones? Is Katy Perry going to tell her girl rivals to kiss off? Can Coldplay march off with a win? MTV News is all over the 51st Annual Grammy Awards, so stay tuned for interviews, analysis and more before, during and after the big night, Sunday, February 8.