NEW YORK —
Swizz started the process on the song four months ago when he got a call from Clive Davis and record executive Larry Jackson. They told Swizzy, "We're working with Whitney. Let's see what you have. We know you have something under your sleeve."
"I went to the office and vibed with Larry," Swizz explained. "I was like, 'She really sounds good. She's on her A-game.'
"At the time I was working on some stuff with Alicia," Swizz added. "I was like, 'We need to bring Whitney back. We need to do some stuff to support Whitney.' Then Alicia was like, 'I love Whitney, she's an icon. I would love to be a part of that.' I started vibing on different things. I didn't want to come with anything that would make her sound too old or too young. That's when I got the vibe to do something that had, like, a disco feel, but still with the hard drums on it — still musical but moving. I wanted to do something that was instant when it came on. Then I played the idea for Alicia to make sure I wasn't bugging out. 'Am I going too far with this?' She was like, 'Nah. That can be a big smash.' "
Swizz and Alicia then sat down and came up with lyrics.
"Million Dollar Bill" is all about the feelings new love can bring. And although the duo felt they had a strong single for the album, Houston and Davis had been choosy when it came to picking the songs for the album that has been over three years in the making. But Houston loved the tune.
"She was so excited Alicia wanted to be involved in her project," Swizz said. "More sisterly love-type of vibe. Like, 'Wow, one of my sisters that I respect in music is reaching out and helping when she could be doing a lot of other things in this world.' "
Keys and Beatz got Tony Maserati to mix the record, but were tweaking right up until the night of the listening party. Davis wanted the drums to be a little harder on the finished version, so Swizz had Maserati take the modulation off the song and turn the drums all the way up.
"I want this to be one of the biggest records of her comebacks," Swizz noted. "I want her to be onstage at the Grammys talking about this record."
At the listening party, the crowd cheered when the track came on.
"To get a standing ovation for a song we put so much work into was like, 'Wow,' " Beatz recalled. "That's why Alicia was taping [the listening party] — we're capturing the moments. We was like, 'We can't miss this, this is history.' I was super happy."