Picks and Pans Review: Waiting to Exhale Soundtrack

updated 12/11/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/11/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

Various Artists

We'll have to wait until the Dec. 22 opening of Waiting to Exhale to see if Whitney Houston can convincingly put aside her pop diva persona. One hopes that Houston, who made her screen debut as a singer in 1992's The Bodyguard, will fare better in this film than she and most of the other singers do on its soundtrack.

Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, who wrote and produced the album, seems to be overextending himself, trying too hard to give these 15 sister acts something to say. Normally chaste, here he churns out lots of oversexed banter. On "This Is How It Works," TLC sings, "Go due south and...melt yourself into my body." And his choice of 24-year-old Mary J. Blige to sing "Eleven years, out of my life/ Besides the kids, I've got nothing to show" to a philandering hubby on "Not Gon' Cry" is almost as disorienting as selecting glamorous Toni Braxton to huskily croon the folksy "Let It Flow."

Houston herself turns in an atypically understated performance on the featherweight theme. Chaka Khan offers a goosebumpy crescendo vocal on "My Funny Valentine"—the album's only non-original song—and newcomer Shanna pulls off a nicely fed-up performance on "How Could You Call Her Baby." In the end, however, the album sounds like a rush job. Perhaps Baby-face and director Forest Whitaker, who enlisted him to work on the soundtrack, should have let some collaborators in on the action. (Arista)

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