Time for real talk: The "Sparkle" soundtrack (RCA) was never going to be Whitney Houston's comeback.
Houston appears on only two songs -- the lackluster single "Celebrate" with Jordin Sparks, where she takes a backseat to the younger singer, and the stunning version of the gospel classic "His Eye Is on the Sparrow," where she showed how the power (if not the range) had returned to her voice. Despite her one-time superstar status, Houston wasn't supposed to carry "Sparkle," Sparks was. And this album, completed before Houston's death in February, sounds like it was created for a modest, midlevel project, not the return of a superstar.
Cee Lo Green's contribution, "I'm a Man," comes off as a likable castoff from one of his albums, while the movie's fictitious trio -- played by Sparks, Carmen Ejogo and Tika Sumpter -- handles Curtis Mayfield's "Something He Can Feel" less like Aretha Franklin and more like an "X Factor" tryout. It's not that they're bad, it's just that they sound a bit uninspired on that song, as well as on "Jump" and "Hooked on Your Love."
"Sparkle" may end up being a nice movie, but the quality of this soundtrack shows that the unplanned attention that the project received from Houston's untimely death probably won't help it in the long run.
VARIOUS "Sparkle: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack"
BOTTOM LINE A modest effort, led by Whitney Houston's final recording.