The audio: After months of anticipation from still-mourning fans, Whitney Houston's final studio recording was released Tuesday, a duet from her upcoming film Sparkle that features Jordin Sparks, who plays Houston's daughter in the movie. (Listen to the song below.) Sparkle, a remake of the 1976 film by the same name, follows a trio of Detroit sisters (including Sparks) as they catapult to success as a Motown singing group before plummeting into a morass of drugs and abuse. The new track, "Celebrate," deviates from the film's darker themes. It's an up-tempo inspirational anthem written and co-produced by R. Kelly, and, unlike many songs in the new film, wasn't featured in the 1976 movie. Houston reportedly had a ball recording the track: She "got in the booth, started her vocal session with a prayer as she always did, and worked for about three to four hours," says co-producer Harvey Mason Jr. "We ended the session dancing around the control room while she said, 'Turn it up! Turn it up!"
The reaction: This isn't the kind of soulful ballad tricked out with vocal gymnastics that we've come to expect from Houston, says Moviefone. Instead, Sparks does most of the heavy lifting, "leaving Houston to sing the jazzier background." Still, Whitney sounds terrific, says Donna Kaufman at iVillage, though her voice "shows signs of age — perhaps more so because she's paired with the much younger Sparks." The track itself is essentially "a zippy motivational speech folded into a song," says Amanda Dobbins at New York. Thankfully, it's "totally inoffensive as far as posthumous tracks go." Have a listen: