Sometimes a novel is so vividly written you can practically see a movie of it unreeling before your eyes as you read. Much more unusual is the soundtrack that conjures would-be scenes of the film it complements, undoubtedly because a group of songs rarely tells a narrative story.
This album deftly conveys visions of "Waiting to Exhale" via its collection of African American divas (including the movie's star, Whitney Houston, as well as Mary J. Blige, TLC and Brandy) singing about the foibles of love and relationships--mirroring the four women in the book and film who talk of nothing but.
For all its surface sisterhood, the soundtrack is really the work of a man, Babyface, who wrote nearly every song and co-produced as well. No matter his gender, in songs such as "How Could You Call Her Baby"--all the more powerful for the restraint Shanna displays in singing of betrayal--he has captured what it can mean to be a woman in 1995.
Houston's elegant "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" and Toni Braxton's "Let It Flow," with rich, smoky vocals as thick as Inland Empire smog, exude maturity without resorting to the relentlessly big vocals that characterize so many R&B records aiming for adult audiences. If the movie is half as good as the soundtrack makes you think it will be, don't wait for the video.