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Some producers had to pass on the project because of prior commitments. With production from Michael Masser, Kashif, Jermaine Jackson, and Narada Michael Walden, Houston's debut album Whitney Houston was released in February 1985 and sold 25 million copies worldwide; Houston won her first Grammy Award with this LP.
Rolling Stone magazine praised Houston, calling her "one of the most exciting new voices in years" while The New York Times called the album "an impressive, musically conservative showcase for an exceptional vocal talent".
The soundtrack album received the Grammy Award for Album of the Year; it remains the all-time best-selling album by a female artist, as well as the best-selling soundtrack album in history.
Houston made other high-profile film appearances, including Waiting to Exhale (1995) and The Preacher's Wife (1996).
(Houston had been offered deals by recording agencies before—by Michael Zager in 1980, and by Elektra Records in 1981—but her mother declined them on the grounds that Whitney had yet to complete high school.
The label wanted to make sure no other label signed her away, and Davis wanted to ensure he had the right material and producers for Houston's debut album.
In 1983, Gerry Griffith, an A&R representative from Arista Records, saw Houston performing with her mother in a New York City nightclub.
However, her personal struggles began overshadowing her career, and the album Just Whitney (2002) received mixed reviews.
Her drug use and tumultuous marriage to Bobby Brown were widely publicized in media.
Houston released seven studio albums and two soundtrack albums, all of which have been certified diamond, multi-platinum, platinum, or gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Her crossover appeal on the popular music charts—as well as her prominence on MTV, starting with her video for "How Will I Know"—influenced several African-American women artists who followed in her footsteps.