Akon helping steer Houston album

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DETROIT -- "Great songs" and an acknowledged great voice are what will facilitate a Whitney Houston comeback, according to Akon, who's signed on to write and produce material for the dormant diva's next album.

"We haven't actually gone into the studio yet; right now I'm just coming up with a lot of different ideas and directions," Akon tells Billboard.com in an interview conducted before the recent controversy over his onstage dance with a teenager in Trinidad. "I just think she needs to come with great songs. I think the music will overcome all the things she's been through."

"The voice is there; I don't think anyone could ever take that from her," he continued. "As long as we apply that voice to hit records, she'll be right back where she left off."

The Grammy-winning Houston hasn't released new material since 2003's "One Wish: The Holiday Album," and a full set of new songs since "Just Whitney" in 2002. She's been dogged in recent years by drug and health issues -- including rehab stints in 2004 and 2005 -- a legal dispute with her father, John Houston, rumored financial problems and a troubled, and recently ended, marriage to fellow singer Bobby Brown.

Akon says all of that will likely be reflected in the songs, "so people can get a better sense of what that was and the truth. Because it's coming from (Houston), it means a lot more. And then, of course, you just forget about all the trouble, all the negative stuff and just come with happy records, things that warm your heart -- where your life is now, the direction you want to go in."

There's no word yet on when Houston's album will come out, but she's working with other producers and songwriters, reportedly including Ne-Yo.

Akon, meanwhile, is keeping his plate full with other collaborations, including 50 Cent (who appears on a new version of "Mama Africa" from Akon's latest album, "Konvicted"), Fabolous, T.I., Three 6 Mafia, Bones Thugs-N-Harmony and younger artists on his Konvict Music label. He's also working with Michael Jackson and Elton John but says, "I just can't comment on those."
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