Jennifer Hudson has shed 80 pounds recently, but her lungs clearly haven't shrunk. Hudson may be the most talented singer that American Idol has produced; she's definitely the most powerful. Here, a who's who of big-time songwriters and producers (Rich Harrison, R. Kelly, Alicia Keys) serve up stormy ballads about romance and self-reliance that Hudson spices with gospel-style swoops.
Jennifer Hudson's debut was not a flop, not by 2008 standards. It went gold and, thanks to being nominated alongside a mostly undeserving set of contemporaries, took the 2009 Grammy for Best R&B Album. However, a considerable amount of ill-suited material combined with obstructive guest appearances made it something of a misfire. If the album was truly worthy of a Grammy, I Remember Me better run the ceremony’s R&B table in 2012.
Jennifer Hudson opens her second studio album with a whopper of an understatement. ”I’ve been through some things,” she sings over a shoop-shoop piano groove on ”No One Gonna Love You,” and it’s hard to know where to start: the horrific 2008 murders of her mom, brother, and nephew? The birth of her son in 2009? The 80 pounds she says she lost thanks to Weight Watchers? That’s not even counting the American Idol and Oscar madness she experienced prior to the release of her self-titled debut. How this woman found the time to record I Remember Me is anyone’s guess.
If ever a soul singer had reason to sing from the heart, it's Jennifer Hudson. Three of her family members were murdered in 2008, yet the grief she movingly describes in the sleeve notes is transformed into optimism in the music itself. The warmth in her big, old-school voice bespeaks faith in the future, and it carries the listener along for a good part of the ride.
On her sophomore effort, Jennifer Hudson steps slightly away from pop to embrace a more grown-up R&B sound sprinkled with feel-good soul and disco flavours courtesy of top songsmiths like Rich Harrison, Alicia Keys and Salaam Remi. Opener No One Gonna Love You sets a familiar, against-all-odds tone with inspirational lyrics and bouncy piano that's pure Elton John. Of course, the main attraction is Hudson's stratospheric voice, which at times is as much a liability as an asset.
God bless Jennifer Hudson. She showed grace and dignity in the wake of an unspeakable personal tragedy and continues to show even greater poise in refraining from strangling red-carpet reporters when they ask her condescending questions about her “new body,” visibly relieved that they no longer have to talk euphemistically about her “curves” or about her being a role model for plus-sized girls. Add in her Oscar and Grammy wins, and it’s clear that Hudson’s career is riding a formidable wave of public goodwill against which a music critic is pretty much powerless.
The Oscar-winner is an understated powerhouse on her second album. Alex Macpherson 2011 The success of TV talent show alumni is usually measured by how well they manage to separate themselves from their launchpad – whether they can transform their image from mere contestant to viable pop star convincingly. Jennifer Hudson, though, is arguably the most accomplished product of American Idol, what with an Oscar to go with her gold-certificated albums.