Out of all the former "American Idol" hopefuls - winners and losers alike - Jennifer Hudson will likely go down in the history as one of the most - if not the most - talented and successful of all. She's already won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and numerous other awards. One thing she hadn't done though, was actually release a full album - until now. And that album, a self-titled release that dropped in the U.S. on Sept. 30, 2008, further cements her status as one of America's most talented singer-actresses. Although this is just her debut, she's already reached elite status as an R&B singer.
Power and Passion
If you were one of the people wondering if Jennifer Hudson could sustain her vocal energy, power and passion on a full album like she did in the role of Effie in the movie Dreamgirls
and like she also does on the album's opening song and first single, "Spotlight," then wonder no more: the answer's a definite yes. "Spotlight" exemplifies the album as a whole: it's got a strong, independent woman singing strongly about love and relationships. In this case, the song is about a controlling lover: "If I'm just love's prisoner, then I'm bustin' out," she sings. And while "Spotlight" is about a yearning to be out from under someone's thumb, another of the album's best songs, "We Gon' Fight" is about the opposite: it's Jennifer clinging to her man through thick and thin against the world. Or as she sings it: "Like gangstas we gon' strap up for this war, and I'd die for mine 'cause you're worth fighting for."
Jen displays that kind of sassiness throughout the album, and it helps to balance things out, since there's also a number of sophisticated ballads on the album, such as grateful, loving "You Pulled Me Through" and the Gospel track "Jesus Promised Me a Home Over There." Another example of her sass is the song "Pocketbook," featuring a strong guest appearance by Ludacris. On the song, Jen threatens to put the smackdown on a very randy Luda while he raps funny, suggestive lyrics like "I know magic - poof! - do away with your clothes, then c'mere and let Luda give your body a rub 'cause damn, lil' mama you thick as a mug."
Image © Arista Records.
Sass is also evident on Jennifer's delicious duet with former "American Idol" winner Fantasia, a duet that you know
just had to happen eventually. The song, called "I'm His Only Woman," builds around a phone conversation where the two singers argue over an apparently two-timing man. "If this was 10 years ago, I'd be at your front door ready to whup yo' ass," Jennifer says to Fantasia before the singing even begins. The track is a sort of a cross between an old Minnie Ripperton track from the '70s and an updated version of the '90s Brandy/Monica track "The Boy is Mine."
Another duet on the album however, doesn't fare as well as "I'm His Only Woman," but it's no fault of Jennifer's. The song in question is "What's Wrong (Go Away)," and features the "singer" T-Pain, who manages to keep up with Jennifer's vocal fireworks only by way of some serious help from Auto-Tune pitch correction software, and maybe a vocoder and/or talk box, or whatever else he uses to disguise his lack of talent. Anyway, the point is that Jennifer manages to sound warm and stunning, while T-Pain sounds cold and completely mechanical - or in other words, the same as he always does. Using him on such a personal relationship song is a waste; a number of male singers known for their passionate vocals, including Usher and R. Kelly, would have likely done a much better job with the same material. Despite this flaw though, Jennifer Hudson generally well-sung and well-produced and is without a doubt one of the strongest R&B albums of 2008.