Jennifer Hudson - I Remember Me (2011)

Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer_Hudson_I_Remember_Me.jpg

Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

Before Jennifer Hudson stepped into the studio to belt her musical debut album, she racked up enough major ups and downs to cache her soul singing into cruise control. Take into consideration the spirited singer-turned-actress taking home an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her 2006 film debut in Dreamgirls, only to then face gut-wrenching agony after losing a mother and a sibling to domestic violence in just a matter of months. Although it seems as if her stint on American Idol was just a faint memory to those that can remember Idol's golden years, the Oscar gold was enough fuel to put Hudson on path to recording her official eponymous debut LP in 2008. Now with burdens lighter and with a drastic 80-pound loss, Hudson is mere inches away from flying like a bird. Hudson is spreading her wings once again for her sophomore project, I Remember Me.

Before Jennifer Hudson stepped into the studio to belt her musical debut album, she racked up enough major ups and downs to cache her soul singing into cruise control. Take into consideration the spirited singer-turned-actress taking home an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her 2006 film debut in Dreamgirls, only to then face gut-wrenching agony after losing a mother and a sibling to domestic violence in just a matter of months. Although it seems as if her stint on American Idol was just a faint memory to those that can remember Idol's golden years, the Oscar gold was enough fuel to put Hudson on path to recording her official eponymous debut LP in 2008. Now with burdens lighter and with a drastic 80-pound loss, Hudson is mere inches away from flying like a bird. Hudson is spreading her wings once again for her sophomore project, I Remember Me. This time around, her production alliance with A-listers like StarGate, Ryan Tedder and Swizz Beatz is meatier. Presumably, the industry christened J Hud along with these hit-making songwriting teams collectively bring the kind of reputation luster that would make even Whitney Houston blush. Impressive as all that sounds, fine pedigrees are about as far as the good news goes towards a promising and elaborate follow-up to Hudson's self-titled debut.

Using piano walks akin to Elton John's "Bennie and the Jets," the opening track "No One Gonna Love You" feels like it could be the album's MVP. Unfortunately, it lacks the radio-ready spark of Hudson's "Spotlight," her most accessible single to-date. It ironically echoes Chrisette Michele's vocal stutters on the chorus of "So in Love;" diminishing any major prospects of mass appeal or claims of originality for those familiar with the aforementioned tracks. All eyes then shift to R. Kelly's "Where You At" for some instant gratification. The ballad has the potential to soar like Kelly's iconic "I Believe I Can Fly," but the newer cut tends to fall flat with its overload of predictability, less-than-interesting climax on the gospel-inspired closer and the grammar-challenged "where you at" on the chorus. The only grace on the ballad is Hudson's sincere vocal outbursts at the end. By then, it's too late. The album's rescuer, "I Got This" seems to be the project's standout ambassador, with its sparkly StarGate instrumentation and brutally autographic touch on the lyricism: "Every single breath/another step on my road/I'm from the Southside trying to get to my goal/I got this, ain't no stoppin' me."

Much of the set bears hard on mid-tempo ballads. Ryan Tedder contributes the breezy title cut, but it doesn't pucker up like a OneRepublic anthem. Tedder's song comes close to reaching Beyonce's "Halo," but doesn't quite climax with the same kind of pop-soul warmth. By the time "Gone," Ne-Yo's "Why Is It So Hard" and the Natasha Bedingfield cover of "Still Here" enter the picture, I Remember Me becomes even less interesting. Given Hudson's success in this lane, the lack of delicious, upbeat cuts is also troublingly absent on the disc. "Everybody Needs Love," handled by Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz, feels like day-old leftovers from Nippy's "Million Dollar Bill" while "Don't Look Down" would've been far more interesting if it had mutated into an underground house track (it doesn't).  Keys also contributes "Angel," which melodically resembles Teena Marie's "I Need Your Lovin,'" but with far less funk.

The damage done on I Remember Me isn't really J Hud's fault. She's vocally impressive and she tries her best to subdue her powerhouse vocals on the beginnings of the pop filler. It would seem at times if her super producers failed to extend a sometimes necessary curfew on her atomically-gospel pipes, but her "oversouling" isn't what's to blame here (and don't even think about trying to blame it on the alcohol). Lack of strong melody, catchy choruses and promising original ballads-essentially the material-are all the elements in question. Still, Hudson isn't off the hook yet. You have to blame the Aretha-sized talented songstress on not having the sharp ear to tweak these songs to near-perfection. J Hud's biggest fans will initially become giddy over the new disc. It's unfortunate that decent overlooked R&B albums from 2010's tail end-like Chrisette Michele's Let Freedom Reign and Eric Benet's Lost In Time, in my opinion are far more deserving of this expectant giddiness. Mildly Recommended.

By J. Matthew Cobb

 
Choice Cut - Maysa - "Lovin' You Is Easy"

Leave a comment!