Jennifer Hudson - J Hud (2014)

Jennifer Hudson
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If ever there was a performer who snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and turned a technical loss into a triumph, it was Jennifer Hudson. It felt like an unlucky omen when, during the fifth season of American Idol (2004), a power outage due to a Chicago-area storm kept the biggest segment of her fan base from voting and she was eliminated in seventh place. However, that stunning setback was all but forgotten when she became the first and only AI contestant---then or since---to score an Academy Award, which she won for her debut role as Effie White in Dreamgirls (2007). As an artist who seems to own the screen as easily as she slays mics (Hudson amassed three other screen appearances, for example, while recording 2 full-length gold-selling CDs), Jennifer recently expressed a desire to focus on what brought her to prominence to begin with, bringing enthusiasm and authenticity to her RCA debut and third album, JHud. 

If ever there was a performer who snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and turned a technical loss into a triumph, it was Jennifer Hudson. It felt like an unlucky omen when, during the fifth season of American Idol (2004), a power outage due to a Chicago-area storm kept the biggest segment of her fan base from voting and she was eliminated in seventh place. However, that stunning setback was all but forgotten when she became the first and only AI contestant---then or since---to score an Academy Award, which she won for her debut role as Effie White in Dreamgirls (2007). As an artist who seems to own the screen as easily as she slays mics (Hudson amassed three other screen appearances, for example, while recording 2 full-length gold-selling CDs), Jennifer recently expressed a desire to focus on what brought her to prominence to begin with, bringing enthusiasm and authenticity to her RCA debut and third album, JHud. 

In the ten years that have passed since American Idol, Jennifer Hudson's had a lifetime's worth of highs and lows, including a fiance, the birth of her son, a weight loss of nearly 100 pounds and unfortunately, enduring the untimely deaths of her mother, brother and nephew in 2008. The somberness of those experiences seemed to seep into her previous material, whereas JHud still shows off Jennifer's show-stopping soprano range, but with more age-appropriate 'umph.' 

With Hudson's pipes and dream producers on-board (Pharrell Willams, R.Kelly, Timbaland and Mali Music, among others), the hits are plentiful: her collaboration with 'Kellz,' "It's Your World," is one, a dance-floor tailored Diana Ross "Love Hangover"-type groove with vocal interplay that recalls an 80s-era Aretha Franklin, and she feels so at-home in that time period that she revisits it with Williams' throbbing teaser, "Just That Type Of Girl" and "Say It," a twitchy "Electric Avenue"-style jam.

Jennifer's ability to be felt as well as heard is what takes the dance tracks to the next level: the parental advisory on JHud's cover is for songs like "He Ain't Going Nowhere," an Iggy Azalea-featuring tutorial to the ladies that commands they "listen to the [expletive]" their men talk about and become his fantasy (Azalea is either an irritant or an enhancer, depending on the listener's stance) and JHud's second single, the Timbaland banger "Walk It Out." Sassy, self-possessed (it's one of the two songs she co-wrote) and demonstrating full-on swag, the hip-hop flavoring and slight saltiness ("And boy you talkin' good [expletive], and I swear that you could get it...Can we re-schedule, we can do this another day day day/[expletive] it, let's do this today.") guarantees multiple repeats.

For all the obvious fun Hudson's having, some songs may leave listeners cold, like "Dangerous" and "I Can't Describe" (both warmed-over retreads play it too safely), but fans will forgive those misses after hearing the ballads: "Moan," a sweet stream-of-consciousness type ode to her late mother Darnell, confesses that she draws strength from memories and her faith, while "Bring Back The Music" hearkens to a slower, simpler time, delicately-conveyed to recall grooves that healed, inspired and invigorated rather than merely echoing what came before: "Songs of freedom, because the music made you free/made you happy, gave you all you need...music said all the words you couldn't think of."

At a recent premiere party in Dallas, Ms. Hudson shared the music track by track and enthused that her latest CD signified her present station in life "as a vocalist, as a person and a music lover....all the sides of Jennifer, so that people get a sense of who I am." So if people only got glimpses of Ms. Hudson before, JHud succeeds in re-introducing her singing gifts to the world and gives fans more to enjoy beyond the ads and film roles. #Winning  Highly Recommended. 

By Melody Charles

 

 
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