Sometimes you listen to a new CD, and you just wonder what the artist and the A&R folks at the label were thinking when they finalized the track listing. A full-length album should be like a well-constructed sandwich, where every layer affects how the flavors hit your taste buds in a positive way. Let’s just say that, in the case of the debut release “Jennifer Hudson”, it’s not a well-constructed sandwich, but the contents of the sandwich are high-quality. Does that make sense?
The CD starts out in fine form, with her current #1 Urban AC hit “Spotlight”, but takes a nosedive from there. It’s disappointing when you hear an artist blatantly go after someone else’s territory, but that’s exactly what happens on the next few tracks. “If This Isn’t Love” ventures into Rihanna/Jordin Sparks territory, “Pocketbook” bites on Beyonce’s “Freakum Dress” hardcore, and “Giving Myself” is like a Leona Lewis throwaway (and that’s saying something). Worst of all is “What’s Wrong”, the biggest gimmick of all, which duet partner T-Pain probably pushed out during his morning constitutional. “My Heart” is a slight improvement, but it’s still not that strong. Jennifer Hudson doesn’t need vocoders and DJs grunting on her records. Let her SING!
It takes the simple power of “You Pulled Me Through” to truly highlight the gifts of Jennifer’s voice. The synths are a bit much, but they actually worked for me. I get what they were trying to do with the Fantasia duet, but it falls kind of flat, given the pedigree that has preceded it. When they get back to Jennifer just singing, the album hits its strongest stride, with “Can’t Stop the Rain”, “We Gonna Fight”, “Invisible”, and the instantly recognizable “And I Am Telling You…” making up JHud’s most consistent part of the record. Even the closer “Jesus Promised Me A Home Over There”, while not the strongest, is purely Jennifer, and that’s where the record is at its best. If I were Jennifer, I would insist that they call the next CD “Let Me Sing”, and then follow the title’s command.