JENNIFER HUDSON: Jennifer Hudson (Label: Arista)

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JENNIFER HUDSON: Jennifer Hudson

Before the recent family tragedies, and despite not winning the 2004 series of American idol, Chicagoan Jennifer Hudson wasn’t doing too badly for herself. Now an A-list celeb, the mantelpiece in her condominium boasts a BAFTA, a Golden Globe and an Oscar. Feted wherever she goes, all that was left, I guess, was to conquer the music charts and with this debut set she’s about to do just that. Lead single, ‘Spotlight’ has already made big waves and it’s easy to hear why. The tune is perfectly crafted and has wide ranging appeal. It’s catchy and danceable with a fashionable R&B edge, while Ms. H’s emotive tones guarantee it’ll hit home with harder-headed soul people. Indeed that’s the best way to sum up the whole album. The eponymous set has something for everyone. On ‘Pocketbook’ , for instance, Jen proves that she can “do R&B” as brilliantly as Beyonce, Ciarra, Rhianna or any of the recently crowned princesses of the genre, while on the Dianne Warren-penned ‘You Pulled Me Through’ she out-divas the long-established ones. In between there are plenty more dramatic ballads and R&B bumpers including an edgy duet with T-Pain. There’s also a ready-made follow up single in ‘All Dressed In Love’ – a big, brash dancer with a real soul feel. You also get the obligatory gospel standard (in this case ‘Jesus Promised Me a Home Over There’) to underline where Jennifer came from, and the inclusion of the emotion-drenched version of ‘And I’m Telling You…’ to illustrate where she’s been. That one will still make you tingle but so too will the LP’s best cut – ‘I’m His Only Woman’. Ironically, the track’s a duet with Fantasia Barrino – the winner of American Idol 2004 – and though co-written and co-produced by Missy Elliott and Plantlife’s Jack Splash, you’d’ swear the whole thing had been put together by some secret Memphis mafia who somehow retain the secrets of Stax. The song is of the ‘Woman to Woman’ type and Jennifer and Fantasia simply rip it apart; it’s my contention that it’s the most truly soulful cut of 2008. It will help ensure the album’s success, though my guess is that Jennifer would swap all the success and all the awards just to have her family back the way it was.
(BB) 4/5