Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Album Review: Jennifer Hudson - Jennifer Hudson (4.5/5)

After much delay, American Idol contestant and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson delivers her debut album. Surprisingly the album is very contemporary both on the urban and pop side, combining a polished combination of emotive ballads and upbeat cuts.

The opens with the first single "Spotlight" which gets the album off to a great start, backed with a distinctive piano bassline, I like how the song balances between modern R&B and still managing to maintain Jennifer's powerful soul-voice, It fits really well. Moving swiftly into "If This Isn't Love", which compliments "Spotlight" well, it's a still a ballad but with a heavier bassline and a nicely structured chorus.

"Pocketbook" is the only hip-hop influenced cut on the album, although the track does it's best to hold back Jennifer's vocal, it falls quite short on the experimental stages, there's no holding back her powerful vocal, the song is pretty repetitive, the one thing I don't care for about this song is the lack of lyrical content in the chorus, she repeats ("Don't make me hit you with my pocket") 3 times in the chorus after a collision of beat-boxing.

After the upbeat "Pocketbook" the album starts to slow down as it moves into "Give Myself", which is among the best ballads on the album, it's your typical modern-day slow jam, the song finds a newly confident reprising herself for her lover as she proclaims ("I'm giving myself, over to you, body and soul, I'm giving it all") although I've heard this message in many R&B songs, noticeably in most Mary J. Blige songs, there's something about this that grabs me after every listen.

The album takes a dip on, "What's Wrong (Go Away)" with T-Pain where we find Jennifer experimenting with T-Pain's signature vocoder, something Jennifer should stay far away from in the future, "What's Wrong" finds a distraught Jennifer awkwardly belting over T-Pain's electronic vocals, although the song itself is not that bad, it's also not that great either, I think the one thing that'll keep people listening to it, is just the plain fact that T-Pain's on it.

The album quickly picks itself up with "My Heart", now I don't know but for some reason I could imagine Mariah Carey singing it, until it reaches the chorus, when Jennifer makes it hers, it's one of the few songs where Jennifer's not belting but singing it like she's talking to you, which I really like. "You Pulled Me Through" is another ballad on the album, I really like this song but I think when it came to the chorus there could have been more background vocals helping Jennifer sing it, It sounds really empty but it's a really a decent ballad but not the best on this album.

Among my favorite tracks on here is "I'm His Only Woman" duet with fellow American Idol contestant Fantasia Barrino the song is like a bettered version of the 1998 hit "The Boy Is Mine" performed by Brandy and Monica, except this is more ballad influenced and heavily motown influenced it's a rare thing to have two big soul-belters on one track, without it seeming like their in competition with each others voices, but in this case it works very well. The intro to the song is very cool too, Jennifer tells Fantasia over the phone that: "If this was ten years ago, I would be at your front door, ready to whoop you ass", which I found excruciatingly funny.

Another one of my favorites is "Can't Stop The Rain" which sounds very singe worthy, it was one of the tracks I couldn't wait to listen to when I previewed the album on iTunes, there's just something about the chorus that lures me into the song.

"We Gon' Fight" is really remarkable, this song has what "You Pulled Me Through" lacked, great background vocals that pushes the song "that" far and Jennifer uses her huge vocals really well on this one. Brillitant stuff. The album closes with "Invisible" another great R&B ballad, which once again find Jennifer declaring self-Independence. This is a great introduction for Jennifer to the music industry, my expectations for her next albums are rising.

Best tracks: Spotlight, If This Isn't Love, Givin' Myself, My Heart, I'm His Only Woman, Can't Stop The Rain, We Gon' Fight, Invisible

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