Jennifer Hudson in 'Idol' Duet With Fantasia
Jennifer Hudson: She lost "American Idol" to Fantasia a few seasons ago. Then she got the part of Effie in "Dreamgirls," which led to the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 2007.
A year and a half after that Oscar ceremony, Hudsonís releasing her first full length album next Tuesday. And guess what? Among other gems, the self-titled CD includes a snappy, sassy duet with Fantasia called "Iím His Only Woman." Fantasia, whoís had a lot of trouble with her recording career, once again shows what a star she should be.
But itís Hudsonís song, and itís her CD. And frankly, Jennifer ó whoís also starring in "The Secret Life of Bees" this fall on the big screen ó comes into her own on this CD quite unexpectedly. For everyone who thought she was just capable of belting "And Iím Telling You Iím Not Going," Hudson has a big surprise: she might be Aretha Franklin in waiting.
The album has already launched a single called "Spotlight" that drifts between monotony and melody depending on the listenerís mood. It suffers from a bass-pounding arrangement that sounds a little like Alicia Keysí "No One." In any case, "Spotlight" has been a loss leader.
The big hit on Hudsonís debut should be track 2, called "If This Isnít Love." Written by Brian Seals, Terry Thomas and Theron Thomas, the swooping, insanely catchy song has "hit" written all over it. Itís infectious in the way that all singles should be. You wonít be able to get it out of your head.
Thereís a lot else to like here, too. Robin Thicke has contributed writing and producing on "Giving Myself Over to You," and there are a bunch of nice R&B ballads that allow Jennifer to growl and soar, and show off her remarkable range. My favorite in this group is "Canít Stop the Rain," a kind of old-fashioned story song that would suit Gladys Knight just as well. It should get a lot of radio play.
The CD also contains "And Iím Telling You," which seems superfluous at this point. There are also unnecessary hip-hop tracks featuring Ludacris and T-Pain. The former is particularly annoying when Ludacris has to add his lascivious observations. It adds nothing but subtracts a lot from Hudsonís classily constructed demeanor. Note to the producers: Jennifer Hudson is not Mary J. Blige.
But she can sing, just about better than anyone out there right now. The proof is in the final track, a traditional gospel song called "Jesus Promised Me a Home Over There." One listen and you know that Hudson is better than all this stuff.
Sheís a power hitter, and in church music she has a dramatic friend. Timbaland, Ne-Yo, Stargate ó these are the brand names imposed on her. Let Jennifer Hudson sing the authentic music she was meant to, and the rest is just puffery. In the meantime, sheís telling us, sheís not going anywhere. Jennifer Hudson is here to stay.