tue 13/04/2021

CD: Jennifer Hudson - I Remember Me | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Jennifer Hudson - I Remember Me

CD: Jennifer Hudson - I Remember Me

Can disco save the soul and create the ultimate diva for our times?

Jennifer Hudson's 'I Remember Me': 'If she's not yet exactly the ultimate diva for our times, it's her personality and (often literally) awesome voice that holds it all together'

If, as the cliché goes, hardship begets soulfulness, then given her life story between her 2008 debut and this (Wikipedia can provide the details if you're feeling ghoulish), Jennifer Hudson should now be the new Aretha.

If, as the cliché goes, hardship begets soulfulness, then given her life story between her 2008 debut and this (Wikipedia can provide the details if you're feeling ghoulish), Jennifer Hudson should now be the new Aretha. As it goes, she wasn't short of raw soul talent before: she veritably shone as an American Idol contestant in 2004, and her turn in the movie Dreamgirls has become a watchword for stop-you-in-your-tracks expressive vocal power as well as comic acting talent – ironically, her performance in that film of the song “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” has since spawned 10,000 wince-inducing talent-show imitators, convinced that shouting equals emotion.

Sadly that sense of singing purely as physical display infects some of this album too. The endless “big notes”, overblown key changes and tonal gymnastics of “Where You At”, for example, is straight out of the impress-the-judges talent-show school – and actually, despite its gospelly framework, sounds more like the cabaret performances of Barbra Streisand or Shirley Bassey than any of the soul greats. But thankfully these tracks are in the minority, and far more often we get chic, slick hip-hop soul grooves like “Why is it So Hard” or the opener “No One Gonna Love You” that combine a sense of  Classicism with the best high-tech gloss that modern technology can offer without losing the best parts of either influence.

Even better, there is a dance influence here that looks beyond the God-awful recent infestation of US black music by nasty commercial club/rave sounds. The glorious “Angel”, “Everybody Needs Love” and “Don't Look Down” all tap into the history of disco, house and garage at their classiest, and all skirt the edges of cheesiness to begin with but within a few bars veritably soar both as songs and performances. The first two are by mega-producer Swizz Beats - “Angel” in collaboration with his wife Alicia Keys - and perform a similar trick as on Whitney Houston's “Million Dollar Bill”: creating something that is catchy, relentlessly danceable but full of air and light. It, too, sounds contemporary for all its Stevie Wonder chord changes and references to club sounds past. So although this album as a whole is overcooked, and tries to cover all bases to its detriment, its high points, and those three tracks in particular, make it an absolutely essential listen. If she's not yet exactly the ultimate diva for our times, it's Hudson's personality and (often literally) awesome voice that holds it all together.

Listen to "Angel"

Comments

Jhud is awesome and amazing on all levels!!! One of the greatest voice and vocals of our time.

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