A year and a half after being showered with accolades for her overrated performance in Dreamgirls, and over four years after being booted from American Idol, Jennifer Hudson has finally gotten around to doing what she claims is her first love: making music. Hudson’s producers have managed to avoid aging the twentysomething singer on her self-titled debut by employing plenty of current pop and R&B sounds. Lead single “Spotlight” is a serviceable, pulsating, you-did-me-wrong jam that is, thanks to Stargate and Ne-Yo, perfectly in line with today’s trends, while “If This Isn’t Love” succeeds at sounding completely modern without eschewing the standard adult-contemporary song structure that’s tailor-made for pipes like Hudson’s. The two most blatant attempts at keeping things current have varying results: The Timbaland-helmed “Pocketbook” manages to squeeze as much personality and attitude from its production as it does from its vocalist (if only Hudson were as convincing a sassy, purse-renting assistant in Sex and the City as she is a sassy, purse-swinging punisher here), but the T-Pain-plagued “What’s Wrong (Go Away)”—which, come to think of it, is perfectly titled—is an earsore even a genuinely good album (which this is not) could never survive. By the time Jennifer Hudson gets back to good old-fashioned balladry, it’s too late: we’re saddled with the same Diane Warren song (“You Pulled Me Through”) we’ve heard at least a dozen times before; a ridiculously trite and histrionic you-stole-my-man duet with fellow A.I. alum Fantasia (“I’m His Only Woman”) we’ve heard at least a half-dozen times before; another Stargate/Ne-Yo concoction we’ve heard…well, you get the point. Something else we’ve heard before: “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,” the over-the-top vocal performance that made Hudson an Oscar winner, though its exclusion here would have been almost as offensive as, I don’t know, Adriana Barraza not taking home the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
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