Jennifer Hudson – I Remember Me
2.5 stars out of 5 stars
Jennifer Hudson, with her voluptuous voice and indomitable vocal power, has fallen by the wayside. Call it distraction with a new baby and her current film projects, but this sophomore album was definitely an afterthought. It seems as if she’s hit the doldrums of creativity and relied on a bunch of “named” producers to let this album coast on through to stores without nary a bit of real soul. While her last album and movie were all about the awards and nominations that they garnered the then new artist, this second album won’t be as much of a feather in her cap from what I’m hearing. The creative output isn’t really there, and even her voice sounds as if it is on auto-pilot from front to back. As much as we love J. Hud, I feel slightly cheated and a little left out in the cold from I Remember Me.
What mainly brings this album down are the songs and Jennifer’s lack of vocal subtlety throughout the whole record. From the first single “Where You At” (because ending anything with a preposition is so tacky, period) to the plethora of songs produced by Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz (which are some of the most awkward sounding songs I’ve ever heard in my opinion), this album feels rushed and slightly uncomfortable. Even the production sounds quickly done and way too sparse – there is so much dry reverb and lack of vocal production that Jennifer’s lush voice sounds harsh and just loud.
Despite the use of some heavy hitters (Rich Harrison, R. Kelly, Alicia Keys/Swizz Beatz, Salaam Remi, etc.), Jennifer doesn’t feel present throughout this album. It feels as if she was shipped a bunch of songs and sung them via Skype. They are not wholly unenjoyable on their face, but you listen to them and walk away feeling like you’ve just eaten cotton candy – you’ve eaten it but at the same time, they lack substance.
Even with the tepid production and lackadaisical songwriting that boggles this album down, there are a few tracks that are salvageable. The title track, the Ryan Tedder produced “I Remember Me” feels out of place amongst the others because it sounds as if some time was actually spent on the vocal production, backgrounds, and mixing. The Ne-Yo and Chuck Harmony produced “Why Is It So Hard” could double as a country song, but Ne-Yo and his go-to producer have written Jennifer another song that could crossover given the right push. Though it bears Ne-Yo’s signature style of vocal production, it aptly fits Jennifer’s voice. Lastly, there is one Alicia Keys/Swizz Beatz collaboration that doesn’t entirely fall on deaf ears; the uptempo “Don’t Look Down” takes on a modern twist on a Motown feel. Though the juxtaposition of the piano and overly quantized drum track feels slightly off-kilter, it works enough to give an updated splash to what could be an old-school song. Jennifer’s vocals are OK to be on level 10 on this joint as it gives the sparse track room to breathe and her voice still has a presence over it. Still, it does feel like a leftover demo from Alicia Keys’ Motown-skewing album Diary of Alicia Keys.
Also on the album are the Gospelized cover of Brooks & Dunn’s “Believe” and also the song from Jennifer’s Weight Watchers commercial, “Feeling Good”, which sounds like it may be a contender for a future James Bond theme, thanks to production by Salaam Remi.
Overall, this album may grow after more spins, but immediately you can tell the difference between this album and the last one if you are a Jennifer Hudson fan. I was disappointed with the overall feel of this album and singles. Jennifer comes off even more of a Gospel singer stuck doing R&B covers as opposed to an organic R&B vocalist on this album. Even her live performances of the songs on this album convey this. It’s not a bad thing per se, but she should have chosen songs that run that gamut more – refer to a Fantasia album if you need a guide.
Jennifer’s songs have a slipshod glaze of pop over them that runs counter to her true vocal character and at times it just feels like they are giving her songs that she can probably wail on towards the end. It doesn’t feel natural or organic and we the fans are left feeling like “what happened?” Hopefully this doesn’t derail her career too much and the next album she gets will be more thought out, more worthy of her vocal ability, and more suited for this powerhouse multi-talented vocalist.