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I Remember Me ()

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Jennifer Hudson's debut was not a flop, not by 2008 standards. It went gold and, thanks to being nominated alongside a mostly undeserving set of contemporaries, took the 2009 Grammy for Best R&B Album. However, a considerable amount of ill-suited material combined with obstructive guest appearances made it something of a misfire. If the album was truly worthy of a Grammy, I Remember Me better run the ceremony's R&B table in 2012. There is no lightweight pop, no beatbox-based Timbaland beats, no audible Auto-Tune -- no messing around. Even the adult contemporary material -- the songs that function strictly as a platform for Hudson's powerhouse vocals -- packs more punch. Most of the songwriters and producers who return from the debut, namely StarGate, Ne-Yo, and Harvey Mason, contribute positively here. The shrewdest move was involving Alicia Keys, Swizz Beatz, and Salaam Remi. "Angel," a euphoric testimonial written by Keys and co-produced by Keys and Swizz, sounds like it could have been made for Teena Marie, recalling "I Need Your Lovin'" while switching between tapping snares and a smacking four-four beat. Keys and Swizz also team on "Everybody Needs Love," a hard disco throwback that is 80 percent slip-and-slide drums with a gorgeous, prancing chorus. On "Don't Look Down," Keys and Remi (with Swizz handling the programmed drums) provide a boisterous and uplifting backdrop for one of Hudson's most gospel-rooted performances. Remi also produces a bold interpretation of Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse's "Feeling Good" that surpasses every vocal version not recorded by Nina Simone. Another welcome alliance comes from R. Kelly, whose "Where You At" (produced with Mason) is the type of song on which Hudson thrives most -- the album's own "And I Am Telling You," confident but scorned and on the brink of bugging out. At their best, Hudson and her collaborators provide the kind of mature R&B that is not felt merely in the mind, throat, chest, or hips but the entire body. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi Hide synopsis

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