With the release of this single, “Where You At,” I think it’s clear that Jennifer Hudson is Clive’s new Whitney.
This is awful in every single way. It’s the worst kind of manipulative pop schlock, all sweeping instrumentation, pointless crescendos, and even more pointlessly held notes.
We get it. Jennifer Hudson has a powerful voice.
But so what? Shouting down a song doesn’t do anything other than beat you over the head with whatever the song is about.
Damn you Whitney and Clive! This is your fault! Clive’s forcing Whitney to abandon nearly all subletly early in her career has pretty much ruined an entire generation of singers who confuse an overdose of melisma for “real singing,” sheer force for nuance, and David Foster and Diane Warren for good songwriters*. Just watch any big-voiced American Idol performance or listen to Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, Deborah Cox, Celine Dion, Kelly Clarkson, Jordin Sparks, etc. and y’all know what I mean.
It is true that it is no small thing to bring a great, powerful voice to a song**, but there is little difference between these big-voiced women when they are singing this kind of material other than the unique tones of their individual voices. It’s all bombast and the song itself does all the work for them because the sentiment – sentiment, not emotion – is telegraphed with a big effing neon sign by the arrangement and the triteness of the lyrics.
I know some people like songs like this and singers who can perform this kind of material, but the problem, in my view, with this kind of material is that it merely requires a singer to be technically proficient. Jennifer brings nothing uniquely Jennifer to this song, just like Whitney brought nothing uniquely Whitney to her early material (unless you count the fact that black woman singers didn’t really do shameless pop balladry before Whitney, which could be considered a good thing, I guess).
And now it seems that Jennifer Hudson will be stepping into that void that Whitney has left.
Too bad, because though this is a standard Ne-Yo song:
…it is such a better example of what Jennifer Hudson is capable of as a gifted interpretive singer. I really hope we don’t have to wait 10 years for Jennifer to really show her stuff like we did for Whitney:
*I can’t believe R. Kelly wrote this song. He could have done Jennifer much better. Think Sparkle or Mary J.
**Yes, I know we are in an era where almost no popular singers can even carry a tune and so we should be excited that a singer like Jennifer Hudson even gets a shot. But in my view this kind of singing is just the other extreme – technique for technique sake.