A lot has changed since Jennifer Hudson released her self-titled debut in 2008. The Dreamgirl tragically lost her mother, brother, and nephew, wed WWE wrestler David Otunga, gave birth to her son, and shed 80 pounds, but one thing that remains constant is her powerful pipes. The Oscar winner triumphantly reemerges with her sophomore album I Remember Me, in stores Tuesday. Did the critics welcome J-Hud’s return to music? Find out below.
USA Today: Even when the material—crafted by a collection of pop and R&B stalwarts—flirts with the banal, Hudson’s unmannered strength and class shine through, as surely as the technical prowess she wields with confidence and discretion. 3.5 out of 4
Los Angeles Times: Hudson has a big, warm, church-trained R&B diva voice, a sure instrument for belting the blues and affirming the spirit. But that voice has never seemed comfortable among the bright shiny toys of a pop studio—like an old hardwood cutting board in a stainless steel kitchen. 2.5 out of 4
Entertainment Weekly: What’s more surprising than the album’s existence, though, is that Ms. Iron Pipes finally sounds like she’s having some fun. Where 2008s Jennifer Hudson was bogged down with serious, self-assuring ballads, here she aims for a lighter vibe, flexing her newfound confidence on “I Got This” and coasting over producer Ryan Tedder’s signature emo-soul synths on the sparkling title track. B+
Chicago Sun-Times: The success of I Remember Me is in the light touch of its various producers and songwriters, giving Hudson plenty of room to stand flat-footed and sing. The only thing that’s overproduced is a fussy cover of Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good,” which goes for baroque and spoils the magic of Simone’s suggestive restraint. 3 out of 4
Us Weekly: Her pristine pipes flourish in Ne-Yo—penned and Dreamgirls-esque ballads, just like on her first effort. Still, a few too many notes are again wasted on by-the-numbers R&B filler. 2.5 out of 4
Rap-Up’s Favorite Tracks: “I Got This,” “Angel,” “I Remember Me,” “Gone”