Oscar winner Hudson ready for her CD close-up

Fri Aug 8, 2008 11:05pm EDT
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By Ann Donahue

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Jennifer Hudson doesn't drink coffee. Doesn't like it, she says. Doesn't need it, counters her manager, Miguel Melendez.

It's 6:20 a.m. on a Monday morning in July, and an uncaffeinated Hudson is busting full throttle through her warm-ups during a sound check for a performance on "Good Morning America." It's her first TV appearance in support of "Spotlight," the debut single from her first album.

Hudson shakes off any concerns about the ungodly hour. ("The band got there at 4:30 a.m.," she notes.) Melendez, clutches his Starbucks as he watches. "Good Lord, she makes me feel old," he sighs.

It's easy to forget Hudson's youth, perhaps thanks to the years she's already spent in the pop culture spotlight. At 26, her career path may be impossible to duplicate: She went from being a choir singer at her church in her hometown of Chicago to a Disney Cruise Line chanteuse to an "American Idol" contestant to an Academy Award winner for best supporting actress for her role in "Dreamgirls." Thanks to the ever-expanding entertainment landscape, what this means is that Hudson has built a significant career on a multiple-octave voice -- without releasing an album.

All that changes September 30, when Arista/RMG releases her self-titled debut, which offers up everything from pop to R&B to gospel. The theme of the album is simple: Play to the crowd rather than zeroing in on one particular segment of it.


"It is risky, because people expect you to just do one thing," Hudson says. "I'm going to take the chance and show what else is a part of me."

"Jennifer Hudson" features "Jesus Promised Me a Home Over There" -- a gospel tribute to the singer's days in the church choir -- and "You Pull Me Through," a track that Diane Warren penned for Hudson's lung-busting balladeer side. The album will also include the classic "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from "Dreamgirls" and "All Dressed in Love" from the recent "Sex and the City" soundtrack.   Continued...

<p>Actress Jennifer Hudson poses at the 2008 MTV Movie Awards in Los Angeles June 1, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>