The countdown has begun for the exciting release of award-winning star Jennifer Hudson’s heartfelt, emotionally fierce, brand-new album “JHUD,” which promises to skyrocket to the top of the R&B charts on September 23. The magic contained within this record is credited not only to Jennifer’s amazing vocal ability and self-written songs, but also to several top-notch featured artists such as Pharrell Williams, Timbaland and R. Kelly, who also wrote and produced several of the tracks. The design of the album cover is strong yet seductive, just as the R&B songs inside.
Hudson, an American Idol finalist, is known worldwide for her role as Effie in the film “Dream Girls,” where she won an Oscar for best supporting actress. Other films to her credit include “Sex and the City,” “The Secret Life of Bees,” “Winnie Mandela” and “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete.” Her first, self-titled album, released in 2008, went platinum and entered the Billboard top 200 at number two, making it the largest first week sales for an R&B female. Hudson also includes many television appearances to her resume, including “Oprah.”
It was an honor to be able to speak with her as she was coming off “The Today Show,” sporting a new street-wise look and rushing home to enjoy her small son David’s first day of school. I found her to be a very candid, positive and sweet person with an adorable sense of humor, and I enjoyed her conversation very much.
I love that new look of yours!
Oh, thank you! I’m having fun with it.
So your new album “JHUD” is about to be released from RCA Records on September 23. What’s the first single coming out of it?
Well, we actually have three at the moment. There is “I Can’t Describe” written and produced by Pharrell. We have “Walk It Out” done by Timbaland, and “It’s Your World,” which is produced by R. Kelly. It’s kind of like a disco-like, Chicago-like dance track.
You have all those amazing artists on the album. That had to be a good time working with them.
It was a lot of fun. When you have heavy hitters like Timbaland, Pharrell, R. Kelly, RedOne, it’s like … it’s such a good feeling, and they’re so obviously strong on their own, with their different styles. It was a fun process, and I feel that music brought us all together. Pharrell brought Timbaland in to see what we had done, and then got in on it, and then he said the only other person that needs to get in is R. Kelly, and then R. Kelly came into it! And then the music brought it all together.
Do you have a personal favorite, maybe one that has a special meaning to you?
That’s a tough question. Well, one of the songs on the album that’s most special to me is called “Moan”. I actually wrote it. It’s a song that I wrote maybe about four years ago. My mother used to tell us, “If it hurts, moan, and it will make you feel better,” and a song came from that. So it’s very personal and dear. And then there’s “Bring Back the Music,” and it’s reminding everyone what music means to us all. We all have our definition of what music is, so “Bring Back the Music” is a statement.
My favorite is “Walk It Out.”
Thank you! I wrote that, by the way.
You have a huge gay following: There isn’t a gay man anywhere that doesn’t know the words to “Dream Girls.” Where would our readers be able to buy the album?
You can go on iTunes and preorder it as we speak right now. The album will be out on September 23, and then you can pick it up anywhere by then.
You know, I just saw a picture of your little boy. How cute is he!
Aww, thank you. He’s five.
How do you juggle your schedule and motherhood?
Actually, I’m just getting in from working. I just finished “The Today Show,” and just had to get home. My baby starts school tomorrow. When he’s out of school he travels with us, but while he’s in school I want him to have a normal childhood, a good balance. It’s OK for him to travel with us, but I still want him to have a normalness about his life. I make sure that he stays at home, goes to school like a kid should. So we’re getting ready for school now, and it starts tomorrow.
Is he going into kindergarten?
Yes, he’s going into kindergarten. He just turned five on the 10th of August.
Does he realize he has a world-famous mommy?
He’s understanding now. Before he didn’t understand , but now he’s understanding. “Mommy, how come every time we go out someone wants to take a picture?” When people say, “Hello, little David,” he’ll be like, “I don’t know these people,” so he’s at an age where he can understand what that means and what it is. He says, “Mommy, you stay at home and I’ll go.”
Do you plan to go on tour with this album?
I do. I really want to connect with the fans. I can’t wait to do that.
So a tour is in the near future?
Probably, yes. Oh, yes!
The album cover is very strong. How’d you get the album name?
I feel like when people meet me they say, “Wow, she’s nothing like the persona, the Jennifer Hudson persona, the seriousness.” You know, people think I’m uneasy, uncomfortable and tense, and I’m not like that. Everywhere I go I hear, “That’s J Hud, that’s J Hud!” My personality is coming through, through the music, so I want people to feel that and feel my energy.
Do you have any plans to do a film in the near future?
I’m looking, but right now for me, this year is solely about the music. I don’t like to do them both at the same time. So right now it’s about the music, and then I’m searching for a role, and after the music is done I’ll roll into whatever the project may be.
What brought about that amazing new look you have?
It’s me. I’m just very random. Like the haircut: That was on the airplane, and out of the blue I thought, I’m gonna cut my hair. You know, I wanted something different. I’ve been in this industry for 10 years now. So, OK, it’s time to switch things up, let’s do something else, and I do think that part of it came with the weightloss. OK, let’s experiment with different things. It’s just something that just happened. It wasn’t even planned. With the haircut, it kind of changed my whole style, like how I dress to complement the hair. I just let the hair lead me into whatever style of dress.
How did your weightloss affect your life, your roles and your career?
I know people can treat you differently from it. It’s a transition to everyone. But, you’re the same person. I think that could be the most changing thing of it all. That’s something that comes along with the weightloss that people don’t realize, when you’re going through a weightloss journey like that. I see people that I’ve known for my whole life or the last 10 years, and they act completely different toward me. I’m like, “My God, I’m the same person.” Whether it’s friendlier or not, comfortable or uncomfortable, it’s a change. It takes a while. That’s the way it is. Because I look different now. I’m still the same person.
In real life, especially for roles, I did a movie called “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete.” I played a heroin addict. Or I did “Winnie Mandela.” It opens [me] up for more roles that maybe people didn’t have me in mind [for], but now they might think, “Maybe we can use her.” So it’s very effective, both good and bad across the board.
Do you have a favorite role that you’ve played?
I would have to say “Winnie Mandela.” That’s the one I would pick. It was the biggest challenge thus far. When I was asked to do the role, I didn’t know if I could do it. I was terrified, you know what I mean? But to be able to do it and accomplish something I was intimidated by… I would have to say that role, and obviously “Effie,” of course!
Jennifer, is there anything else you would like to promote or tell the readers about?
My sister and I have a foundation, the Julian D King Gift Foundation. We help back-to-school kids with their school needs, unfortunate children. We also have a toy drive where we acknowledge positivity. We want everyone to come help out, to either volunteer or donate.