Jennifer Hudson, "I Remember Me"
Jennifer Hudson has never sounded better. Standing sure-footed on the other side of personal tragedy, she vibrantly vocalizes her renewed sense of self throughout an album that doubles as a soulful reflection on life and love. While her 2008 self-titled debut spun off two hits, including "Spotlight," the project overall (with cameos by Ludacris and T-Pain) proved uneven. This time the producers get it right, giving Hudson better songs for showcasing her glorious pipes and leaving "I Remember Me" free of overproduction and unnecessary features. Collaborating with songwriters and producers including R. Kelly (current hit single "Where You At"), Harvey Mason Jr., Swizz Beatz and Rich Harrison, Hudson delivers a cohesive mix of ballads and mid- and uptempo numbers. Standouts include the Hudson co-written/ Ryan Tedder-produced title track-a moving treatise about never losing yourself-and "Don't Look Down," an upbeat view of love's roller-coaster ride written and produced by Alicia Keys and Salaam Remi. But Hudson sums up the album (and her return) on the Stargate production "I Got This": "I'm from the Southside/ Tryin' to get to my goal/Ain't no stoppin' me . . . Better believe I got this." Enough said.