Who is Mr. Hudson? He’s the British vocalist that suggested we “dah-nce in style” for a while on Jay-Z’s “Young Forever”, propelling the song to be another hit single from his Blueprint 3 opus. But he’s more than just a guy who can cover Alphaville for a hook – in fact, he’s partly responsible for some of the songwriting, vocals, and production on Kanye’s 808 & Heartbreaks LP, and is the secret weapon of Mr. West’s G.O.O.D. Music imprint.
Straight No Chaser is Hudson’s second LP – reportedly his attempt at making a pop record after his more indie sensible debut with The Library. His approach to music here is exactly what the title suggests, a straight forward approach to making vocal pop music, and doing it over the full bodied production style of the House of Kanye. “White Lies” pounds like West’s own “Flashing Lights” as Hudson confesses his crimes of passion, while “Learning To Live” finds him belting out his sorrows over hard hitting snares and keys. There are less subtle approaches to this idea on tracks like the autotune dipped “Supernova” (feat. Kanye West) and the title track, which finds him interpolating “I Ain’t No Joke” drums and lines from Lil Kim’s “No Time”. The use of autotune here and on other parts of the album is purely for the sake of style, as he proves that he doesn’t need it in several other parts around the album.
Hudson’s vocal presence will draw comparisons to Sting, but has a style all his own. Part of that is excelling in the kind of music that makes girls cry, a la Coldplay and to some extent, Radiohead. The heavy “Instant Messenger” finds him wondering about a lost text message over sultry eighties Skinemax sex scene drums and somber pianos. He further pulls at the heartstrings on the Thom Yorkian “There Will Be Tears” and the folky “Stiff Upper Lip” (not an AC/DC cover). The cherry on top is “Time”, an inspiring break-up-to-make-up song that really drives the point home with a simplistic pianos and thundering boom-bap juxtaposition. This is Mr. Hudson in top form – no autotune, no fancy guest rappers.
He brings things back down to earth with a handful of G.O.O.D. Music collabos – namely the Kanye West “Anyone But Him” (which has eerie similarities to some of the early John Legend Get Lifted rap collabos) and “Everything Is Broken” with Kid Cudi. These are the kind of songs that will get the attention of the average listener to at least check him out, but like Legend before him, Mr. Hudson potentially has a long future ahead of him, one that will not require the affiliation of Kanye or anyone else.
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