Considering that winning “American Idol” is no guarantee of success, someone who only manages to make it to seventh place has next to no hope of a lasting career outside the show. Unless they’re Jennifer Hudson, that is. Since her inglorious exit from Idol in season 3, Hudson has sold millions of albums, won Grammys, Academy Awards and Emmys, been named one of the most influential people in the world by Time, and won legions of fans around the globe with her powerhouse vocals. Here’s our pick of the 10 best Jennifer Hudson songs of all time.
10. It’s Your World ft R. Kelly
For obvious and very valid reasons, any enjoyment of a song featuring R. Kelly now comes with a unique set of problems. It’s doubly problematic if the song not only features him, but was also written by him. But if you can turn a blind eye to that (Hudson understandably can’t and won’t, and no longer performs the song live), the Grammy-nominated It’s Your World is actually one of the best in her catalog, with an old school disco beat mixed with a new school flavor and a righteous vocal from Hudson.
9. Where You At
Like It’s Your World, Where You At has an R. Kelly-shaped problem. Although he doesn’t feature on the song, his role as writer and producer was enough for Hudson to withdraw it from streaming services in 2019 in support of his victims. But also like It’s Your World, it’s a banging tune, with USA Today praising how Hudson’s grace and artistic instincts allow her to convey emotion without falling into the trap of easy sentimentally and almost every other rock critic waxing lyrical about its subtle, sexy groove. Released as the first single from her second album I Remember Me, the song reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B Adult Songs chart and won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Video.
8. I Can’t Describe (The Way I Feel) ft T.I.
With Pharrell Williams producing, T.I. contributing a verse, and Hudson delivering a barnstorming performance, I Can’t Describe (The Way I Feel) from Hudson’s third album, JHUD, is a must-listen for casual fans and the devoted alike. An uptempo dance number with an old-school vibe and overtones of Chaka Khan and Evelyn King, the song didn’t make much of an impression on the US charts, but it fared better in the UK, where it landed at number 20 on the R&B chart.
7. Trouble ft Iggy Azalea
As jenniferhudsononline.com notes, Hudson’s sweeping vocal contrasts beautifully with Iggy Azalea’s playful rapping on this next track from Azalea’s 2014 Reclassified album, lending a bunch of soul and sass to the sprightly piano-driven tune. Released in February 2015, the song reached number 13 on the US Billboard Hot Rap Songs, number 7 on the UK singles chart, and number 10 in Australia.
6. I Still Love You
On this rollicking, Gorgon City-produced tune from her third studio album, JHUD, Hudson delivers one of the most vigorous, vital performances of her career over a deliriously catchy dance beat. With its 70’s disco flair and strident vocals, it’s a little bit reminiscent of Gloria Gaynor – something that’s rarely a bad thing, and which here, is utterly glorious.
5. If This Isn’t Love
The charmingly understated If This Isn’t Love might not have made the same impact on the charts as some of the other singles from Hudson’s debut, but its low key appeal and cool breeziness have made it a firm favorite with fans. Released as the second single from the album in 2009, it hit number 63 on the Billboard Hot 100, number five on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, and number 37 on the UK Singles Chart.
4. No One Gonna Love You
Regardless of how good the melody, how catchy the chorus, and how memorable the instrumentation, the star attraction of any Jennifer Hudson song is Hudson herself. On No One Gonna Love You, producer Rich Harrison makes the wise move of dialing back the arrangements, muting the instrumentation, and letting Hudson’s caramel vocals do all the talking. The result is a top 20 dance hit and one of the undisputed highlights of the singer’s second studio album, I Remember Me.
By the time Hudson got around to releasing her debut album in 2008, everyone already knew she could sing – if nothing else, her appearances on “American Idol” and “Dreamgirls” had proved that. Anyone wondering whether she had the chops to support an entire solo album was quickly reassured by the album’s opening song, Spotlight. A midtempo song with a thumping pulse and a powerful (but never over the top) vocal performance, it announced the presence of a strong, dynamic artist with staying power. Released as the album’s first single, it peaked in the top 30 of the US Billboard Hot 100 and in the top 20 in the UK, Japan, and Hungary. At the 2009 Grammys, it scooped nominations for Best R&B Song and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.
2. Love You I Do
A soulful R&B jam inspired by the early work of Aretha Franklin and Mary Wells would be hard to resist regardless of who was doing the singing, but in the capable hands of Jennifer Hudson, it’s even better than expected. Recorded for the 2006 “Dreamgirls” soundtrack, Love You I Do went on to earn a Grammy for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television, or Other Visual Media and an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song.
1. And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going
Beyonce was great. Eddie Murphy wowed. But the real reason “Dreamgirls” grossed over $155 million at the box office was Jennifer Hudson’s showstopping rendition of And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going. As Entertainment Weekly says, when she sang ‘You’re gonna love me,’ it wasn’t just a lyric — it was a fact. Released as a single from the soundtrack in 2006, it peaked at number 60 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 14 on the R&B chart.