With soaring Bono-like arena vocals and ’80s electropop and rock production sprinkled in with alternative hip-hop sounds, Mr. Hudson’s Straight No Chaser, his sophomore release and first for Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music imprint, is a solid introduction to the British musician for American audiences.
Perhaps best known for his work on West’s “Paranoid” from 808s & Heartbreak and Jay-Z’s “Young Forever” from The Blueprint 3, Ben Hudson and his band, The Library, launch the album with the bombastic single, “Supernova.” The Auto-Tuned space opera, which features Kanye hitting impossibly high notes on the chorus, is the album’s best track and shamefully wasn’t the huge hit stateside that it was across the pond.
Hudson caters to his new hip-hop fan base with the somewhat dull “Anyone But Him,” a tale of losing a lover to another man, with West playing the song’s antagonist. Better executed is the club banger “Everything Is Broken,” a ‘woe is me’ duet with Kid Cudi that sails over an ocean of synthesizers.
Despite Hudson’s dynamic vocal range and command of his tracks, the depressed tone on songs like “Instant Messanger” and “Central Park” often bogs down the record. Similarly downtrodden albums from Hudson cohorts Kanye and Cudi were better executed.
Straight No Chaser is at its best when it experiments musically: “Knew We Were Trouble” is littered with syncopated keyboards, “Stiff Upper Lip” manages to successfully pair banjos with hip-hop drums, and “Lift Your Head,” with its Broadway musical piano chords, manages to be one of the album’s few uplifting, happy moments.
(Straight No Chaser is out now internationally, and will be released in the U.S. on December 1)