Straight No Chaser - Mr Hudson
Posted by xxrosannaxx on Mon, 26 Oct 2009.
(GOOD Music/Mercury Records, 2009)
Opening with the explosive summer anthem Supernova, the follow up to his less conventional debut A Tale of Two Cities is surely set to catapult Mr Hudson to the dizzy heights of semi-superstardom. Take a personable, well educated, white, middleclass young Brit, team him up with an established American rap artist and producer in the form of none other than Kanye West (who, having been blown away by A Tale... was ultra keen to work with Ben a.k.a. “Mr” Hudson) and there you have it = clichéd as it may sound, a sure fire recipe for success.
Although it would be quite easy to criticise Straight... for its unashamed venture into the poisoned realm of mainstream “pop” music, the fact remains that Mr. Hudson is in fact filling a niche in the market. Who else is there like him? Combining jazz, hip hop, indie, reggae and acoustic music genres in his debut, with his latest record, which he described as his “child”, Hudson aimed instead to create a smoother, more coherent album, but has still successfully managed to maintain the variation and air of mystery (at times the record’s direction is welcomely unexpected in its’ lyrical and stylistic twists and turns) that so defines him.
Hooking the audience in with their favourite hit (and let’s face it, Kanye’s cameo worked wonders for what, although a catchy tune with the right marketing, might otherwise have faded into the obscurity met by so many attempts to make new and exciting music these days) Hudson proceeds to his latest single, the subtly sinister White Lies, before launching into an album that, although initially unknown to the perhaps wary listener, within a few listens worms its way into our gradually melting hearts. In what is without a doubt a musical memoir of Hudson’s recent break up from his long-term girlfriend, he divulges his deepest hopes and fears, peeling back the layers of his cool, controlled exterior to reveal the hurt, torn-apart man beneath.
The record appears to be a personal journey, with its captivating melodies, addictive hooks, assertive beats and galactic-style synths pulling us closer and closer into the tale of love, betrayal and loss. As in all successful films or novels, the sympathetic presentation of the central protagonist’s plight gives us no other option: listen enough and I can guarantee that Hudson will soon be occupying a special place in your heart.
With echoes of Bowie, Moby and many of the greats, Straight... is an anthemic patchwork of hope (Learning to Live), despair (Instant Messenger), anger (Everything is Broken) sorrow (There Will be Tears) shame (Stiff Upper Lip) and the emotions connoted with the ending of a relationship.
Hudson’s emotional rollercoaster ends on a somewhat sombre note, with Hudson asking
“Tell me where you wanna be, When all your friends have settled down, In the suburbs on the greener side of town...”
Our storyteller has finished his journey, and he’s asking us to contemplate where we want to finish ours. Call it looking forward, or refusing to let go of the past (“We will survive, you and I...”), but one thing’s for sure: album closer Time has an optimistic air. And despite its saddening subject matter, so does the entire album.
Straight No Chaser is beautifully crafted, confident and, despite being radio-friendly, completely unlike anything else in the charts right now in its sheer raw, unashamed openness. Conquering the infamous task of the “difficult second album”, even if he did receive a little extra boost from his American buddies, Hudson has proved that in this era, there is a place for inventive and experimental artists in the mainstream music charts.
Click here to buy: http://zaphod.uk.vvhp.net/v-v/091009143754
Thanks very much to Katerina Marka from the Mercury Music Group.
By Rosanna Pound-Woods