Jennifer Hudson’s renditions of Aretha Franklin’s greatest hits seem to have quite the audience.
The soundtrack to the Queen of Soul’s biopic Respect, starring Jennifer Hudson, debuted at No. 6 on Billboard’s Top Album Sales chart dated August 28. The album was originally released on August 13, the day of the movie’s premiere.
The soundtrack contains Hudson’s renditions of some of Franklin’s most famous songs throughout the most prominent years of her career including “Ain’t No Way,” “Think,” “Chain of Fools” and, of course, the title track — Franklin’s signature song. Also included is the song “Here I Am (Singing My Way Home),” composed for the film by Hudson and songwriting legend Carole King.
Billboard reports that in its first week, the album sold 7,000 copies — that number does not include streaming statistics.
The success of the Respect soundtrack could be attributed to Hudson’s powerhouse performance in the film, not to mention Franklin’s obvious influence on the Grammy-winning musician’s own career. Hudson is also known for starring in and providing vocals to several musical projects including Dreamgirls (for which she won an Oscar and was nominated for a Grammy), Cats, Smash, Hairspray Live!, Black Nativity and several others — all of which may entice audiences to her ability to craft a satisfying and well-rounded soundtrack.
Additionally, she first came into the spotlight as a contestant on American Idol, which saw her — as an obvious frontrunner — be shockingly eliminated early in the competition after covering hits like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “I Have Nothing.”
Also notably, fans of Franklin could have been left hungry for renewed renditions of the superstar’s songs after Genius: Aretha only ever released a single one of Cynthia Erivo’s covers: “Chain of Fools.”
In recent years, film soundtracks have seen a resurgence in popularity. They were once some of the most popular albums to be released when movie musicals were more prominent in Hollywood and albums like those accompanying Singin’ in the Rain and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers were staples among personal collections in the 1950s.
Such albums saw a dip in popularity until the late 1970s with Saturday Night Fever — though crafted by popular musicians rather than being a cast recording — and Grease, which also featured several career musicians in Olivia Newton-John, Frankie Avalon.
In the 1980s, soundtracks for movies like Top Gun and Dirty Dancing dominated the charts before albums accompanying Titanic and The Bodyguard took over in the 1990s.
The following years again saw a decrease in popularity in film soundtracks until streaming became the juggernaut it is now, which saw some of Disney’s soundtracks for movies like Moana and Frozen become well-known, even to the movie musical averse.
Lady Gaga’s awards-darling “Shallow” topped charts for weeks after A Star is Born was released — the soundtrack is also among the most-streamed soundtracks, per Billboard — while The Greatest Showman sat atop iTunes charts long after the movie’s release.
As of publication, iTunes’ top five soundtrack albums span the last seven years: “Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix, Vol. 1” (2014), “Hamilton” (2015), “Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix, Vol. 2” (2017), “The Greatest Showman” (2017) and “Vivo” (2021).
Like with Respect, biopic and biopic-adjacent titles like Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman saw high levels of popularity as well, serving a similar purpose as greatest hits compilations upon the films’ releases.
Photo: Quantrell D. Colbert / 2021 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures