I have a confession: I really don't care about the Super Bowl. In fact, until this morning, I didn't even know what teams were playing in the big game. My interest in televised competitions has always been limited to fodder like Dancing With the Stars and, of course, American Idol. But this year I knew I'd actually tune in for Super Bowl XLIII, once I found out that one of my favorite Idols, Jennifer Hudson, would be singing the national anthem. This was a performance not to be missed.
As I'm sure most of you reading this know by now, in October 2008 Jen's seemingly perfect life--hot new debut album just out in stores, new all-star movie in theaters, new engagement to I Love New York TV bachelor Davis "Punk" Otunga--was shattered when her mother, brother, and nephew were tragically murdered in Chicago. (Her estranged brother-in-law has been arrested in the case.) Since then, the "Spotlight" singer has remained completely out of the spotlight, understandably canceling all photo and video shoots, interviews, and public performances. Until now.
Today in Tampa, Jennifer finally emerged from seclusion to sing the national anthem. After all, what better showcase could there be for her much-awaited, rising-from-ashes return than Super Bowl XLIII, where she'd sing one of the most triumphant songs in history, for more TV viewers than any other broadcast on earth, in front of a stadium filled with fans all rooting for her just as heartily as they'd root for the Cardinals or Steelers?
And it was a super return indeed. First of all, she looked stunning--a sophisticated vision in black cigarette pants, button-studded military jacket, funky doorknocker earrings, glamorous updo, and a pair of stilettos so razor-sharp it's a wonder they didn't sink into the grass during her walk to the center of the football field. And the crowd roar she received when she appeared was an ovation worthy of a true superstar.
However, it wasn't a perfect comeback. Jennifer was visibly nervous--heaving a giant sigh before she picked up the mic, and an even heavier one (presumably of relief) when it was all over--and she never smiled once. I imagine that if the song hadn't been pretaped (a common practice at the Super Bowl, since the acoustics at such a massive venue aren't conducive to live singing), her wavering voice might have cracked before the song was done, making it impossible for her to confidently hit the big payoff note at the end.
Yes, it was obvious that she was having a tough time of it, and that this was a very bittersweet moment here. Here she was, singing for the biggest international audience in the world, a huge career milestone for her...and sadly, her closest family members weren't there to witness it. But the resilience she displayed during her emotional run on American Idol and as Effie in Dreamgirls was still evident, and she made it through with her characteristic class and strength.
Game on, Jennifer. It's nice to have you back.