Question for the congregation: what have you done, personally, today to deserve Jennifer Hudson? I know what you’re thinking: “What could I possibly do to ever deserve Jennifer Hudson.” I agree; we are not worthy but we must try. Last night, the Oscar- and Grammy-winner once again proved her perfection and reminded all of us to do better in a brief but memorable appearance on the ABC special event program Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s ‘All in the Family’ and ‘The Jeffersons‘. Trivia note: the show has already won an Emmy for longest title of a television show ever. The folks over at TV Guide are shewk. Pictured below, a TV Guide technician spends hours writing the title in The Guide:
I would explain the premise of the program but, well, I think the title is carrying most of the water there. Suffice to say, the network gathered an ensemble of huge stars that are immensely gifted at television comedy and had them recreate an episode each of The Jeffersons and All in the Family. Anyone with a passing familiarity with the former sitcom knows that it begins with a song that is possibly the greatest piece of music not performed by Beyoncé, the theme song “Movin’ On Up”. Mozart is shaking.
Jennifer Hudson made an appearance on the live broadcast to cover the tune and, as has become her custom, sang the entire deluxe apartment in the sky down.
CAN YOU BELIEVE YOU ARE ALIVE TO SEE THIS?! There are so many perfect things about this one-minute video starting with the selection of Hudson. Jennifer Hudson is not the only person who could tear the roof off with this song; Cynthia Erivo, Heather Headley, Jazmine Sullivan, and Patti Labelle also come to mind, among many others. But JHud seems to have built a comfortable melismatic niche out of showing up just when you needed her most, singing her face off (and your face, everyone’s face; no faces!), and then bopping on out of there. The “Jennifer Hudson randomly giving you life” moment deserves its own category on awards shows and possibly a multiplayer game where you can pit her song from Hairspray against the time she got up in the middle of The Voice UK and started belting “The Impossible Dream.”
A brief selection of times JHud has given you musical dramatics to ease your nerves, lower your debt, and erase your frown lines:
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The Impossible Dream
They’re not even filming The Voice UK in this moment. Someone in the audience shouts out “Jennifer sing!” which is, I suppose, the diva version of someone desperately reaching their hand out to the Pope to be blessed. Every morning I yell “JENNIFER SING!” to the sky just to get me out of bed. Works every time.
It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World
I am not actually certain that they have contestants on The Voice UK. I would totally believe you if you told me it was just a bunch of legends sitting around on thrones and waiting for the spirit to move them to sing.
We all knew this would be spectacular but it turns out, TWIST, it was even more spectacular than we ever could have hoped or dared dream. I am throwing myself an early funeral so that JHud can sing at it and I can jump up out of the casket and run around the church. I’m thinking we can do this about once a week.
Remember that time they spent millions of dollars and made Taylor Swift take cat classes just for the sole purpose of giving Jennifer Hudson a reason to sing “Memory” and blow the paint off of every wall in every movie theater in the nation? Cuz I sure do.
I Can’t Let Go
REVIVE SMASH, YOU COWARDS.
I could go on and on, but the authorities are here and they’re demanding I get back on track.
JHud’s “Movin’ On Up” joins these and many other performances as one that is far better than it has any right to be.
First, the look! Come on afro! Come on goldenrod mini-wrap dress! Come on animal print stiletto realness! This is the only lewk I’m attempting this summer.
Second, the strut! Give an Emmy immediately to the director of this special for deciding that what America needed was to see an Oscar-winner perform a one-person soul train line through George and Weezie’s apartment.
Pictured above, me sneaking into a conversation when I hear a little bit of drama.
Third, the choir! Half of the genius of “Movin’ On Up” is the gospel-inflected background vocals. The song is a sort of praise anthem for the wonders of capitalism, as George, a small business owner, achieves such success that he’s able to move into a fancy apartment building with an interracial couple as neighbors. This is the American dream. More seriously, the song speaks to a specifically black experience of overcoming against the odds that, for some, requires a deep reserve of faith and provokes a gospel-like fervor. There’s a moment in the original opening credit sequence when Weezie Jefferson, played by Isabel Sanford, wipes tears while she stares out of the window of the cab taking her to her new life and George (Sherman Hemsley) grabs her hand in comfort and tosses his head back in triumph. To me, that’s always been the heart of this song: the uncertainty of moving into something new that plays across her face and the hope for what could possibly lie ahead that plays across his.
Of course, there wasn’t time for all that in last night’s broadcast. But they provided the second best thing: a random trio of backup singers with handheld mics just chilling in the living room. I love that they have been singing the entire time but don’t show up until midway through. I love that they are also in 70s attire! I love that they are standing behind the sofa like the three guests who got to a party early and don’t know what to do with themselves. Someone call Anna Wintour, this is camp!
Finally, it is truly an over-the-top delight that Jennifer Hudson sings herself right out of the apartment. She delivers her last notes in the hallway as the door closes behind her, as if they threw her out for being too good at every damn thing. She gets into the elevator and is gone but we all are forever changed.
Look, I’m not asking for much; I’m just saying that every television program and movie should find a moment for Jennifer Hudson to come on, stop the show, sing the roof off, and then get in an elevator and go about her day. This is the American dream.