Pop & Hiss

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Michael Jackson memorial: Jennifer Hudson sings 'Will You Be There'

July 7, 2009 | 12:08 pm


Pop & Hiss brings you quick thoughts on some of the main performances at today's Michael Jackson memorial.

What: Jennifer Hudson's "Will You Be There." The knockout "American Idol" vocalist took on Jackson's 1991 single, transforming it into a rousing, feel-good anthem. The set had a bit more choreography than the other performances thus far, and it moved the proceedings away from the more restrained recent performances.

But it worked, for the most part, and that's largely due to the strength of Hudson as a vocalist who can reach for the stars as well as any singer. Things drifted a bit toward Hallmark-like hokeyness toward the end, as Hudson stepped back to make way for Jackson's recorded vocals. The Times' Ann Powers is inside the Staples Center. Her reaction: "In a truly angelic white dress, Hudson takes the stage and sings, 'Hold me like the River Jordan,' " the opening refrain from the song.

"Where Hudson goes," Powers writes, "seriousness descends like a misty cloud. The dancers around her would be ridiculous, encircling her in a weird tribal ring — except we know they are Michael's dancers, and this must be his own routine, from the comeback that never happened. Then the fallen star's own voice comes over the loudspeakers doing the last verse in voice over.

Entertainment needs its ghosts. Is this one big effort to raise one?"

— Ann Powers and Todd Martens

Jennifer Hudson performs during Michael Jackson memorial at Staples Center, July 7, 2009. Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times