When watching Jennifer Hudson perform, it is hard to imagine her not winning American Idol as a finalist. What is even crazier is the fact that she placed seventh as a contestant. However, she would later be ranked as the third best American Idol contestant of all time by the Los Angeles Times. Jennifer has not only had an amazing singing career, she has had some spectacular performances in movies and on television shows. Jennifer is one of those rare finds in music who has both power and range. She is strong and expansive with her voice. The manner in which she mastered Jennifer Holidays “And I am Telling You,” which actually makes this list, speaks volumes. Many people have attempted to take on Jennifer’s song and simply came up short, but Jennifer, as Effie in Dreamgirls knocked the ball out of the park.
To pay homage to Jennifer, we decided to list the five best uses of her songs in movies and/or television.
I Run – Chiraq
Chiraq is a gut-wrenching musical written and directed by Spike Lee addressing the excessive violence and killing in the poor neighborhoods of Chicago. While the musical/documentary was immensely controversial for its brutal honesty, it featured some powerful and moving music scores that left an indelible impression on its viewers. One of the most indelible of all was from Chicago native, Jennifer Hudson. What makes this contribution even more significant is the fact that Jennifer lost several close members of her family to a senseless killing, so she can relate to this in ways that many people are not able to.
Test of Faith – Black Nativity
The Black Nativity was a unique take on an old story. In this version of the nativity, Jennifer played the role of Mary, but in a contemporary setting. While the movie itself, despite two A-listers like Angela Bassett and Forrest Whitaker, never garnered much of a following, Jennifers singing was the bright spot. While my favorite song in the movie was Be Grateful, which is a remake of an old classic, Text of Faith was a song that explained a lot of why we go through the things we go through. Jennifer’s character displayed the person who constantly found themselves up against the ropes, but she overcame in the end. This is what this song is about.
Whatever Makes You Happy – Empire
One show that has proven to deliver the perfect balance of television drama and quality music is Empire. While I don’t watch the show due to the storyline and certain portrayals of stereotypes, I do follow up on the original music and covers that are done on the show. On this show, Jennifer Hudson plays the role of Michelle White and delivers solidly as only she can. Jennifer has something electric about her, and she electrifies the crowd with this performance, much in the same way she does every time she steps on the stage.
Love You I Do – Dreamgirls
The film adaptation of Dreamgirls was a challenge out of the gate. When Jennifer was cast as Effie, the bar was set extremely high. Remember, in the Broadway play, Effie was played by the legendary and incomparable Jennifer Holiday. What Jennifer Hudson proved that there is something about the name Jennifer because she put on her stamp on this movie in more than one scene. It would have been worthy of mention if she would have had one scene-stealing moment, but she stole the entire movie. With the top two songs on this list coming from Dreamgirls.
And I Am Telling You – Dreamgirls
I was fortunate enough to be alive when Dreamgirls appeared on Broadway, and it was a big deal in Houston because Jennifer Holiday, a daughter of a prominent pastor in the city, had the lead role. When I first heard the soundtrack, I was blown away. I have heard that song covered more times than I care to remember, but I have not heard anyone cover that song the way that Jennifer Hudson covered it. That song requires so much power and range, but it also requires the ability to deliver in the area of soul, which some people simply cannot do. If there was any question who was the most powerful force in this movie, this rendition of this song conjures up feelings of the original.