Music News & Reviews

Consider it lip synch, live

On Jan. 20, Jennifer Hudson sat in a Tampa, Fla., hotel room and watched her new president make history on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. With the inspiring words of Barack Obama echoing in her head, the R&B divette then went to a local studio and recorded her version of the national anthem, the very one you heard at Sunday's Super Bowl XLIII.

Yep, Hudson was lip-synching when she made America sob.

And nope, it shouldn't surprise you in the slightest.

Hudson pretaped her power, her pop, her patriotism in spacious Studio A of Morrisound Recording. Country star Faith Hill, who sang America the Beautiful at the game, also recorded at the noted Tampa studio.

Both Hudson's and Hill's performances were arranged by Rickey Minor, the band leader on American Idol, where he worked with Hudson when she was a contestant in 2004. The orchestras accompanying the singers also piped into Raymond James Stadium were taped earlier in a Los Angeles studio.

ABC News reported the not-so-shocking Super Bowl lip-synching news Tuesday. This followed eyebrow-raising reports that, because of the frigid temps and possible harm to expensive instruments, a classical quartet featuring Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman played over a recorded track at the Obama inauguration.

Morrisound's Jim Morris, 50, confirmed that both Hudson and Hill recorded at his studio. But he wouldn't touch the lip-synching issue: "Yes, they both recorded vocals here." But about Hudson's Star-Spangled Banner, he says, "Whether she was lip-synching or not, we'll never know."

But Minor admitted it, telling ABC: "There's too many variables to go live." Hudson's manager, Damien Smith, told Entertainment Weekly that his client did use prerecorded vocals but that she was still singing "live."

Not-so-coincidentally, Minor also produced Whitney Houston's anthemic awesomeness at 1991's Super Bowl XXV in Tampa. That also was jaw-dropping. And yes, also prerecorded.

The NFL has asked for pre-recorded tracks for pregame performers since 1993. (The halftime shows typically go live. At least recently they have.) Lip-synching has nothing to do with a worthy singer phoning it in or cheating and everything to do with eliminating risk. It wasn't Hudson's call to begin with.

If you can get over that, consider that Hudson, 27, making her first public appearance since the murders of three relatives in October, wound up giving Houston a run for her money.

"She was spectacular" in the studio, says Morris. "She was in a good mood and upbeat. She was having a good time."

In a related note, Minor was also involved with Aretha Franklin's performance at the Obama inauguration. But Franklin refused to lip-synch, according to reports. Morris laughs: "Rickey told me, 'You can't tell the Queen of Soul what to do.'"