Faith Hill faced a daunting challenge when she performed at Aretha Franklin’s memorial service, held Friday at the Greater Grace Temple in Franklin’s home city of Detroit. While other A-list singers on the bill included Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, and Stevie Wonder, Hill was slated to sing first, in a prime slot. And while no one could claim Hill’s rendition of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” (which Hill has performed many times before) wasn’t passionate and sincere, it seemed nerves got the better of her Friday.
Hill’s alternately screechy and flat performance instantly ignited a Twitter firestorm, with many roasters employing Franklin’s famously shady “great gowns” remark about another blond country singer, Taylor Swift, to snarkily criticize Hill’s attempt to do the traditional Christian hymn justice.
However, other fans tweeted support, pointing out that even if Hill’s performance wasn’t note-perfect, it came from the heart, because she and Franklin were friends and the Franklin family clearly wanted her there. Others noted that Hill wasn’t as out of place at Greater Grace Temple as some may have believed, as she was raised a devout Baptist and, like Franklin, launched her singing career in the church.
For what it’s worth, when Franklin died Aug. 16 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, Hill was one of first among the diva’s many celebrity friends to pay tribute. Hill posted on Instagram: “GLORY, GLORY, GLORY to the ALMIGHTY!!! The choir of angels now have the greatest voice of all time to lead, praise and join in to sing before Jesus. I wanted to share this photo because it shows just how soulful Aretha was without uttering a word. To say I was humbled to be in her presence would be an understatement.”
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