Jennifer Hudson Returns To ‘American Idol’ Stage

Singer performs her new single, 'If This Isn't Love.'

Introduced as the only “American Idol” finalist to win an Oscar, [artist id="2481017"]Jennifer Hudson[/artist] returned to the “Idol” stage Wednesday night for the first time to perform her new single, “If This Isn’t Love.”

In a brief clip introducing her performance, viewers got to see the wide-eyed Chicago native in her first audition for the show, rocking a blow-out ‘do, a slinky black dress and the 1000-watt smile that helped land her on the show the first time. ” ‘Idol’ was actually one of my tests for myself,” Hudson said in a pre-taped interview segment. “I said, ‘If I can get through “Idol,” that means that I’m cut out for this industry.’ ”

Ironically, Hudson needed a wild-card bid from the judges to make it to the finals and then she got ignominiously booted well before the finale, winding up in seventh place during the third season. That injustice is part of the reason the judges decided to implement a one-time-only save this season, which, coincidentally,
they busted out less than 30 minutes after her performance, saving Matt Giraud from the “Idol” also-ran pile.

The clip before her performance again praised the singer for being the only “Idol” winner to snag an Oscar (for her role in “Dreamgirls”), and mentioned her hit self-titled debut album, with a nod to her first Grammy win in February for Best R&B Album. “Accepting the Grammy was so overwhelming for me,” she said in the taped interview. “That is what I’ve waited for, worked for since I was 7 years old.”

Wearing a long black jacket, glittery black top, black leggings and stiletto boots, Hudson walked slowly onto the bare stage, singing the ballad amid a swirl of small rotating spotlights, with a projection of the song’s sensual black-and-white video behind her on the big screen.

Rising from a breathy lower register to her signature soaring power range over the tick-tock tempo of the backing track, Hudson stood still behind the microphone for most of the song, getting more animated as it went on. The performance, taped several weeks ago, slowly picked up steam, with Hudson gripping the microphone stand at one point and belting out “So if you’ve got real love put your hands up,” while raising her arms above her head.

Hitting a roof-raising crescendo, she wailed the refrain “If this isn’t love/ Dreamin’/ Crazy/ If this isn’t love tell me what it is,” as the lights caught the thick diamond-encrusted ring on her right hand. Hudson smiled sweetly as the performance ended, and host Ryan Seacrest walked out to give her a hug, welcoming her back to the program. “So good to be back,” she said.

“An Oscar, a Grammy, what else is left?” Seacrest asked.

“I don’t know,” Hudson smiled. “I guess coming back here and singing.”

Though no mention was made of the difficult time the singer has had since the October murders of her mother, brother and nephew in Chicago, Seacrest asked Hudson about her recent engagement to “I Love New York 2″ contestant David “Punk” Otunga, inquiring when the wedding will be. “It’s a secret, I can’t tell nobody,” Hudson demurred. After Seacrest asked her to whisper it in his ear, she leaned in and joked quietly, “Ryan, they’ll hear it if I tell you.”

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