By Adam B. Vary
Updated July 30, 2020 at 09:20 AM EDT

I don’t know about your Super Bowl party, PopWatchers, but at the one I was at, it took my friend Meagan about five seconds to point out that Jennifer Hudson was not singing “The Star Spangled Banner” live. (Producer Rickey Minor confirmed to the Associated Press that Hudson sang to a backing track at his request.) For the record, it took readers of Michael Slezak’s rave review ofJ. Hud’s take on the national anthem about 28 minutes to point out the Oscar winnerwas singing to a backing track, and then y’all were off to the races, some calling the decision disappointing, some wondering what the big deal is. I pretty much side with the latter camp. Unlike Bruce Springsteen, who did sing live during his halftime show, J. Hud was out there by herself, and with a song as deliberately paced and aggressively melodic as “The Star Spangled Banner,” the echoes bouncing through that stadium would’ve been all kinds of distracting.

Not to mention the fact that, you know, she’s singing in front of something like a billion people, and for the first time since suffering unfathomable personal tragedy — which is to say, the national anthem is supposed to be a moment of uplift and goosebumps, not a global televised gauntlet thrown down to test a singer’s nerves. Hence, why pretty much everyone who sings the national anthem at the Super Bowl sings it to a backing track. Besides, the cries of “she was lip syncing!” and “Milli Vanilli!” ignore that (a) we were always hearing Hudson’s voice, not some anonymous singer’s, and (b) she definitely was singing — we just couldn’t hear it.

And yet…and yet. J. Hud’s performance truly would have been far more impressive, even legendary, if she’d done it live, and it’s not like they don’t have ear monitors to help solve the reverb issue. But ultimately I think I’m going to cut the woman some slack, if for no other reason than, live or not, that was one of my favorite versions of “The Star Spangled Banner” I’ve ever heard. But what do you think, PopWatchers? Vote in our poll below, and then give us your two cents in the comments!

UPDATE: Hudson’s manager, Damien Smith, confirms to EW’s Simon Vozick-Levinson that Hudson used a pre-recorded backing vocal track at Super Bowl organizers’ request. “Any time you perform the pre-game event, you’re required to give them backing tracks,” says Smith. “It’s nothing out of the norm. [But] it definitely was Jennifer singing live — that was her voice.”

addCredit(“Kevin Mazur/”)