Faith Hill kicked off a star-studded tribute to Aretha Franklin on Friday at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit. The celebration of life lasted nine hours, featuring performances by Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, and Stevie Wonder.
Hill performed her own rendition of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” backed by a large choir. She’s performed the traditional Christian hymn live several times before.
The event was streamed live online to thousands of people who watched at home, chatting with other viewers using the hashtag “ArethaHomegoing.”
Many critics on Twitter seemed to compliment Hill’s “great gown.” While the country star looked lovely in an elegant, yet somber, knee-length black dress, most would agree that it wasn’t a particularly “great” gown. Eagle-eyed fans recognize that as a reference to a legendary quote by the Queen of Soul. In a 2014 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Franklin was asked what first came to her mind when she thought of Taylor Swift. She dismissed the young singer’s musical ability to focus on her fashion sense. “Great gowns. Beautiful gowns.”
Despite the criticism, some felt that Hill should get a pass for her performance in light of the friendship between the two singers.
Why all the shade for Faith Hill? She was a friend. She was a fan. She was asked to take part. And she had enough love in her heart to do the best she could. Aretha thought she was good enough. Why can’t you? #ArethaHomegoing— SheriO (@Fite4theRite) August 31, 2018
One YouTube comment shared some technical feedback on the performance.
“Hill just needed to take it down at least a half step. She’s pushing the top of her range for no good reason. That’s why it sounds so sharp/shrill.”
Several people made reference to Hill seeming out of place at the funeral.
“It’s entirely possible that Faith Hill is much more comfortable here than many people assume,” one keen Twitter observer noted. The commenter cited the singer’s Wikipedia article, mentioning that she grew up in a Baptist church in Mississippi. “She was right at home.”
A common sentiment shared on Twitter was that while Hill typically has the voice to belt out gospel classics, she was not singing at her best.
“She just didn’t have it today.”
OK, Faith Hill seems like a super generous spirit, and I like her. And she's got a decent voice. She just didn't have it today. Eeeek. #ArethaHomegoing #ArethaFranklinFuneral pic.twitter.com/xEFhEKHYKo— ¡¡Chinga Las TERMS!! (@CamilleEChavez) August 31, 2018
Shortly after Franklin’s death on August 16, Hill shared a message celebrating the soulful singer’s life and legacy with her million Instagram followers.
“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.” She continued, “To say I was humbled to be in her presence would be an understatement.”
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.
Hill’s full performance is available on YouTube, courtesy of Detroit’s WXYZ-TV.