These days, it’s not often that I hear something truly inspirational on terrestrial radio. As I’ve complained about before, I’m generally subjected to the same handful of songs that are on infinite rotation and get very frustrated while channel surfing in my car. Fortunately the handy controls on my steering wheel help make it a little less irritating since I can flee from a station after less than a single bar of music is played, but still. So imagine my surprise the other morning while stuck in NYC traffic I happened upon the best musical treat I’ve experienced thus far in my fairly new set of wheels. (Aside from all the fun singing coming from the toddler seat in the back, compliments of my 3 year old daughter). I landed on 95.5 WPLJ, a station I’ve listened to since childhood, and heard one of the most incredible voices performing live in the studio. She sounded somewhat familiar but I couldn’t quite place it. As she neared the end of her beautiful rendition of a cover song (the title of which escapes me now) the station DJs announced who she was and it hit me. This was the girl who had blown me away the other night on the Tonight Show. She sang a song that had instantly been ingrained in my head and lucky for me, she started into exactly that song, called “Desperation,” and it’s been playing on repeat in my mind ever since.
What’s most interesting here is that a) I never watch the Tonight Show and b) I am not really in my car that often, so the fact that the universe was putting her in front me twice within a matter of days was definitely a sign. (Either that, or she is all over the place and I was bound to notice). Be that as it may, let me get to the point. Many of you may know her from NBC’s The Voice, but since I haven’t been watching the show consistently, she is very new to me. Her name is Judith Hill, and what has been widely called an upset, she was unexpectedly voted off The Voice despite having clearly been a front-runner. If you have not had the pleasure of hearing her yet, get thee to iTunes stat and download what is officially my favorite song of the month (if not year), “Desperation.” It’s on the soundtrack of the motion picture Twenty Feet From Stardom, that features Hill among other accomplished back up singers, and premiered to much acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival this year.
After doing some digging I learned that, in addition to her TV competition show fame, she also appeared opposite – wait for it – Michael Jackson in This Is It, the documentary/concert film of the tour that never actually happened due to the pop legend’s untimely demise. I mean, come on! She was rehearsing for months with MJ himself, preparing to be his duet partner on what had to have been the most highly anticipated tour in history. And then it never happened. But at least the rehearsals were captured and released, and she also garnered global attention when she sang the lead on “Heal the World” at his memorial service, alongside other cast members.
Spike Lee was among the many to notice her – he featured several of her original ballads in his film Red Hook Summer which premiered at Sundance last year. He’s praised her voice publicly and is definitely rooting for her – not that he needs to, because this Japanese/African-American LA born sensation needs no help at all. She is destined for fame and will be more deserving of it than many of the artists getting air play today. She may not have won The Voice, but that certainly doesn’t mean much at all. Remember what happened to Jennifer Hudson? Who knows, maybe Hill, who is certainly “desperate” no more, will win an Oscar one day too. It would definitely not surprise me.
Voice your choice in today’s featured poll and tell us which of these singers who made it big despite their competition show losses is your favorite?