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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 26, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: Menzel’s vocals compensate for lost individuality

Idina Menzel

"idina."

Idina Menzel’s new album, “idina.,” is missing the spark listeners have heard from her in fan favorites like “Frozen” and “Wicked.”

Released Sept. 23, “idina.” guides listeners through cheesy tracks that try too hard to appeal to a general audience. But what Menzel may lack in songwriting ability, she makes up for with stunning vocals that remind us why listeners will never stop loving her.

The consistent themes throughout “idina.” focus on finding home and losing someone close. Menzel considers this her most personal album, and with the songs’ somber tones and empowering messages, it will most likely be used to console the breakups of “fanzels” everywhere.

Menzel tries to capture the essence of “slaying” in her single “Queen of Swords.” She sounds like a completely different singer compared to her other songs on the album, and she uses the song to empower listeners as an anthem for women. The song’s intent is positive, but the outcome disappoints: Her lyrics feel fake and heartless, as if she doesn’t support what she’s singing at all.

The overall message of the song is actually quite uplifting. Using lyrics like “Don’t go asking me for apologies,” Menzel encourages listeners to be anything they want to be without having any reservations. If she had kept the message simple, without polluting the song with endless “la la ly” sequences, maybe listeners would’ve believed her more heartfelt words.

This pattern of positive intent with negative results repeats in songs like “Cake,” where it’s easy to determine Menzel is trying too hard to mold herself into the pop genre instead of sticking to her strong suit: the ballad.

Her single “I See You,” released Aug. 5, shows off her strength in an emotional ballad that hits home. Menzel devotes the track to listeners who are feeling hopeless, as she sings, “to those that got lost along the way / I see you.” The vulnerability in her voice, alongside the strength of the simple orchestral accompaniment, makes for an ideal expression of the pain of being forgotten or overlooked. It’s an honest track, especially in comparison with other tracks, and listeners can tell Menzel was able to reach into her soul for this one.

Others — for example, “Like Lightning” — bring an interesting element to her album, shedding light on the journey of finding identity. Its memorable bass line and ability to make listeners move to the beat add a positive, warmhearted track to “idina.”

With experience like hers — from “Rent” to “Glee” and numerous productions on Broadway — Menzel is normally able to create albums of her original work while still maintaining her reputation. While she clearly attempts to get her sound out to a broader audience, listeners may ask how much “idina.” was genuinely created by her.

Though Menzel’s final product is cliche and obviously a staunch effort to appeal to the general public, her stunning vocals throughout make it easy to overlook the attempted pop sound.

However, a glitch like a poorly puttogether album will barely touch this established Broadway legend. We can “Let it Go” this time around.

Preston Arment can be reached at parment@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @parment