Idina Menzel Exceeds Expectations on ‘Idina.’
Idina Menzel exceeds expectations Idina. Clearly, personal touch, authenticity, and awesome vocals go a long way to making the LP successful.
It’s best not to judge an album on assumptions – prejudices. Many would agree that Idina Menzel can sing. That said, how many of those same people would be enthused by an Idina Menzel album? Likely fewer. Going into Idina, critically, the prejudgments were unavoidable – Idina was sure to be “middle of the road.” It is “middle of the road” at times, but Idina is the perfect example of an album better than anticipated.
Idina initiates with “Small World,” a respectable if somewhat, blasé pre-release song. Menzel sings it with conviction, and contextually within the album, it feels stronger. Follow up “Like Lightning” has more oomph, featuring more contemporary pop cues without making Menzel sound too young. “Like Lightning” is more successful than “Small World,” arguably because it branches out in regards to production.
The high watermark comes with “Queen of Swords,” a single a younger pop artist might turn into a commercial hit. While Menzel hasn’t received the airplay she deserves – particularly for this single – it’s the crème de la crème. The best moment is the most surprising when Menzel nails a wicked high Bb near the end.
“I See You” follows. Like “Small World,” contextually it carries more oomph. The overall track is still middle of the road, but the feeling is that Menzel deserves more credit than she receives.
“Here’s to the lonely / to the broken-hearted / I want you to know I feel your pain / here’s to the hopeless / the almost forgotten / to those who got lost along the way / I see you…”
“Everybody Knows” is a bit odd… It distinguishes itself from the rest of the album but feels as if the production is overambitious and could use more stability and weight.
“Show Me” returns to a more traditional script. Beginning as a ballad, by the refrain, Menzel sings her face off against a backdrop of driving strings. “Last Time” benefits from its authenticity – it feels personal.
“So don’t let the last time I hurt you / be the last time I heard you / don’t let the last time I held you / be the last time I felt you…”
“I Do” keys in on marriage, specifically a failed marriage. Menzel is divorced, so the issues raised in “I Do” fit her situation. Ultimately, this is one of the cleverest moments, given the fact that it is more disunion than union. She keeps things rolling on “Cake,” by far the album’s funkiest moment. It’s a risk – a necessary one for this type of album – but the reward is far greater. With more moments like “Cake,” Idina. could’ve been even more electric than it is.
“Extraordinary” maintains the personal touch, continuing sound results. “Perfect Story” is even better, even if its reference to fairy tales should be cringe-worthy. Authenticity seals the deal. “Nothin’ in this World” concludes with a bit more punch and groove.
All in all, Idina Menzel exceeds expectations on Idina. It’s not perfect, but it’s much better than anticipated. Vocally, she’s on-point throughout the album’s course. The material isn’t always the most distinct, but her personal touch helps it to shine more than it should. Worth checking out? Definitely.
Gems: “Queen of Swords,” “I See You,” “I Do,” “Cake” & “Perfect Story”
Idina Menzel • Idina • Warner Bros. • Release: 9.23.16
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.