I Stand

Idina Menzel

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I Stand Review

by Matthew Chisling

Idina Menzel is not known for being a pop artist. Rather, she is most classically known for originating two modern Broadway dream roles: the outspoken lesbian Maureen in the long-running Rent, and the misunderstood Elphaba in Wicked, a role that garnered Menzel a Tony award. Throughout her musical theater career, Menzel attempted to capitalize on her fame and go for pop stardom; her first swing at bat was a frazzled alternative album that couldn't find a proper fan base, the second attempt was a collection of Broadway cover songs, something that never materialized into success. Thus, twelve years after Menzel first graced the stage as Maureen, Menzel releases I Stand. In order to create the perfect pop album, she drafted Glen Ballard, the producer best known for his work on the 16-times platinum Alanis Morisette album Jagged Little Pill. Along with Ballard, Menzel co-wrote most of the lyrics and created a set of pop songs for her most mainstream release yet. Ultimately, the result is a mixed bag. Menzel's voice is staunchly characteristic; it doesn't necessarily format to the catchy synthetics of 2007, and the songs feel inconsistent. "Where Do I Begin?" is awkward at times, as Menzel's musical roots funnel through. The tracks scatter between pop, adult contemporary, and Broadway. On that note, though, a lovely remix of the much acclaimed show tune "Defying Gravity" is pleasant on this collection of tunes. "Brave" is an empowering personal ballad which is a marvel; it's a better version of an American Idol finale song, minus the corny confetti. Plus, the dance track "Gorgeous" is a strong, upbeat number which flows in a similar vein to Kelly Clarkson's "You Found Me." Unfortunately, many of the tracks are impressive but not impressionable. "Forever," "My Own Worst Enemy," and "Better to Have Loved" are indistinguishable among one another. And at only 11-tracks long, Menzel really needed to make a stronger mark on the songs in order to impress a listener. Yet some tracks manage to characterize her better than others, "I Stand" is a personal tune that glistens with potential, and "Don't Let Me Down" is a piano-influenced, midtempo piece that appeals to both a younger and older crowd while maintaining artistic creativity. Finally, "Perfume and Promises" is the most "Menzel" track on the album; it characterizes her best. Ironically, she didn't even pen it, yet it dazzles and spins her voice into a weaving ballad of love and pain. Unfortunately, it is one of too few, and there isn't enough creative definition; Ballard smoothed out Menzel's edges too much, to the point where she falls into the crowd of solid yet insatiable artists who are pleasant, if not punching. Menzel deserves mounds and heaps of praise, and I Stand shows much potential in the big-voiced wonder; the tunes, however, don't support her talent and potential.

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