Idina Menzel may be a Broadway star, but her solo album Still I Can't Be Still is not the typical collection of old show tunes usually delivered by those who trod the boards on the Great White Way. Of course, as a star of Rent, the rock musical about life on the Lower East Side dealing with issues like AIDS and drug abuse, Menzel isn't exactly coming at her solo career like another Ethel Merman. Instead, she co-writes all of her original songs with bassist Milton Davis (that may help explain why the bass is so loud), and they are set to synth rock arrangements. Menzel sounds like she grew up listening to Prince and Madonna, and lately has been wearing out Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill. Such influences not only bring out her R&B-based contemporary rock sound, but also her forthright lyrical approach. She steps out right at the start in "Minuet," a song in which a woman discusses with her lover whether they should move in together. "Will I piss you off ‘cause I don't cook," she worries, but then reflects, "The sex lasts for hours/You want me more the less I shower." Too much information? If so, the listener has been warned that Menzel isn't afraid to, as she puts it in the final song, wear her "Heart on My Sleeve," though, actually, that's not the half of it. In "All of the Above," she suggests to her lover that they visit a sex accessories store and promises, "I can be...your dominatrix (in your parent's bed)." In "Straw into Gold," she worries about losing her appeal as she ages, noting, "My womb is a rush-hour taxi ride." Not all of her lyrics are so sexually uninhibited, but they are usually emotionally uninhibited, and Menzel sings them in a powerful voice. In the wake of Morissette, this may be the female empowerment of the future; in any case, Menzel makes clear that she won't be content only singing other people's show tunes.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann