Idina Menzel @The Oscars
Sophia’s verdict: 4 Stars
Before I dig into why I think people loved or hated this performance—Rolling Stone called it “one long yell” but Life said it was “mesmerizing”—allow me to state the incontrovertible: Idina Menzel does have a powerful and mesmerizing voice, and a very successful career to back it up. Deconstructing the artist’s Oscar Performance isn’t intended to undermine her talents or successes. To understand the entire performance, I think it is important to consider the impact of John Travolta’s major screw-up of Menzel’s name, which occurred as she took the stage.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Menzel confirmed that she definitely heard it and that it “threw her for like eight seconds,” the time between the orchestra intro and her first note. During these critical 8 seconds, best spent getting into the groove and becoming one with the music, Menzel was telling herself, “Stop worrying about your name and sing this song!” I believe it single handedly threw Menzel for a major tailspin.
So, long answer short, yes, Menzel did over-sing the song In the first couple sections, she was ahead of the orchestra and her notes were slightly sharp. From her facial expression and body language throughout her performance, she exuded tension as if she was bracing herself for the last big note, “Let the storm rage on”. She belted it in full voice with everything she had, her voice cracked, and the delivery was rough but a less experienced singer would not have held it together.
I would be remiss to end this review without some takeaway for fellow singers and performers. When possible, create live arrangements that create room for nerves, mishaps, drunk people climbing on stage, and other miscellaneous, unforeseeable blunders. It is usually okay to deviate from a recorded version of your song.
Modifications include lowering the key a half or whole step so you can sing comfortably within your range; slowing down the arrangement if the original tempo is hard to keep your breath up with; or keeping a mic stand so you minimize the expectation of dramatized movements that come with a handheld mic performance. Most importantly, practice until your performance is second nature so you can rely on your muscle memory and the power of repetition to carry you through any potential hurdles. I believe this was Menzel’s saving grace and it could be yours one day as well.