For probably about 80% of us
(including myself!), we more than likely hadn’t heard much of Idina Menzel, (I mean, unless you were particularly hot on your musicals or a big fan of Glee or Enchanted) until a certain Ice Queen burst into our lives in 2013.
However, this lady has been on the scene since the mid 90s, and today saw the release of her 5th studio album titled simply “idina.”
(well, technically 3rd if you take out the discontinued one and “Holiday Wishes” which was a christmas covers album). An album of which I have been particularly excited for, especially based on my love for her “I Stand” album… so I figured why not give you some of my initial thoughts!
The album opens with a melodic power ballad, Small World, which was actually released about two weeks prior to the full album release – so I’ve already learnt majority of the lyrics. I have personally connected well with this song, because the lyrics take you to that moment when you just need time to yourself and a place to escape. For me, it gives me such a fun mental visual of what it would like to be weightless and to stop focusing on yourself, but just take the world in.
Like Lightning has strong potential to be one of my favourite tracks on the album, as there are some great positive messages mixed in with the catchy chorus – plus if there are any fellow Idina fans out that have heard her song “Hope”, there’s a subtle reference to that. The positive vibes continue with the even catchier and more anthemic, Queen of Swords, which was another pre-release that I believe has real potential to become a hit single if given the chance, as it has all the layers of a great pop song.
Track 4 takes us back to the ballads, with the heart-wrenching I See You, (also an early pre-release), which is song that I’m sure can connect to many with lyrics like “each day harder than the last”, and as someone who can easily find myself feeling like I’m losing hope – this song reminds me that I’m not alone in my battles. I think Idina has done a great thing with this track as not only does it connect to me, but it will reach out to so many.
As for the sandwiching tracks, Everybody Knows is upbeat with an interesting underlying dance beat (almost like a Cascada song?), however I’m not completely won over by it yet. Show Me is another emotional power ballad, this time with a slightly more optimistic sound and seemingly telling a break-up story, while it contains some great lyrics and a catchy beat, I think the track is a little lengthy and may need a few more listens until I’m fully won over. Last Time is filled with apologies and is another break-up inspired song, for me it was slightly over-repetitive but it’s still a good track. I Do is at present my favourite from the middle tracks, with its punching and easy-to-pickup chorus it’s hard not to get into this one. It’s still a break-up song, but great for releasing any tensions but while regaining some of that power and control.
Cake is the sassy and flirty song of the album. While it’s slightly repetitive, it works thanks to its funky experimental pop sound. Elements of the track remind me of a “Try This” era P!nk, or a nod to the wild side of Idina we discovered on her first album “Still I Can’t Be Still” (1998). This track is so different to the rest, it almost feels slightly misplaced; however I love it.
To tone down the vibe, Extraordinary is yet again break-up themed, but is again another strong track with its honesty and calm vocals, plus it’s another song that many can relate to with that feeling of wishing something had worked, or was there at all; and all the questions that run through your mind.
If you haven’t found any tears yet, Perfect Story will give you them. Evidently, if you hadn’t already gathered, Idina ended a relationship/marriage of 10+ years in 2013, hence a lot of the themes in the album (though hurrah! as she’s since found love again); but together they have a young son. This track is for him. It simply apologises for the fact they were unable to give him the supposed “perfect story”. You can really tell this came from the heart, as its oozing with raw honesty, as well as pure love and pride for her son. I challenge you to make it through this song without a tear!
Closing out the album, Nothin’ In This World starts with a slow and steady pace to somewhat steady the emotion, but then picks up and is tinged with an almost country feel and makes quite a good album closer.
Overall, the general tone of the album is pop with a few experimental sounds from country to soft pop-rock, to dance; and the tracks give a fair balance between the ballads and party tracks. In my opinion, this is the most varied album, yet it sounds very consistent and polished.
Idina herself has described it at “the most personal and introspective album” she’s made, hence the title too, and I could probably buy that – though I find “I Stand” is equally as raw and honest.
I’m probably seen as being slightly biased because I could listen to Idina’s voice all day long, but I really believe her music is something special so I would just love for more people to give her a chance, and I really think there is potential for a wider appeal outside of the typical split fanbase of theatre routed fans and youngsters who know her as Elsa. Idina Menzel’s album “idina.” is out now worldwide. ★★★★