My first impression of Idina Menzel’s new release,I Stand , was that the album sounds like a Broadway show that was castrated by the writers of Across the Universe and turned into an equally horrible pop soundtrack. Just like Across the Universe , the album begins with a shitty pop ballad, the lead is bad, but at least can sing, and the whole morale involved in each musical number is vaguely reminiscent of cheerleaders during a big game—They’re both extremely loud and smiling a bunch, but not doing anything productive. Thus, my initial reaction was something along the line of, seriously, isn’t Idina Menzel a little too old for this prettily sung but falsely uplifting bullshit?

I guess I shouldn’t have been overly surprised. Idina Menzel is a renowned Broadway Star with original cast leads to her credit in both Rent and Wicked . Of course, the album seems as if it was written for the stage. Therefore, when I began to listen to the music more closely, I changed my tune, a little bit. With her clear-cut voice and direct lyrics, Menzel sounds, well, like she’s singing truthfully. What I mean is quite simple. Menzel doesn’t ever warble like a fucking American Idol wannabe singing a Mariah Carey cover. She’s not overdubbing her voice in an electronic attempt to make it seem like she can sing, a style that Brittney Spears favors. She’s not wantonly playing a piano and pretending to be indie like Vanessa Carlton. And, she’s certainly not pretending to be a hardass with sing-song mannerisms like Lily Allen. Thank god, as if the world could handle another one of those . Instead, she’s singing songs she’s put passion and work into and, believe it or not, she’s singing them without the help of machines to “fix” her voice and without a ridiculous image to back her up. That, at least, is something.

I’m not saying this album is a heads up in a different direction for bubblegum pop music. In fact, her lack of image will most likely render people clueless of her existence, rather than change anything. Secondly, I’m not advocating I Stand as a wonderful album. Like most bad pop albums, her lyrics are generic and even include painful-to-listen-to statements like, “When all of the madness falls like rain (The song ‘Gorgeous’),” “ Where do I begin my love/Starting with the things I haven’t said enough of (‘Where Do I Begin’),” and, my personal favorite, “If this is the moment I stand here on my own/ If this is the right of passage that somehow leads me home/I might be afraid but it’s my turn to be brave (From the single ‘Brave’).” Even the music itself is somewhat less than catchy. Regardless, if you are a person who generally enjoys a beautiful voice, this album is a gift without all of the tiresome wrappings that the music biz usually focuses on. From start to end, the album is a showcase of Menzel’s talent as a singer and not the talent of her producers. To me, that gave the album a weird sort of appeal.

With I Stand , Menzel is competing in a pop world that’s filtered through phase upon phase of music. Remember the mantra “Together we stand, divided we fall?” Idina Menzel may be standing, but she’s standing in a crowd of people weary and tired of hearing the same type of songs, over and over, with a different leading lady. Unfortunately, this weariness is exactly why disdainful beats and images were originally thrown into pop music in the first place. Without those bells and whistles, I Stand falls short of any flashy tries at innovativeness and will inevitably be ignored, even if there is a classy, talented lady singing where far less talented, unappealing gimmicks have already trod.

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