My sister Lil’ Raine and I finally saw Frozen, and as everybody’s been saying, it was pretty awesome. Admittedly, my sister and I saw it for Idina Menzel. We’ve been fans of hers since the late ’90s after Rent came out. We’re feeling a bit snobby about her huge, huge, huge success after “Let It Go” in Disney’s Frozen. Just give me a minute to be a snob, then I’ll get to the comparison between her, Hyorin, Demi Lovato and Ailee. So, of course, it’s awesome that she’s a huge hit on search engines, but when people are like “she’s powerhouse,” I’m like, “I KNOW!!!!” We’ve followed her through her huge success in Rent, to Wicked, to the film adaptation of Rent. We watched Enchanted only because she was in it (and she BARELY SANG! Luckily, she’s a great actress.) Not to mention she was in Aida, Chess, The Vagina Monologues and a lot more (here in the US and on the West End.) She’s just flipping awesome. Massive girl/talent crush. I’m glad she’s finding success through this, but it’s nothing new for this woman. She’s so amazing. !@#$@#$^@#$!@#$@#$%^@#$!@#$!@#$ WE LOVES YOU, IDINA!
Okay, massive Idina snobbery over…ish. (She’s rehearsing for the March 2 Oscar’s with her TEACHER. The woman is 42 and in her prime, in the biz forever, and still rockin’ a teacher. Yes, a little worship is happening here.)
Now to the film a bit. Frozen was pretty good. Idina’s character, Elsa, is not a villain in the normal sense, but a frustrated woman who has a power she can’t control and is told to suppress it rather than learn about it. Through fear of hurting her sister and her people, she traps herself and her frustrations in a frozen castle where she can finally let her power go unrestrained. That’s where the song “Let It Go” comes into play. It’s where the character goes from terrified and afraid to take a step to letting everything go. Robert Lopez and wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez wrote the song. They’re a pretty badass writing couple (you can read about by clicking on their names!) I’m sad Idina didn’t get more to sing, but this song is pretty wicked (heh) awesome. It’s a stellar song, with effective lyrics and wonderful orchestrations by Christophe Beck. There is definitely a reason it has become a Disney favorite in the short time it’s been out.
I read they’re thinking of putting it on Broadway. Bring me Idina and I agree!…hehe.
Now here are my reviews of each version. You know I love Idina, but I’m going to try to be as ‘objective’ vocally about all of the ladies. Then I’ll also mention how they do with the portrayal of the lyrics and just my, well, biased opinion of the performance. Three of these versions are recorded, produced, polished songs: Idina’s, Hyorin’s and Demi’s. Ailee’s is live. There are certain elements that happen live that cannot be mimicked in recording like nerves, snafus, out-of-tune notes, misjudged breathing. Whatever. Keep it in mind when you’re listening.
Watching this as it is in the movie adds an extra element to the performance. Seeing the song in context adds so much. You should also listen to it without the video. It’ll give you a clearer picture of Idina’s voice, the emotive aspects of the song and really let you focus on the lyrics.
In terms of the lyrics, this is the strongest performance. Yes, it was her job to emote in the movie as a character, but it doesn’t change the fact that the other three singers in this comparison really don’t honor the lyrics as well as Idina. She’s able to combine the vocals and acting. I felt every word. I felt the moment she “let it go” in the song. It’s palpable. She let’s go vocally, emotionally, dynamically.
Vocals. Idina has always been a belter. She doesn’t have the largest instrument of the four women listed here (in fact I think it’s the smallest of the four). She does have to scream/yell her high notes and always has. She’s had enough training to make it work and I personally really like the sound. (I think Hyorin has the most natural large instrument of these four women.) In terms of diction, Idina’s spot on. It may be from her years on the stage, but it’s easy to understand her and that’s really important. She also doesn’t push her sound too early in the song, sounding not quite as confident in the beginning and growing stronger/louder as her character’s confidence grows. Her vocals copy the sentiment told by the words and depicted in the orchestrations. It’s one of Idina’s strengths. Even her weaker live vocal performances have wonderful acting in them.
Production. Idina cleans up nicely in the studio and not everyone can get that polish. The other two studio recorded versions, Hyorin and Demi, have similar abilities. That’s what makes these people good recording artists.
Just have to say this version and Hyorin’s version are a half step lower than the original (ie, all the notes are a tiny bit lower in general), which makes it just slightly less brilliant. Not by much, but it definitely took my ear a little while to get used to both of them.
This is the original credits song and video. Hyorin’s is based off this format and is actually a very similar video in terms of cutting from Demi to film clips and back. Demi’s concept is different from Hyorin’s. Demi is in a mansion that is shuttered, full of covered furniture. As the song progresses, she uncovers furniture and opens a window. It mimics how the main character, Anna, was trapped, more than Elsa’s if only because we saw Anna wandering a similar mansion. But yes, both woman were trapped in the castle. They also have Demi playing piano. There is also randomly a violin sitting around. I was hoping she’d freeze it with her singing or something. But no, it just randomly sat there.
As for vocals, Demi doesn’t really have a quiet end in this. It sounds like she’s constantly ready to belt, which is what she’s good at, but this song requires a quiet restraint that she only shows by flipping in and out of her head voice. Her diction is also a bit slushy as she focuses more on the fanciness of her vocals. I really wanted just less of everything at the beginning, less belt, less dynamics, more subdued feeling. And this is where the major difference between Idina’s and Demi’s versions come in. Idina was actively trying to emote the lyrics. Demi is singing and rocking the song, much more than the lyrics. It’s how the song was arranged, too, with the bridge added in to keep the continuity of the song that wasn’t there in the film (because Elsa was building an ice castle!) When it’s time to belt, Demi is seriously kick ass and has awesome vocal acrobatics. I suppose I just miss the emotional connection between the music and the lyrics. This version is the least emotional for me.
Randomly, Demi makes faces like she’s feeling it, but I don’t see it reflected in her singing…hehe.
Production. I’m surprised the producer didn’t ask for just less in the beginning of the song and let her get away with those random head notes that sound out of place, especially in contrast to her belty chest voice. But they match her later beltiness so I …guess it’s okay? This is just my least favorite version of the four. It seems all about the awesome melody, which is cool, but the lyrics are so true and empowering. I wanted them honored more.
Pretty similar to Demi Lovato’s video (also this version is half a step lower.) It was used in the Korean ending credits like Demi’s was used in the American ending credits. The use of imagery, similar sets as in the movie is effective to build emotion in the video. Watching this has a similar effect as watching the original movie, you get the excitement of the film by watching the magic happen and by watching the look on Hyorin’s face. Hyorin’s version is a lot more still when the singer is on screen, which is neither worser or better than Demi’s. It just mirror’s Korean culture more. Also, she dresses in a white gown and climbs stairs like those made by Elsa in the video. This seems more fitting for her since she doesn’t play piano like Demi. I liked the piano in Demi’s version (not the random violin), but this was a good way to show case Hyorin’s beauty and visually showcase her visual style of singing.
This version needs an added lyrics section. It’s always difficult to translate lyrics. A lot of the phrases that carry nuance only in English were translated into Korean to mean what the English phrase implied. For example, “The cold never bothered me anyway,” in English basically means, “I’ll live alone in the cold wilderness and that’s cool ’cause the cold never bothered me anyway.” In Korean, for that phrase, they use, “I don’t mind the loneliness./외로움 따윈 상관없어/weroum ttawin sanggwan eobseo.” It’s similar. And you will always get that in translated lyrics. Using what little Korean I know and some translations, I’ve garnered that the general gist of the lyrics has been really well retained. I won’t get into it, but for those of you who have some knowledge of formality levels, she speaks in the lowest formality, so that translation issue didn’t have to be dealt with. Also, with diction, I understand her Korean, which means it’s probably pretty darn clear diction if a foreigner can understand singing. I won’t go much farther with that, though.
Now onto vocals. Admittedly, I have a pretty heavy bias/girl crush on Hyorin, so know that as I write this. But the entire first section is quiet, well-controlled, and she doesn’t even come close to utilizing half of her massive instrument. She does quiet and introspective much better than Demi. Still, she seems (like Demi) to focus more on the musical emotional (the notes get higher and more sustained, and her singing gets more excited because of it rather than catering her build to the emotional build in the lyrics like Idina.) What I like that Hyorin did (and Idina), is that her tone quality changes as the lyrics become more confident. Demi did not do this well. Hyorin also made awesome use of her huskiness and her tendency to break a little bit on her higher notes. She purposefully does that and it’s really cool! Hyorin also has a bigger instrument and a larger range than Demi, or at least a larger belty range. At least from what I’ve heard from this song and their past performances. When she decides to cut loose, it’s glorious and she has as much agility as Demi. She chooses to do so differently than Demi, and her way of doing things can’t really be considered better or worse. It just is. I like her voice better and I like her choices better, so that’s my personal opinion. But Demi really rocked the end, too.
Production. I’m a little pissed that they let the intonation issues in the break section go. There is some slight discrepancy between Hyorin and her chorus girls. Very slightly off, but it’s annoying. RAWR! I’ve heard Hyorin live (on youtube…) and she has pretty excellent pitch. She does do really well in the studio and is able to use that studio time to find the best aspects of her voice.
This is the only live performance I’ll be using. She sings Demi’s ending credits version (in the lower key.) She is a bit pitchy, but she didn’t have multiple attempts and a studio to fix it, so I’m going to give her props. Also, Ailee is a Korea-American singer, but I included her as a Korean singer because that’s the market she’s in despite the fact that she’s American.
Instead of video, let’s talk about her stage set up and presence. Ailee has GREAT stage presence. She fills it with her personality and her voice. The beginning of this song, however, is super schmaltzy. It’s all about the music and she doesn’t really honor the lyrics. It’s about her voice. But as she’s on a live stage with people staring at her, I think it’s okay to cater to her voice more than the lyrics. It’s really interesting to hear with a live band and see with flashing lights and back up girls.
Vocals. Like Demi, she tends to “let her voice go” a lot sooner than I’d want, but again, this is live. She has to rely on her head voice for the high notes ’cause she sits into her chest so early on. But this girl is a BIG VOICE. Huge. Like Demi and Hyorin. In comparison to the others, this is the shakiest performance, but again, again, again, it’s live. It’s also a kinda something I think she should work on, having that vocal control live. Hyorin has it. Demi needs to work on live as well. As the song progresses, Ailee tends to avoid the upper notes in the song and deal with vocal flourishes, which she KILLS. She does belt a few high ones that are pretty badass. I think she needs some diction and phrasing practice live (I’ve heard her live before), but this is coming from a listener who can’t do what she does. I’m just…a critic. Hehe. One who has heard other singers her age do what I’m asking. So I’m just asking! You can do it, Ailee. 큰 팬이에요!!! I’m a huge fan! Plus, that performance was awesome. I’m just being picky. Heh.
Alright, so four different versions of the song. My favorite is Idina ’cause I get the whole package. Which is your favorite of the four? If you have another version you love, post a link!