Released back in December 2003, “Defying Gravity” was warmly received by both critics and fans of theater alike. Originally composed by Stephen Schwartz and recorded by both Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, the song truly took off when it was included in the critically-acclaimed musical Wicked, where it was used as the song in the play’s finale. Though in the musical, it was a duet between the characters Glinda and Elphaba, “Defying Gravity” is largely a solo, and often attributed to Idina Menzel.
(Image from Playbill.com)
Eventually, after becoming popular over the years, Idina Menzel decided to finally record a remixed “pop mainstream” version of the song, and it was released to the public in March 2007, much to the joy of all of her fans.
The song, however, remained the same; it may have sounded different, the message stood as clear as before: live life the way you want to, and stop accepting the limits others impose on you.
In context, the song was meant to be an epiphany of sorts for Elphaba, who realizes that the Wizard of Oz, whom she looked up to as a heroic figure, was not the man she thought he was, and was actually working against all the Animals of Oz. She realizes that she’s through looking at the world through the perspective of someone else, and vowed that, starting then, she would live life according to her rules, not the rules imposed on her by an oppressive society. Elphaba then enchants a broomstick to levitate, and flies off.
And in that lies the charm and power of the song: it’s an anthem for people who feel the oppression, but cannot find the voice to speak out against it. Notably, the song was used during the 2007 Gay Parade and Festival in Los Angeles, and in fact appears in the official CD for the event. However, the song is more significant than just that: it’s for everyone who has ever felt boxed in by society’s rules, by the oppression of the government, or by the strictness of people around you. Its message implies that you must not allow yourself to be trampled upon, and wishes you to stand up for what you believe is right, and fight wholeheartedly for it. And if it means having to run away, by all means, channel your inner Elphaba and fly away.
(Figuratively speaking, of course.)
Watch Idina Menzel’s live performance in the video below:
Have you watched Wicked? Catch Wicked from February 2-March at the Solaire Theatre!