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September 1, 2014
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Idina Menzel’s Frozen song heats up pop charts

Idina Menzel performs on stage during the Oscars last Sunday.
By Mesfin Fekadu
AP (*)
NEW YORK — Tony-winning Idina Menzel — or Adele Dazeem if you’re John Travolta — is enjoying massive success with Let It Go from the animated film Frozen, but the entertainer is still perplexed that she’s finally triumphing on the pop charts with a show tune-esque track.

“I’ve had a lot of self-introspection about this. This business is so hard, especially the music business, and I’ve tried so hard to crossover, to convince people just because I was in a Broadway show I didn’t have the street cred to be a rock or a pop singer,” she said in a recent interview. “And then the one time I have it, it’s the arrangement from the Disney movie.”

“I’m singing at the Oscars — I’ve never sang at the Grammys,” Menzel added, laughing.

Menzel’s musical moment grew even stronger when Let It Go won best original song at Sunday’s Academy Awards (the Oscar went to the songwriters and producers, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez). The song has sold close to 1.5 million tracks and is a Top 20 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The Frozen album, a platinum success, is the soundtrack to spend the most time at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart with five weeks and counting; it recently beat the record set by the “Titantic” soundtrack, which featured Celine Dion’s epic, Oscar-winning My Heart Will Go On.

“I’ve had ups and downs... and I’m aware of when something’s happening and has an energy of its own,” said Menzel, who voices the lead character Elsa in the film, which won the best animated feature Oscar. “I’m aware enough to know of something special and to try and be in the moment.”

Menzel is having more than a moment in music though, thanks to Travolta, who uttered “Adele Dazeem” at the Oscars instead the singer’s name. He has since apologized.

But Slate magazine created the ultrapopular “Travoltified” tool, where you can put in your name and see what Travolta would call you, and it has been dominating on Facebook and Twitter (side note: Travolta would call himself “Jan Thozomas.”)

But after that fades, Menzel still has Let It Go, which is having a pop culture moment because of the thousands of videos posted of young girls and boys — and some adults — singing covers of the song. Cutely, Menzel took her younger sister, a second grade teacher, to the Oscars as her date (Frozen is about two sisters who are best friends, but have to keep distance because of Elsa’s uncontrollable powers).

Menzel’s song has even eclipsed Demi Lovato’s version of Let It Go — technically the “single version.” Disney Music Group president Ken Blunt said he’s not surprised Menzel’s song has become more successful commercially, and adds that the soundtrack is a winner because the film plays like a cartoon musical.

“The songs are helping to tell the story of the film and I think that’s different then what we’ve seen in the last 15-plus years in animated movies,” Blunt said.

Menzel, who has released three albums, said some members of her team want her to capitalize on her recent pop star fame: “I’d like to, but also, that’s the trap.”

“Like, ‘I better get in there and oh, make an album now. I have some success and attention,”’ she recalled.

The 42-year-old does plan to record more music, but right now she’s focused on If/Then, the new Broadway musical she stars in. She will play the role of Elizabeth, a women returning to New York City to rebuild her life after a divorce, and she’s been rehearsing for weeks at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, where she has nicely decorated room — or mini apartment — set up to help make her comfortable since the show officially opens on March 30. “We’re hoping the show runs,” Menzel says, knocking on the coffee table for good luck.

A few days before the Oscars, Menzel was doing triple duty: she was readying her performance that would put her in front of 43 million faces; she was gearing up for the new musical; and the third — and leading — priority was motherhood. This particular day, she kept her son Walker from school and cancelled her nail appointment to “play dinosaurs” with her four-year-old. “We keep missing each other,” she explained. Menzel said she usually learns a thing or two from the characters she portrays — whether it was her breakthrough as Maureen Johnson in Rent or Elphaba in Wicked, which won her a Tony in 2004. She has also starred on Fox’s Glee, playing the mother of Lea Michele’s character.

“You just have to keep doing what you love and try not to worry about following the rules. It may not work out, but if you’re really good at some point the stars align and then things happens.”

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