In my other life, I teach musical theater. Specifically, I act as a music director/vocal coach/accompanist/arranger for educational and summer theater programs, but it's easier to just say I teach musical theater. I work year round with students ranging from 3rd grade to high school seniors on technique, musicianship, and performance. That's why I'm drawn to singers like Idina Menzel (#6 on my Supporting Actress list largely on her vocal prowess), Lea Salonga, and Mary Lambert. Their technique and musical interpretation skills are stunning.
Singers like this need to be recognized and praised to provide a better example for our young people to follow. It's dangerous to label singers with bad habits as great singers. Children learn through imitation. Imitating pop singers who blow out their voices before they're 22 and require dangerous nodule removing surgery (no matter how many Grammys they win for grinding their vocal cords) is not a good look on anyone.
Sonnet Son, Christina Bianco, and are the kind of singers I want to feature at Sketchy Details.
Sonnet Son has the best pure "Let It Go" cover I've heard. Her technique is stunning. If anyone's wondering, it's much harder to sing sitting down than it is to sing standing up. Your body is an instrument that needs to work together from your toes to the top of your head to produce the best quality of sound. Sitting down adds extra tension to the body that can be downright dangerous if you don't know what you're dong.
This singer knows what to do. Her belt is effortless: powerful without stress, rasp, or jerky notes at her register change (where chest voice switches to head voice). Her phrasing is perfection. The song builds the way it should in a live performance without the spectacle of the ice castle forming around Elsa. Best of all is the purity of her vowels. She doesn't have to shift to more open vowels because she is so trained in her upper range. There is nothing uglier than a wide, nasally "E" sound, but you'd never know that's a possible issue listening to Sonnet Son.
Christina Bianco shows off a very different skill: impersonation. Bianco's pianist calls out the names of famous singers--Kristen Chenoweth, Celine Dion, Britney Spears, among others--and Bianco doesn't miss a beat. Her impersonations are a masterclass in performance.
The key to vocal impersonation is picking out the individual quirks in a singer's style and recreating it through pronunciation, phrasing, accent, and breath control. The final gag is the best, but I was most impressed with Christina Bianco singing as Christina Bianco. Of course someone this good at impersonating singers is a phenomenal singer in her own right.
Finally, this cover by Alex Boyé and the One Voice Children's Choir isn't my favorite interpretation of the song. I have issues with the arrangement, though I applaud Boyé's creativity. The elements don't all come together for my tastes.
This cover makes the list because of the quality of the children's choir. Lexi Walker, the young girl singing lead, and all of her fellow choir members are singing in a totally appropriate way for young voices. It is far too easy to blow out a child's voice teaching them techniques meant for adults. Children can handle vowels, pronunciation, and breath control. It's about the purity of the sound and placement, not vibrato and belting. Those techniques can come later depending on the interest and vocal quality of the child. You can't force a child to belt by making them sing "Defying Gravity" until their throats start to bleed.
That's what makes this cover of "Let It Go" so impressive. Lexi Walker is not asked to belt. She sings in a perfectly safe way for a child that young. The excitement and volume is created with the growing presence of the choir going into the chorus and the changing beat underneath. The vocal arrangement is beautiful and performed in a lovely and safe way by a children's choir with a director who cares about their vocal health.
So what are your favorite "Let It Go" performances? Share your picks in the comments below.