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"Defying Gravity"
Song by Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth
from the album Wicked (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
ReleasedDecember 16, 2003
RecordedNovember 10, 2003
GenrePop, show tunes, orchestral, operatic pop
LabelDecca Broadway
Songwriter(s)Stephen Schwartz

"Defying Gravity" is the signature song from the musical Wicked, composed by Stephen Schwartz, originally recorded by Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth on November 10, 2003,[1] and released on December 16, 2003. It is mostly a solo sung by the main character of the show, Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West), with two small duets at the beginning and in the middle of the song between Elphaba and her friend Glinda, and a chorus part at the end in which the citizens of Oz sing.


The song was composed by Stephen Schwartz, and first performed by Liz Callaway in October 2001 in Baltimore, Maryland to a small audience with Schwartz at the piano.[2]

Context and sequence

In Wicked, the song is the finale for the show's first act, when Elphaba discovers that The Wizard of Oz is not the heroic figure she had originally believed him to be. Realizing this, and despite Glinda's attempts to dissuade her, Elphaba vows to do everything in her power to fight the Wizard and his sinister plans against the Animals of Oz. She sings of how she wants to live without limits, going against the rules that others have set for her. During the song, Elphaba enchants a broomstick to levitate and, pursued by the Wizard's guards, rises from the stage above the angered citizens of Oz, who try in vain to "bring her down." The song is heavily cinematic and comes to a climax for the final verse. The staging of this climax features several special effects. The actress playing Elphaba is lifted up into the air by a hydraulic launch system. The sequence relies heavily on around 60 moving lights, smoke, and wind effects.

In case of a lift malfunction in which Elphaba is not lifted up into the air, cast members are taught a "Plan B" or "no-fly" sequence where Elphaba runs downstage and cast playing the guards and townspeople lie down onstage to simulate looking up to a now airborne Elphaba.[3]

The Act One finale is "calibrated to get everyone to stick around for Act Two".[4]

Lyrics and music analysis

The core to the song is that "Elphaba finds power through her own outsider status", which has universal appeal due to audiences rooting for outsiders.[4] The piece begins with Elphaba and Glinda talking, then they slip into song, bickering in short sharp phrases that are reminiscent of how girls would argue in real life.[5] At this point, the key signature is constantly shifting, creating a sense of unease.[5] The song is in cut common time, but the duo rarely stick to the bar lines, often jumping in half way in a syncopated style.[5] In the passage “I’m through with playing by the rules...", the song unusually contains an 11th interval.[5]

The song builds on leitmotifs established earlier in the show, and then "raises the stakes" by lifting her voice up an octave and physically lifting her up on a cherry picker, embodying the first time the audience sees her as The Wicked Witch of the West.[6] The dramatic conclusion of the song features a "loud, screamy" climax of “bring me down” followed by a vocal riff that, according to Vulture, has the potential to destroy the performer's vocal cords.[4] Due to the song's difficulty, it is achievable for a few and impossible for most, thereby making those who succeed outsiders by default.[4]

Critical reception

"Defying Gravity" has received critical acclaim. Vulture listed the number as the best song from Wicked, deeming it the "crown jewel of the score", though noted it is an easy song to mock due to it being "ripe for acrid belting and silly embellishment".[6] Vulture also described it as the "big, belt-y centerpiece of the show", and felt it had since established an "ambivalent legacy" as the "silliest, most inspiring, most enduring song in recent Broadway history".[4]


Occasionally, the cherry-picker tech doesn’t work, leading to the fan-favourite meme of "infamous and hilarious ‘no-fly’ shows".[4] The song was used to wake up astronauts aboard space shuttle mission STS-131 in April 2010 for astronaut Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger in honor of the day's planned extra-vehicular activity.[7]

Defying Gravity is featured in the Glee episode Wheels, where Rachel (Lea Michele) and Kurt (Chris Colfer) sing it separately in a competition for the lead solo. This plotline was inspired by an anecdote of Chris Colfer, the actor playing Kurt. Having a countertenor range, Colfer wanted to sing the song in talent shows in high school, but was repeatedly denied the chance during high school as it is a solo usually reserved for female artists.[8] It was featured again in the season five episode 100, the hundredth episode in the series, this time sung by Rachel, Kurt and Mercedes (Amber Riley).


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[9] Gold 400,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Idina Menzel single

"Defying Gravity"
Idina Menzel - Defying Gravity.jpg
Single by Idina Menzel
from the album I Stand
ReleasedMarch 1, 2007
GenrePop, orchestral
LabelWarner Bros.
Songwriter(s)Stephen Schwartz
Producer(s)Glen Ballard
Idina Menzel singles chronology
"Take Me or Leave Me"
"Defying Gravity"

Idina Menzel, having reprised her role as Elphaba in the London production of Wicked in 2006, recorded a remixed "pop mainstream" version of the song. It was released as a single on March 1, 2007, and was later included on the UK and iTunes versions of her 2008 album I Stand. The remix of "Defying Gravity" was also the anthem at the 2007 Gay Pride Parade and Festival in Los Angeles, and appears on the official CD from the event. The track charted at no. 60 on the official UK Singles chart in May 2008, shortly after a contestant sang "Defying Gravity" on an episode of the BBC television programme I'd Do Anything. She released the song as a single a second time in 2012 from her album Live: Barefoot at the Symphony.

Formats and track listings

US CD single

  1. "Defying Gravity" (Tracy Young's Flying Monkey's Club Mix) – 8:02
  2. "Defying Gravity" (Eddie Baez Club Mix) – 8:42
  3. "Defying Gravity" (Hani Flying So High Club Mix) – 7:04
  4. "Defying Gravity" (Josh Harris Vocal Club Mix) – 7:16
  5. "Defying Gravity" (Funky Junction & Antony Reale Club Mix) – 6:22
  6. "Defying Gravity" (Single version) – 3:48

Digital single

  1. "Defying Gravity" (Album version) – 3:46

Digital maxi single

  1. "Defying Gravity" (Tracy Young's Flying Monkey's Radio Edit) – 3:45
  2. "Defying Gravity" (Eddie Baez Radio Edit) – 4:54
  3. "Defying Gravity" (Funky Junction & Antony Reale Radio Edit) – 4:36
  4. "Defying Gravity" (Hani Flying So High Short Mix) – 4:55
  5. "Defying Gravity" (Josh Harris Radio Edit) – 3:53

Digital maxi single (DJ version)

  1. "Defying Gravity" (Tracy Young's Flying Monkey's Club Mix) – 8:02
  2. "Defying Gravity" (Eddie Baez Club Mix) – 8:42
  3. "Defying Gravity" (Funky Junction & Antony Reale Club Mix) – 6:22
  4. "Defying Gravity" (Hani Flying So High Club Mix) – 7:04
  5. "Defying Gravity" (Josh Harris Vocal Club Mix) – 7:16

Official versions

Chart performance

Chart (2007–08) Peak
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[10] 72
US Dance Club Songs (Billboard)[11] 5
US Hot Singles Sales (Billboard)[12] 8
UK Singles (OCC)[13] 60

International Wicked recordings

All official versions of "Defying Gravity"
Language Original cast Title Translation
Glinda Elphaba
Danish[14] Annette Heick[15] Maria Lucia Rosenberg "Mine Vinger Bær" "How Far I Can Go"
Dutch Chantal Janzen[16] Willemijn Verkaik[17] "Ik Lach om Zwaartekracht" "I Laugh at Gravity"
English Kristin Chenoweth Idina Menzel "Defying Gravity"
Finnish[18] Anna-Maija Tuokko [fi] Maria Ylipää "Painovoimaa Murtamaan" "Break Gravity"
German[19] Lucy Scherer Willemijn Verkaik "Frei und Schwerelos" "Free and Weightless"
Japanese[20] 沼尾みゆき (Miyuki Numao) [ja] 濱田めぐみ (Megumi Hamada) [ja] "自由を求めて" ("Jiyū o motomete") "Looking for Freedom"
Korean[21] 정선아 (Cheong Seon-a)
김보경 (Kim Bo-gyeong) [ko]
김소현 (Kim So-hyun)
옥주현 (Ock Joo-hyun)
박혜나 (Park Hyena) [ko]
김선영 (Kim Seon-yeong) [ko]
"디파잉 그래비티" ("Tip’aing kŭraebit’i") "Defying Gravity"
Portuguese Fabi Bang Myra Ruiz "Desafiar a Gravidade" "Defy Gravity"
Spanish[22] Cecilia de la Cueva [es] Danna Paola "En Contra de la Gravedad" "Against Gravity"

See also


  1. ^ Gans, Andrew (September 9, 2016). "Original Wicked Cast Recording Goes Vinyl". Playbill. Retrieved 2022-01-05.
  2. ^ Steve Okoniewski (2016-12-15), Defying Gravity - Earliest Recording Oct 2001 - Liz Callaway - Wicked Musical, archived from the original on 2021-12-13, retrieved 2018-06-22
  3. ^ "OBSESSED!: Julia Murney "Wigs" Out Over "Wicked"'s Plan B and "Adult" Voice-Overs (at 1:30)". Archived from the original on 2021-12-13. Retrieved 2020-01-14.
  4. ^ a b c d e f McHenry, Jackson. "Examining the Silly, Emotional Legacy of 'Defying Gravity'". Vulture. Retrieved 2018-06-22.
  5. ^ a b c d "Here's why Defying Gravity makes your heart race every single time". Classic FM. Retrieved 2018-06-22.
  6. ^ a b "Wicked at 10: Ranking the Broadway Hit's Songs". Vulture. 2013-10-30. Retrieved 2018-06-22.
  7. ^ "STS-131 wake calls". NASA. Archived from the original on 2016-01-16.
  8. ^ Milzoff, Rebecca. "Glee's Chris Colfer on Owning 'Defying Gravity' and Resembling a Hummel Figurine". Vulture. Retrieved 2021-01-02.
  9. ^ "British single certifications – Idina Menzel/Kristin Chenoweth – Defying Gravity". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved November 20, 2020.
  10. ^ "Idina Menzel – Defying Gravity" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved November 14, 2010.
  11. ^ "Idina Menzel Chart History (Dance Club Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved October 1, 2011.
  12. ^ "Hot Singles Sales: Feb 16, 2008". Billboard. Retrieved November 20, 2018.
  13. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  14. ^ Charmedbalthazar (2011-04-02), Wicked Interview with Maria Lucia and Annette Heick, archived from the original on 2021-12-13, retrieved 2016-09-26
  15. ^ "Annette Heick". Retrieved 2016-09-26.
  16. ^ "Chantal Janzen in musical Wicked" (in Dutch). Retrieved 2016-09-26.
  17. ^ "Biography | Willemijn Verkaik Fansite". Retrieved 2016-09-26.
  18. ^ "Helsingin Kaupunginteatteri - Ohjelmisto - Wicked". Retrieved 2016-09-26.
  19. ^ ""Wicked - Die Hexen von Oz (Originalversion des Deutschen Musicals)" von Ensemble Palladium Theater Stuttgart auf Apple Music". iTunes. January 2007. Retrieved 2016-09-26.
  20. ^ ミュージカル「ウィキッド」劇団四季版, UNIVERSAL CLASSICS(P)(M), retrieved 2016-09-26
  21. ^ "*Betty's secret garden* : 네이버 블로그". Retrieved 2016-09-26.
  22. ^ Danna Paola (2014-01-06), Danna Paola - Defying Gravity / En Contra de la Gravedad (Audio), archived from the original on 2014-01-14, retrieved 2016-09-26