It's hard to believe that Over the Rainbow, the song that came to be the signature tune for the classic musical that was the Wizard of Oz, was almost omitted from the film after the chief executive at MGM and the film producer felt that it "slowed down the picture". Luckily the song was reinstated and went on to win the hearts of audiences from the moment it was released, eventually being voted the song of the 20th Century.
Judy Garland, at the age of 16, was the original vocalist of Over the Rainbow. Her sweet, rounded, thick contralto voice, with its perfect phrasing and strict adherence to the melody gave the world a master class in effective singing, belying her youthful years. Until this day her rendition has never been matched for its purity or ability to communicate the innocent, almost naive, sentiments of desire and hope the lyrics speak on.
Tori Amos: Tori and her piano are one as far I'm concerned, and as such she delivers a rendition that is entirely individual. Its a subdued, almost introspective vocal that echoes the longing of the lyrics nicely.
Beyonce: Starts in keeping with the original Judy Garland version, before its switched up slightly with a hammy jazz drum beat and the addition of horns. Beyonce's voice is strong, melodic and never pushed, staying faithful to the original score, with her buttery tone suiting the lush orchestration.
Mariah Carey: Not one of Mariah's best vocals. Her voice is coarse and throaty on the belted, chest notes sounding pushed. However the low notes sound healthy and the Patti special, octave spanning, vocal slide took courage to attempt. Overall it's an easy, breezy, looser delivery that makes a nice change to the airbrushed, pristine performance Mariah usually gives.(Over the Rainbow starts at 1.10 after her renidion of If only you knew)
Eva Cassidy: As Patti Labelle did before her, Eva Cassidy manages to make the song entirely her own. Her tone, timbre and dynamics are varied amazingly and intelligently throughout, but it's never in a way that is self indulgent, showy or at the expense of the lyrics. Quite possibly my favourite after the original.
Charice: A strong vocal by the young singer. Her notes are excellently controlled and delivered with amazing support. Some of the impromptu improvisation on and after the big notes feel a little mismatched with the piano arrangement but as said in the intro this was an unrehearsed rendition, so we'll cut her some slack! Impressive stuff!
Celine Dion: Gives a surprisingly restrained and controlled rendition of the classic, with her voice having a warmer colouring than usual. It's clear from her delivery that the singer was empathising with the lyrics of the song.
Jennifer Hudson: Jennifer's voice may have overpowered the original Garland arrangement, so its a good thing her stoic voice was layered over the Patti LaBelle version. Some of the top notes sound pulled, and I would have hoped for some variation in tone and timbre, but as a whole this is one tornado of a performance.
Patti LaBelle: Gives us an accomplished and emotive rendition, with plenty of vocal variation. The song has become so synonymous with Patti that it's effectively become part of her back catalogue, with the the vocal slide at 4.20 and the high F's and G's she hits throughout being the thing of Diva legend. A version not to be attempted by the faint of heart or weak of voice.
Leona Lewis: Sings the Eva Cassidy rendition, but unfortunately the voice lacks the gravitas to carry much of the song, really only coming into its own on the chest notes after 2.30. The sustained C5 at 3.32 is gorgeous though, but as a whole her voice is subsidised too heavily by the leading arrangement.
Katharine McPhee: A subtle, understated version, with a pure vocal that takes its cues from the Jane Monheit version.
Kylie Minogue: Despite displaying some brilliant technique and control, Kylie's voice is a little too hard and nasal in tone to effectively communicate the dreamy feel of the song.
Jane Monheit: A dreamy, romantic rendition with a controlled, and measured delivery. Beautiful phrasing, and a velvety tone that has flourishes of jazz, operatic head notes and an overall abundance of Golden Age Hollywood elegance.
But who do you think sang it best? Vote and comment below.
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