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"Defying Gravity" the Song - An Essay and Score Analysis

"Defying Gravity the Song" Essay

"Wicked Score Musical Analysis Including 'Defying Gravity'

Student Essay by Hannah Evans of Worcester UK

Defying Gravity Lyrics

The song is from a musical called Wicked. It tells the story of the relationship between two women and what part they played in each other lives, and how they shaped each other. One becomes Glinda the Good and the other the infamous Wicked Witch of the West.  The song falls at the end of the first act and is considered to be the best song in the musical mainly because of the fantastically written lyrics and the spellbinding special effects.  The song is primarily sung by Elphaba (the wicked witch of the west) with two short duets with Glinda at the very beginning and moments before Elphaba makes the life changing decision to openly “defy” the so called “Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. 

The theme of the song is empowerment.  The title of the song is very powerful, it could have been something as simple as “Flying High” etc.  Instead the word defy is used which is signifies strength.  The song is basically saying that if you can “defy” something so strong as gravity, nothing can stop you.

The scene prior to the song involves Elphaba, Glinda, The Wizard, Madame Morrible and a monkey called Chistery.  Elphaba has been called to the Emerald City by the Wizard after Madame Morrible the headmistress of the university both Glinda and Elphaba attend told him of Elphaba’s gift to perform magic.  To prove herself the Wizard asks her to perform a levitation spell using an ancient book of spells called The Grimmerie on his monkey Chistery who he says looks longingly at the crows every morning.  Elphaba does just so, reading the spell straight out of the book and Chistery sprouts wings and then the Wizard pulls a lever and behind a screen there are other monkeys who also have wings.  The Wizard then goes on to say that they’ll make very good spies for unauthorised Animal activity (in Oz at that time Animals are being stripped of their rights and are beginning to struggle to speak) which was the main reason why Elphaba came.  She wanted to ask the Wizard why they were being stripped of their rights, and whether he was going to do anything about it, as one of her professors was a Goat and he lost his job which Elphaba was devastated with.  However now she knows that it’s the man she has idolised since birth doing this, the Wizard offers both women opportunities to work with him which Glinda instantly accepts but Elphaba runs off taking the precious spell book with her.  Glinda follows in pursuit.  Madame Morrible and the Wizard decide that Elphaba knows too much and she must be stopped.

The songs begins with an argument between Elphaba and Glinda where they are both criticising each others actions.  Glinda is telling Elphaba off for letting her temper get the better of her and ruining an amazing chance for them both, and Elphaba is telling Glinda off for ignoring her morals and self pride just to climb the social ladder.  They both speak in sarcastic tones saying that they hope the other one is happy with their actions. 

After this part in the song, there is dialogue where Madame Morrible comes onstage and makes an announcement to the citizens of Oz saying that Elphaba must be captured as she is a “wicked witch” for mutilating the monkeys.  After this both of them are stunned and all anger is forgotten, Glinda tells Elphaba to apologise before it’s too late, saying that if she did her dream of working along side with the Wizard could come true.  Elphaba on the other hand knows it’s too late and she can no longer want what she has dreamed of her whole life. 

The lyrics in the next section are very metaphorical and it is not hard to work out what is being said.  She says it’s “ Too late to go back to sleep” meaning that she can’t be blind to what is going on and think it doesn’t concern her as she is caught in the thick of it.  “It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap”, she has to do what she thinks is right and go with it no matter what it brings.  She then goes on to say “It’s time to try defying gravity” which horrifies Glinda who tells her she’s having delusions of grandeur and it can never happen.  However Elphaba ignores this and realises that all her life she has been scared of losing the love of her father and society which she now realises she has never had and to obtain that love would take too long and may not even happen.  So she says she’d “sooner buy defying gravity” as it will bring her more happiness and fulfilment.

Wicked Score Musical Analysis Including "Defying Gravity"

See Robert Vieira's musical Analysis of the score for Wicked, including the song "Defying Gravity" Wicked Score Analysis (on MusicalWriters.com)

"....The beginning of a dramatic build (4:23) opens arguably the most exciting 1.5 minutes of the score..."