"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, 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 in the end in which the citizens of Oz sing. It was performed on the BBC television programme I'd Do Anything, and as a result the song charted at no. 60 on the official UK Singles chart.
Stephanie J. Block (as Elphaba) performing the song in the original US touring production.
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.
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 song was recorded and performed twice on Fox's TV show Glee, sung by Rachel Berry and Kurt Hummel (Lea Michele and Chris Colfer, respectively) and again in the series' 100th episode, sung by Rachel, Kurt and Mercedes Jones (played by Amber Riley). Responding to the latter performance, a tipsy April Rhodes, played by Kristin Chenoweth herself, remarks how the song is good enough for Broadway.