Actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth has a new album -- "For the Girls" -- coming out on Friday. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 27 (UPI) -- Tony- and Emmy-winning entertainer Kristin Chenoweth didn't plan for her new collection of cover songs, For the Girls, to be a beacon of female empowerment. It just turned out that way.
On her seventh studio record, due Friday, Chenoweth pays tribute to the music titans who influenced her -- Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, Doris Day and Carole King -- and contemporary artists such as Jennifer Hudson and Ariana Grande, who are blazing their own trails.
For the Girls took shape after Chenoweth's The Art of Elegance was released in 2016.
"I was immediately starting to think of the next album," the 51-year-old Oklahoma native told UPI in a recent phone interview.
"Time's Up was just starting to happen. I wasn't looking to make a female-driven, power-driven album. I wasn't doing that! I just sat down and wrote down the songs I always wanted to sing," Chenoweth added. "And I said: 'Wait a minute! This is for the girls. It's for the women. It's for us. By the girls and for the girls.' And, obviously, the men that love them."
Chenoweth hopes younger fans will be intrigued enough by her renditions of the classics to research and then fall in love with the extraordinary women who first made them famous or reinvented them over the years.
"They are going to know Streisand, but they might not know that Lesley Gore sang 'You Don't Own Me.' They'll know the song, but they might not know about her," Chenoweth said.
The album includes the singer's duet with her idol, Parton, which was released during the summer.
"I love her so much," Chenoweth said, recalling how she initially proposed they record together Parton's peppy hit, "Here You Come Again."
"I never thought she'd say, 'yes,' to 'I Will Always Love You,'" Chenoweth said, joking that the hair extensions fell out of her head when Parton offered to sing the ballad with her.
She also partnered with Grande for a new version of "You Don't Own Me" years after meeting Grande as a child with her grandmother following a performance of the blockbuster Broadway show, Wicked, in which Chenoweth played the iconic role of the good witch, Glinda.
It was during that brief meeting that Grande told Chenoweth she wanted to be a singer, proving her talent right then and there.
"I gave her a wand," Chenoweth said, remembering how lovely Grande sounded even as a little girl. "She's the biggest pop star there is and I'm so proud of her."
Best known for her stage performances, Chenoweth has also acted in the comedy films Deck the Halls and RV, as well as in the TV series American Gods, Descendants, Pushing Daisies and The West Wing.
This holiday season, she also will appear the movies A Christmas Love Story for Hallmark Channel and Netflix's Holidate.
"I did two Christmas movies back to back. ... I did one that is very dear and special to my heart for Hallmark," Chenoweth said, noting she also wrote and sang the title song for the film, which she described as "very touching and tender."
"And then I went over to Netflix and played a very naughty, naughty girl," she continued. "I am a little nervous because I play crazy Aunt Susan in a Netflix Christmas movie and then the Hallmark movie is totally different, but you know what? There is a large part of that that is me. I'm just being honest. I'm a good Christian girl. But I like to have fun."
Attracted to her enormous talent and bubbly personality, Chenoweth's fan base spans socio-economic and religious backgrounds throughout the country. Still, she knows she can't make everyone happy all the time.
What she can do, Chenoweth said, is to be her authentic self and keep an open mind.
"Judgment is not what people of faith should be doing to others. I don't want to be judged for what I do, so, therefore, I do not judge others for their beliefs or backgrounds," she said. "I'm not going to say that you have to believe exactly what I do. That's what makes the world go 'round."
Chenoweth will perform the songs from For the Girls in a limited Broadway run in November.