Queen’s performance is surprisingly good, it’s Bowie and Mercury’s vocals and words that let the whole thing down (Part of a critiral review of David Bowie/Queen's song Under Pressure)

What does let down in this context mean? Is it related to let whoever down (> to desert whoever), or is its meaning similar to the one of to ruin whatever? Or does it instead rather express something positive?

I really have no clue!

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  • This comment appears to be the source. It's BrE, so it's not idiomatic in AmE, in my experiences; and I don't know if it's unidiomatic in BrE as well. Let down usually means to disappoint, and if that's what the writer meant, he might should have written that. – AmE speaker Mar 18 '17 at 23:37
  • The quoted line reads properly in BrE - and it's clear that the performance was let down by the vocals. – Mike C Mar 19 '17 at 11:08

let down (phrasal verb): (Macmillan Dictionary)

1     to make someone disappointed by not doing something that they are expecting you to do.

      a.   to work less hard or make more mistakes than the people who you are working with.

Queen’s performance is surprisingly good, it’s Bowie and Mercury’s vocals and words that let the whole thing down. (= Queen’s performance is surprisingly good, but Bowie and Mercury disappointed by their poor performance and mistakes).

  • The correct definition is "2 to make someone or something less likely to be successful or effective". P.S. Thank you for proving my point. – michael.hor257k Mar 19 '17 at 7:40

let someone/something down
have a detrimental effect on the overall quality or success of someone or something : the whole machine is let down by the tacky keyboard.

New Oxford American Dictionary

In the context of your example, it means that Bowie and Mercury ruined the overall presentation of the song.

  • sacrilege, sacrilege I say! – Cascabel Mar 18 '17 at 22:05
  • @Cascabel Not sure what you're referring to. – michael.hor257k Mar 18 '17 at 22:06
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    I notice there is a tendency among some users here (who I can only presume are monolingual) to underestimate the difficulty a non-native speaker faces when trying to locate the suitable meaning of a phrase in a dictionary, when they don't know exactly what they are looking for. – michael.hor257k Mar 18 '17 at 22:33
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    As for downvoting an answer because you think the question should not have been asked in the first place, I have already expressed my opinion about that. The help here says you should downvote when "you encounter an egregiously sloppy, no-effort-expended post, or an answer that is clearly and perhaps dangerously incorrect.". If you're such a stickler for rules, abide by this one. @EdwinAshworth – michael.hor257k Mar 18 '17 at 22:33
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    ELU is aimed specifically at linguists. There is a sister site that was introduced to help people with more basic questions, especially learners / non-native-speakers (but the regulars there also expect people to be able to google "let down" + meaning). // I downvote answers I think shouldn't be given. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 18 '17 at 23:27

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