You’ll never want to “let it go” after taking a listen, as the soundtrack for Frozen, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ latest film, freezes your mind (and ears) in captivation. The tunes by Avenue Q songwriters Kristen-Anderson Lopez and Robert Lopez, as well as the strong score by Christophe Beck, swirl together in perfect rhythm. The combination of songs – worthy of being on your iPod playlist – and powerful tracks make Frozen not only one of Disney’s best soundtracks in recent years, but also one of the best film soundtracks you can purchase this year or any year.
Here are some thoughts on the individual songs and tracks from the Frozen soundtrack, which is available now on CD, Deluxe Edition CD, and MP3 Download. I’ve also notate my five favorite pieces.
1. Frozen Heart The brute voices behind this opening track, all unified and macho in the vein of “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from Mulan and “Song of Mor’Du” from Brave, are strong in vocal quality and attitude. “This icy force, both foul and fair, has a frozen heart worth mining,” they chant. The song swings in an entrancing motion as the men warn about the perilous ice. TOP 5 TRACK
2. Do You Want to Build a Snowman? This narrative follows sisters Anna and Elsa as they grow up hidden away in the Arendelle castle. There are three sections to this, based on their progressive ages. Each section takes the core theme and finds new ways to spin the lyrics. The funniest line is when Anna refers to “talking to the walls,” specifically a portrait of Joan of Arc. The impending-doom orchestration (matched with the scene when the parents are essentially washed away) floods into the track perfectly to drive home the sadness.
3. For the First Time in Forever Who would have guessed that Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel would make such a nice duo? Bell adds some humor with her effervescent spirit and amusing lyrics, whereas Menzel lends the signature Broadway voice. You know a song provides further significance when it moves the story, as opposed to stops the film completely, and this one perfectly represents the former. “First Time” conveys Anna’s hopefulness and openness, contrasting with Elsa’s close-minded and fearful vibe.
4. Love Is an Open Door Though this song verges between radio pop and Disney cliché, what makes Anna’s and Hans’ romantic duet in Frozen absolutely wonderful is its honesty. It showcases the beauty and awkwardness of early love in a format that encourages you to hum along. Plus, the lyrics are just plain fun. “Our mental synchronization can have but one explanation” exemplifies this. Santino Fontana wows whenever you hear his voice, and he complements Bell very well here.
5. Let It Go How much do I love this song? I LOVE this song. But what makes Elsa’s power ballad, where she releases her emotions into the cold air and yearns to forget the past, so special? Three reasons: Idina Menzel; the spectacular instrumentation; and the scene in which this is set. Disney has a home run for an Oscar here, as this takes the “I want” song to another degree by turning it inside out and changing this to a “I don’t want” song. “It’s time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through,” she exudes. This song contains many sections that increasingly demonstrate Elsa’s willingness to break free from her inner troubles. Let cover versions performed by young musical talents take YouTube videos by storm in the months and years to come. TOP 5 TRACK
6. Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People Disappointingly, the golden voice of Jonathan Groff only has one opportunity to enter the soundtrack, and it’s this brief piece here. It’s quite witty and funny, especially when he responds to his own impersonation of Sven.
7. In Summer Don’t you just want to hug Olaf? Josh Gad‘s musical number, as the snowman oblivious to the dangers of heat, accomplishes parody and tongue-in-cheek humor as successfully as any of the Enchanted pieces. Part ragtime and part jazz, “In Summer” warms your heart as you likely start tapping your feet. The omission of the word “puddle” is the cherry on the icing on this heap of melting snow. See Olaf in action in the clip below.
8. For the First Time in Forever (Reprise) The reoccurrence of the “sister song” signifies how Elsa has changed, much unlike Anna, who still sees the potential of their relationship. The song incorporates polyphony and intensifies their emotions as it builds to a crescendo. While it’s not a substantial addition – the scene could have played out just as well without music – it’s still entertaining.
9. Fixer Upper Imagine mixing together the lyrics and musical styles of Alan Menken, Randy Newman and Richard M. Sherman & Robert Sherman. The utilization of numerous characters, gospel/jazz vibe and playful lyrics are all demonstrative of these musicians’ respective talents. Here we see them all in play, in a sense, through what the Lopez duo create in the Frozen piece. The trolls are not only humorous, but also keen. We should appreciate how the song’s latter half switches who should be “fixed.” TOP 5 TRACK
10. Let It Go (Single Version) Disney adds some modern pop flavor to Frozen via former Disney Channel star and hit artist Demi Lovato. She lacks the gravitas and Broadway background of Menzel, but Lovato’s version maintains the piece’s moving energy. Anytime Frozen fans will think of Frozen‘s music, it will be this song, whether performed by Menzel or Lovato.
11. Vuelie (feat. Cantus) It might be easy to forget this film has a Nordic touch had the first musical piece of Frozen been omitted. Luckily this track is here to give some native spirit, much like how the musical introductions to Pocahontas and Brother Bear tell a time and culture.
12. Elsa and Anna sets up the childish adventures of the pair in a magical musical manner that screams Disney from its onset, but inserts Nordic influences and a sense of forewarning. A good listen. TOP 5 TRACK
13. The Trolls holds that mythical touch thanks to the instrumentation that conveys deep mystery.
14. Coronation Day emphasizes the heightened alert Anna and Elsa experience in preparation for this most important occasion. The regal elements come through the imperial orchestration.
15. Heimr Árnadalr further reminds you this is set in Norway, thanks to the chorus song.
16. Winter’s Waltz adds another flavor into the mix of musical styles: waltz. Beck does a nice job in showcasing the majesty through his work here.
17. Sorcery conveys the forthcoming fear that is unleashed when Elsa’s powers are disclosed to the party attendees. TOP 5 TRACK
18. Royal Pursuit possesses elements reminiscent of the chase scenes from Tangled, similarly solid.
19. Onward and Upward defines the fantasy realm with its wind instruments and playful attitude.
20. Wolves takes away any happy feelings with its fearful, gradually intensifying bravado.
21. The North Mountain contains many moments of musical inspiration with its impressive orchestration.
22. We Were So Close has that wistful piece of magic that urges you to think possibilities are endless.
23. Marshmallow Attack! adds much-needed comical/action relief with the jesting exchange between Anna and the fierce, mighty snowman.
24. Conceal, Don’t Feel gives Elsa a chance to re-enter the scene with dignified flair in its instrumentation.
25. Only an Act of True Love shares context on how this act can “thaw a frozen heart,” complemented by a folkloric undertone.
26. Summit Siege is arguably the harshest piece of music to properly accentuate the profoundness of the scene.
27. Return to Arendelle continues the strong streak of the previous track, but gradually decreases in intensity.
28. Treason does not bring any original musical ideas to the table, but rather stretches out more of what we have already heard, albeit in slightly different patterns.
29. Some People Are Worth Melting For returns to a sweet melody in order to reflect Olaf’s kindness in this scene of unabashed sappiness.
30. Whiteout tells us that final climax time in Frozen is fast approaching with its nonstop energy.
31. The Great Thaw (Vuelie Reprise) begins to conclude Frozen in powerful form with its ethereal undercurrents and reflections of the film’s beginning.
32. Epilogue does not accomplish anything new, as it incorporates a slightly adjusted instrumental version of “For the First Time in Forever,” but the piece ends Frozen on a high note. No pun intended.
This is Brett Nachman, signing off. Follow me on Twitter for alerts of new editions of Disney In Depth, Thursdays on Geeks of Doom. Be sure to catch Frozen one last time in theaters — including the upcoming planned Frozen Sing-Alongs — as you wait in anticipation to see it (hopefully) score some Oscar gold. Frozen will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on March 18, 2014.