Music Review: Frozen (2-Disc Deluxe Edition)
I’ve been trying to break free of the recent release of Frozen, but much like Elsa finally letting her powers go, the long-dormant Disney fanatic inside of me is just bouncing off the walls. Not that my apartment is decorated in Frozen paraphernalia, but I’m taking a more low-key, “adult” approach to my fandom. Along with having seen the film over 3 times (with plans to see it several more!), I have also been an early adopter of the film’s soundtrack. But then again, I was already sold on the film’s music quite some time ago.
My first taste of the music, came during my attendance of D23’s Destination D event in 2012. During a small segment about upcoming productions, those of us in the room were treated to a small presentation regarding Frozen, from concept art, to names of various characters. We were also clued in that it would be a return to the classic musicals, with the names of Robert & Kristen-Anderson Lopez given to us as the film’s main song writers.
The Frozen segment was concluded with a demo singing of the song Let It Go. I only remembered a few scant lyrics of the song, but the rhythm and the strength of it defining the character of Elsa, kept it stuck in the back of my head long after the event was over.
A year later, I returned to Anaheim for the D23 Expo, where we were given more information on Frozen, with not only final images from the film, but two songs: one with actual imagery from the film, and another that was performed live. The live performance, was Let It Go, this time performed by Elsa’s voice, Idina Menzel. Needless to say, that excitement I had felt a year ago, had leaped from the pinnacle of “can’t wait,” to “I want this song now!”
Once the soundtrack was released the weekend before Thanksgiving, the song was mine in no time. But, I soon after bit the bullet, and went for the full, 58-track, Deluxe Edition soundtrack.
Online, the general thought seems to be that it’s been ages since we’ve had a Disney Musical. In truth, we’ve had 2 within the last 5 years, with The Princess and the Frog in 2009, and Tangled in 2010. While they had some decent songs, neither really stuck with me. Even in the realms of PIXAR, Randy Newman just has never really pressed my buttons with his orchestrations and lyrics, and only a couple from Princess made me take a little notice. Tangled felt like it would be a perfect return to form for Alan Menken, but overall, the film felt like it just didn’t utilize his talents to their fullest. When I listened to Tangled, I felt that Alan did more (and better work), with 2007’s live-action film, Enchanted.
With 2011’s release of Winnie the Pooh, a new songwriting team made the scene within a Disney film: Robert & Kristen-Anderson Lopez. Prior to his work with Disney, Robert had been turning heads for the last decade, with his tongue-in-cheek work on Avenue Q, and The Book of Mormon. Personally, Lopez’s ability to get “cheeky” in his work, put me in mind of one of my favorite theatrical persons who worked at Disney: Howard Ashman. Ever since his death in 1990, it’s felt like something was missing from all post-Aladdin lyrics, and the Lopez’s work was some of the first that really got me excited. Going in to see Winnie the Pooh, I was sure I was going to get a fun story, but I didn’t expect to be tapping my feet so much during the songs. There was even a whimsical musical number about a devious creature called The Backson, that quickly ended up on my iPhone.
The songs in Pooh, coupled with Robert’s work on Mormon and Q, were in the back of my mind when it came to keeping the faith regarding Frozen, in the face of one of the most atrocious marketing campaigns since Tangled. It was almost like Disney was ashamed to tell the public they were releasing a musical. In fact, it wasn’t until early October did we even get a trailer that had some of the Lopez’s musical work in it.
For the final film, the Lopez’s have crafted 9 songs. Each one has its own distinct style, with examples including a shanty-style song (Frozen Heart), and even a syrupy-sweet love song (Love Is An Open Door). Some have complained that Love is a little too sappy, but the more I listened to it, it grew on me. It best exemplifies a feeling of young, innocent love.
For those that are fans of Wicked, Idina Menzel comes through with bells on, and delivers with the film’s centerpiece song that I’ve gushed over above (Let It Go). But, if there’s one person that just surprised me, it’s Kristen Bell. At the D23 Expo, Bell spoke of how she would sing along to her Little Mermaid cassettes as a kid, and here, she gets to do speaking/singing double-duty, in the same realms of Jodi Benson (the voice of Ariel), and Paige O’Hara (the voice of Belle). When she begins to let loose with the song For The First Time In Forever, she’s able to keep the same vocal intensity and characterization, that helps make her character Anna, have a well-rounded personality.
If there’s one song that seems wedged into the final product, it’s Reindeer(s) are Better Than People. With Jonathan Groff’s vocal talents available, it felt like they had to find some way to get in his talents, and this 51-second piece definitely seems to fit the bill.
Another song titled Fixer Upper also has me on the fence. It’s not that bad of a song, but much like Reindeer, it feels a little too much like “filler material,” given the scene it’s included in.
One song that may seem a little off-kilter in its execution, is a reprise to the song, For The First Time In Forever. It starts out with spoken-word dialogue, and then segues into lyrical speaking tones. It’s rather unconventional, and I think when Bell’s first lines go down that route, some audiences will either be invested in the film enough to buy it, or roll their eyes.
Josh Gad (the voice of the snowman named Olaf) has spoken of how inspired he was seeing Robin Williams’ performance as the Genie in Aladdin, and Gad gets to follow in that sidekicks’ musical footsteps. Much like the song Friend Like Me, Olaf’s song In Summer has visuals that break into modern-day visuals, yet it also has some rather clever lyrical bits. I’m sure it will remind some of Lopez’s work on The Book of Mormon.
It should also be noted that while the Lopez’s are the main songwriters of the album, one should not sell the film’s composer Christopher Beck short. Chris came to my attention when I first heard his haunting music for the animated short, Paperman, and his score compliments the Lopez’s song work very well. It never gets super-bombastic like some composers, but has a nice underlying structure of care and heart to it. There are even times where the tone sounds decidedly retro, like we’re listening to something made in another time.
The filmmakers also manage to intersperse some Saami and Norwegian culture into their music, with the track Vuelie. It’s a very beautiful piece that is both a chant, and an aria, but it almost feels like there could have been a little more of these bits interspersed throughout the music.
If you are a big fan of extra material, than you owe it to yourself to buy this 2-Disc set. The 2nd disc is a bonus disc the likes of which we rarely see these days!
The majority of the songs feature some opening commentary by Robert and Kristina Lopez. Their work on the album definitely helps show the evolution of their music. There are 9 tracks by them, two of which are demos of them singing music that made the final cut.
The other 7 tracks are songs that didn’t quite make the cut, yet provide a great little insight into the evolution of the songs they made for the film.
The song We Know Better is a very sisterly song, meant to show Elsa and Anna growing up, and is sort of a princess/anti-princess song about what is expected of one. I think it’s good they didn’t pursue this song further. It felt a few shades too close to Brave in my mind, and a little too “cutesy” at times.
The Spring Pageant song tells about a prophecy, that was eventually dropped from the final script of the film. The song got a chuckle from me, when they mention the words “our little play.” For those of you who were raised on Sesame Street, I’m sure you’ll chuckle/giggle as well.
In developing Anna’s character, the Lopez’s came up with the song, More Than Just The Spare. While older sister Elsa is considered “the Heir,” Anna is considered “the Spare.” Listening to the song, one can hear the underpinnings of the rhythm that would go into For The First Time In Forever. It also has a feel similar to Wicked’s song, The Wizard and I. It’s a song that builds up into one of determination. Kristen Lopez’s vocals add some wonderful heart to the piece, and is one of the bright spots in the unreleased pieces.
You’re You is a precursor to what would eventually become Love is An Open Door. It definitely has the air of a song being sung as a serenade to a pretty girl, yet one can understand its evolution into Love.
In regards to these outtakes, I think the ones that will most impress some, are the songs Life’s Too Short, and its reprise. Both songs are duets sung by Anna and Elsa, with Kristen pulling double-duty on vocals for both sisters. The main song feels a little too “dramatic” for the scene that eventually happened in the final film, but it drips with so much “drama,” that one can almost wish they could have gone there. The reprise functions as an aftermath/lament, and one can almost see both of the girls in separate spotlights, singing their sad duet.
The final song has Robert Lopez singing a longer version of Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People, in an outtake that was meant to be a end credits song of Johnathan Groff singing in a more modern-day Glee-style. It’s a fun little piece, but I feel it was best left as a musical “Easter egg” on this second disc.
There’s also some misleading titling on this second disc, with 12 tracks composed by Christophe Beck. In truth, these are not demo tracks (as their subtitling reads), these are additional cues from the main score that weren’t included on the first disc! In a sense, this 2-disc set gives us the full score from the film. Just arrange properly in your iPhone’s playlist, and you can listen to the entire film from start to finish musically!
And if those extras aren’t enough to entice you, how does the promise of karaoke tracks make you feel? That’s right, 5 songs get the treatment, including the Demi Lovato cover of Let It Go.
I’m already seeing videos of people singing to Menzel’s Let It Go on Youtube, and I’m sure the album is going to mean continued success and big things for those who had a hand in it. If the film has needled its way into your cranium as deep as it has mine, than skip out on the 1-disc set, and get the Deluxe Edition. After all, you want a clean karaoke track to sing along to…don’t you?
After this album release, I think all that’s left to wonder is: what will the Lopez family tackle next for The Walt Disney Company?