Monday, July 24, 2017

My five favourite songs from FROZEN (2013).

A good musical has to have more than just one big marquee song. Frozen has several great ones, so I thought I’d do a top 5 of the ones that I liked the most. After all, it's a musical who's soundtrack I'm fairly well acquainted with, shall we say!

05. “Frozen Heart
Even if the use of foreshadowing in this song (the workers singing ‘watch your step! Let it go!’ as they pick ice) is a bit on the nose, 'Frozen Heart' acts as a kind of ‘high-ho’ equivalent for the Arendelle labourers, and has an awesome chant-like quality, accentuated with some nice jig-playing violins in the background. It’s also great fun to watch, as an infant Kristoff and his pet reindeer try to graft some ice for themselves. 

04. “For the first Time in Forever

One thing I really like about Disney movies is that they can touch upon serious and sometimes distressing themes such as isolation and feeling like an outsider, but then immediately counterbalances these moments of malaise with reassuring and comic elements. This was definitely the case with 2016’s Zootopia, which whilst featuring a potentially dark mystery, had plenty of moments of levity. 

And that’s also the case in ‘For the first time in Forever’, a song which Anna sings to herself. Having been cooped up in a big castle with her unresponsive sister for several years, Elsa’s coronation is finally a chance for salvation for Anna, and for her to interact with other people.

Anna’s obviously been very lonely, and she voices this, ‘For years I've roamed these empty halls / Why have a ballroom with no balls?’. But Disney doesn’t want the viewers to wallow in her sadness, making the song hopeful and optimistic in tone, with the line ‘Don’t know if I’m elated or gassy / but somewhere in that zone!’ illustrating Anna’s endearing clumsiness, as well as the contrast between her emotional openness and her sister’s guardedness.

03. “Love is an Open Door
... this openness leads her to sing ‘Love is an Open Door’ with a dude she barely knows. A shrewd piece of song-writing, 'Love is An Open Door' shows Prince Hans being ostensibly the perfect match for Anna, ‘Can I say something crazy?’ ‘I love crazy!’ and ‘It’s crazy, how we finish each other’s –’ ‘Sandwiches!’ ‘That’s what I was gonna say!

At the time the song is performed, we take these well-coordinated interactions as the classic Disney plot mechanism of showing the audience he’s a good fit for Anna’s quirky charm, but it later transpires that he was just being a yes man towards her, and Disney, in moving with the times, were signalling to young girls across the world that you shouldn’t be dazzled by pomp and (perceived) similitude.

Despite the ultimate hollowness of the male part of this song, 'Love is an Open Door' is cute and infectious, and the fact that we believe the connection to be legitimate is a testament to Anna’s likeability.

There is even a quasi-Beyonce lyric about being drunk in love, ‘I don’t know if it’s the party talking, or the chocolate fondue’. Ultimately, what the song underscores is the same message as in 'Do You Want to Build a Snowman' and 'For the First Time in Forever'; that our red-headed heroine is so starved of love, and so desperate is she to find it, that she’ll fall for the first human to give her any attention, even if they’re a wolf in Prince’s clothing.

02. “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?
Part elegy, part cry for help, the wistfulness of the lyrics are juxtaposed with adorable toddler Ana, and then child Anna, and finally Anna as a teenager, as she tries to catch her sister’s attention and coax her into leaving her bedroom, oblivious to why her previously loving sibling is now giving her the cold shoulder.

The use of Anna at three stages of her life (and three different actresses to sing the separate verses) are a deft signal of the passing of the time at the start of the film. This song-writing device, and particularly the way the singer's heartache escalates with each verse, makes 'Do You Want to Build a Snowman?' similar in structure to Eminem’s ‘Stan’. Both songs are sad and powerful in different ways.

'Do You Want to Build a Snowman?' is employed not just to entertain, but to underscore a dramatic irony that is prevalent throughout Frozen: Elsa is trying to act in the best interest of Anna, but by not letting her sister in, she pushes her away and risks alienating her altogether. This song is the adage ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’ in a Disney ditty; the moral of the song and the scene in which it plays is that there is no weakness in sharing your problems, especially with those that love you the most.

01. “Let it Go

Well, obviously. 

Out of curiosity, when researching other people’s top songs from Frozen lists, I read two lists (un et deux), neither of which had Let it Go as their favourite choice! I find this utterly inexplicable as I love this song to pieces, and the fact that Zootopia featured a Disney in-joke about 'Let it Go' made me love Zootopia more. That’s how much I adore this song!

'Let It Go' isn’t just my favourite Disney song, but one of my favourite film scenes of all-time as well. It comes at a crucial plot point, with everything in Frozen having built up to this moment, and my my, what a crescendo it is.

The scene marks the moment Elsa has had enough of concealing her feelings (‘conceal don’t feel, don’t let them know / well now they know!’) for the sake of propriety. Away from Arendelle and all the constraints that had afforded her, she can finally be herself. This transformation is marked by her shedding her regal attire into her snow queen outfit, which is sexier and less stifling (note the stray hairs in her new hairstyle compared to her perfectly coiffured coronation bun), as well as the breath-taking sequence in which she constructs her majestic ice tower. Before, she tried to hide her magical powers. Now she revels in them.

The visuals in this scene are top-tier Disney, yet they are matched, if not bettered, but Idina Menzel’s inimitable singing voice. She conveys the whole gamut of emotions in one song (oppression, hope, anger, excitement and finally, liberation) across her impressive vocal range, and when she belts out the ‘Let it gooooo’ climax, we know Elsa isn’t playing. She means it. This is also demonstrated in Elsa's body language; before, she cowered. During 'Let It Go', she positively flounces (and it's a good look for her).

The quality of the song-writing in 'Let it Go' is genius – ‘one thought crystallises like an icy blast’ is a clever use of the verb ‘crystallise’, whilst also being apropos to the icy setting of the film. Whereas some Disney songs have exaggerated for comedic effect (as much as I love ‘Gaston’ from the Beauty and the Beast reboot, Luke Evans is not the size of a barge, just saying), the lyrics in 'Let It Go' were precisely chosen, to convey the themes of the film and Anna’s mental state, with words having both literal and metaphorical resonance (eg: ‘A kingdom of isolation / and it looks like I'm the Queen’ works in more ways than one).

Even though ‘Gaston’, with its catchy ¾ waltz-beat and banterous lyrics is currently the Disney song du jour for me, it is still a distant second in the favourite Disney song stakes to 'Let it Go', which will be imitated ('How Far I’ll Go' from Moana, I’m looking at you), but never bettered. 'Let it Go' is the pinnacle of when film and music intersect. A power ballad that is memorable, entertaining to watch, ties in fluidly with the story, and, perhaps best of all, allows the viewer to identify with the protagonist and their plight. 

Whether they have magical snow powers or not.

No comments: