Review of Idina Menzel's "Let It Go"

Idina Menzel Let It Go
Idina Menzel - "Let It Go". Courtesy Walt Disney

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Written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

Produced by Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez, Christophe Beck, Chris Montan, and Tom MacDougall

Released November 2013 by Walt Disney

Pros

  • Soaring vocals from Idina Menzel
  • Powerful, inspirational lyrics
  • Lyrical appeal that will warm hearts in the coldest winter

Cons

  • No major negatives

Walt Disney knew they had a winner when they heard the song "Let It Go" from the movie Frozen and so had pop star Demi Lovato record a version to be released as a single.

 However, what they didn't expect was that Broadway superstar Idina Menzel's version of the song in the film would be so appealing that the "pop" release was overshadowed.  Released from its role in the plot of the movie, "Let It Go" is an outstanding inspirational tune encouraging listeners to soar on the wings of their own personal qualities and hide nothing from the world.

Songwriting pair Kristen Anderson-Lopez and her husband Robert Lopez have indicated they wrote the song specifically for the vocal talents of Idina Menzel, and it shows. Her voice soars and glides across the notes with ease.  Backed with a sympathetic orchestra, you can hear the emotional surge in personal strength through Idina Menzel's glorious voice.  Robert Lopez has a strong Broadway pedigree earning Tony Awards for the musicals The Book Of Mormon and Avenue Q while Kristen Anderson-Lopez has strong connections with Walt Disney on past projects.

 Their collaboration on multiple songs for Frozen follows their work on the 2011 animated film Winnie the Pooh.

As has been the case for decades now, mainstream pop radio largely ignores a song like Idina Menzel's recording of "Let It Go."  Neither Broadway style songs nor animated film songs have a strong positive record with mainstream pop radio in recent years.

 However, "Let It Go" has broken through to adult contemporary radio surging into the top 25.  Lack of radio exposure has not hurt "Let It Go," and an Oscar victory could cause radio programmers to reconsider the song. The Idina Menzel version of "Let It Go" has already sold more than a million digital copies.

The soundtrack album for Frozen is the most successful film soundtrack on the overall album chart since Titanic 16 years ago.  There is an interesting coincidence between the success of a film about ice and snow and one of the most harsh winters in North America in over a decade.  "Let It Go" has a brisk, snowy feel to the arrangement with words like "frozen fractals," but the overall emotional arc will warm any but the coldest heart.  Idina Menzel's live performance of the song will be one of the most eagerly awaited moments of the 2014 Academy Awards ceremony.

Idina Menzel has previously only reached the Billboard Hot 100 with her participation on songs from Glee.  She did help the show on two of its bigger top 40 pop hits including covers of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" and "I Dreamed a Dream" from the musical Les Miserables.  She is most strongly associated with her show-stopping performance of "Defying Gravity" in the musical Wicked.

 However, now, at age 42, she has expanded her own personal fan base well beyond the Broadway musical audience.  The 2008 album I Stand was an attempt to move into the pop mainstream, but it only had minor success.  Perhaps now it is time to consider once again Idina Menzel's options as a mainstream pop vocalist.

Use In the Film Frozen

"Let It Go" was the first song written for the film Frozen. It was originally intended as a "badass" song for the character Elsa who was first characterized as a villain. However, once the film directors heard the song, they decided the movie needed to be rewritten to make Elsa into a heroine. The songwriters say they were influenced by past Disney successes like The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. The song is used to underline a scene in which the character Elsa realizes she no longer needs to hide her special abilities from the rest of the world and she can be free from oppressive restraints placed on her as a child.

Legacy

"Let It Go" received strong critical acclaim. It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song as well as the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media. It also earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song. Idina Menzel's recording of "Let It Go" eventually climbed to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 despite receiving very little mainstream radio airplay. "Let It Go" was the first song from a Disney animated musical to hit the pop top 10 since Vanessa Williams took "Colors of the Wind" form Pocahontas to #4 in 1995. Idina Menzel became the first person who won a Tony Award for acting to reach the pop top 10. "Let It Go" reached #9 on the adult contemporary chart and #20 at adult pop radio. A remix of the song went to #1 on the dance chart. "Let It Go" sold more than 3.5 million digital copies in the US alone. With the Academy Award he earned for "Let It Go," Robert Lopez became the 12th person to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony.