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.  In an effort to turn the song into a mainstream hit, they hired 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. Outside of 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 by a sympathetic orchestra, you can hear the emotional surge in personal strength through Idina Menzel's glorious voice. The vocals were recorded without the expanded orchestration. Idina Menzel was only accompanied by the piano of Robert Lopez. His piano track was included along with the additional orchestration in the final mix of the song.

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" broke through to adult contemporary radio and surged into the top 25.  Lack of radio exposure did not hurt "Let It Go," and an Oscar victory caused some radio programmers to reconsider the song. The Idina Menzel version of "Let It Go" sold more than four million digital copies.

The soundtrack album for Frozen was the most successful film soundtrack on the overall album chart since Titanic 16 years before.  There is an interesting coincidence between the success of a film about ice and snow and one of the harshest 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 was one of the most eagerly awaited moments of the 2014 Academy Awards ceremony.

Idina Menzel previously only reached the Billboard Hot 100 with her participation in songs from Glee.

She appeared with the show's cast on two of their bigger top 40 pop hits including covers of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" and "I Dreamed a Dream" from the musical Les Miserables.  Menzel is most strongly associated with her show-stopping performance of "Defying Gravity" in the musical Wicked. However, at age 42, Idina Menzel expanded her own personal fan base well beyond the Broadway musical audience with "Let It Go.".  The 2008 album I Stand was an attempt to move into the pop mainstream, but it only had minor success. "Let It Go" has successfully introduced Idina Menzel to the mainstream pop audience.

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" earned 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" from Pocahontas to #4 in 1995. Demi Lovato's version only peaked at #38 on the pop singles chart. 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.

Disney created dubbed versions of "Let It Go" in 47 different languages. They hired singers to attempt to match Idina Menzel's warm voice.

Disney released a compilation album that included the song in 42 different languages in the style of Idina Menzel's performance. It also included nine different versions in the style of Demi Lovato's pop recording.

A brief controversy erupted when a Christian pastor claimed that the movie Frozen attempted to make homosexuality "normal" in society. He identified the character Elsa and her song "Let It Go" as part of that effort. Some other observers saw the song as a celebration of coming out for LGBT fans. However, the creators of the movie and songwriters remained mostly silent on the controversy.

In response to suggestions that "Let It Go" provides affirmation for autistic people, songwriter Kristen Andersen-Lopez acknowledged that her autistic younger brother inspired the song. She was influenced by his situation in life having special abilities.

Idina Menzel followed her success with "Let It Go" by releasing a Christmas album titled Holiday Wishes in October 2014. It was produced by Walter Afanasieff, best known for his work with Mariah Carey. The collection reached the top 10 on the U.S. album chart, the first of Idina Menzel's solo efforts to do so. Selling over 350,000 copies, it was the second best-selling holiday album of 2014 behind only Pentatonix. 

In 2016, Idina Menzel released a new non-holiday studio album titled idina. She stated that it was her most personal effort to date. The album peaked at #29 on the chart and was the most successful of her non-holiday collections.

 

Reportedly the songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez are working on a Broadway adaptation of Frozen that will include "Let It Go." Disney is also planning a sequel film to Frozen.