Disney's princess feature Frozen trails only Toy Story 3 for total global domination in the animation category. And its accompanying soundtrack is the most successful since Titanic's 16-week reign at No. 1 in 1998.
At first glance, the comparison between Frozen and Titanic would seem to have little merit: a sinking passenger ship vs. a heartfelt story about two estranged sisters living in a fairy land. But on closer inspection, there's more similarity than most might realize. After all, one tale tells the weep-inducing story of lovers separated by an icy tragedy. The other features the weep-inducing story of loving sisters separated by the tragic tendency one of them has to turn things into ice.
Of course, the Disney story, which is propelled narratively and musically by Broadway veterans Idina Menzel (who snagged a Best Song Oscar for "Let It Go") and Kristin Bell, has a much happier ending. Not to mention more princesses. A talking snowman. And a ridiculous reindeer.
Frozen, and thus its songs, largely revolve around Elsa and Anna's ultimate reconciliation. Elsa's thoughts and gestures, you see, have been radiating cold and ice—a power that increasingly causes her to isolate herself from everyone (including her sister) in the name of protecting them. On Menzel's "Let It Go," Elsa's touching anthem, she confesses the cost of trying to keep her power under wraps ("A kingdom of isolation, and it looks like I'm the queen"), the struggle she's had trying to live up to her parents' wishes with regard to her special talent ("Be the good girl, you always have to be/Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know") and her realization that she can no longer live that way ("Let it go, let it go/Can't hold back any more/ … Here I stand/And here I stay/ … That perfect girl is gone/Here I stand in the light of day").
The poignant "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" finds little sis practically begging big sis (who's locked herself into her self-protective asylum) to be with her: "Come on, let's go and play/I never see you anymore/Come out the door/It's like you've gone away/We used to be best buddies/And now we're not/I wish you would tell me why/Do you want to build a snowman?" A bit later in the tune and a few years older, Anna pleads, "I'm right out here for you/Just let me in/We only have each other/It's just you and me/What are we gonna do?" Similar entreaties fill "For the First Time in Forever (Reprise)," as Anna tells Elsa, "You don't have to protect me, I'm not afraid/Please don't shut me out again/ … You don't have to keep your distance anymore," then suggests, "For the first time in forever/We can fix this hand in hand/We can head down the mountain together/You don't have to live in fear."
Elsewhere, the first version of "For the First Time in Forever" finds Anna dreaming of falling in love at a ball and then, with him, marveling over how much their love changes things for the better: "Say good-bye/Say good-bye/To the pain of the past/We don't have to feel it anymore/Love is an open door/Love is an open door/Life can be so much more/With you/With you."
"Fixer Upper" uses that phrase to describe several characters' flaws, then proclaims, "We're only saying that love's a force that's powerful and strange/People make bad choices if they're mad or scared or stressed//Throw a little love their way/And you'll bring out their best/True love brings out their best." The song also tells us that, finally, "Everyone's a bit of a fixer upper" and "the only fixer upper fixer that can fix up a fixer upper is/True, true, true, true, true, true love."
The silly "In Summer" finds the snowman Olaf fantasizing about the joys of summer without understanding that the season's warmth would melt him. (Our obvious takeaway? That sometimes we don't have a clue about what we really want—or need.) Meanwhile, "Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People" takes that stance because a mountain man who's been hurt by other humans insists (while speaking from the perspective of his reindeer compatriot), "Yeah, people will beat you and curse you and cheat you/Every one of them's bad except you."
"Let It Go" features Elsa petulantly proclaiming, "No right, no wrong, no rules for me/I'm free." And as Bob Hoose noted in the Plugged In review of the movie, a smattering of very mild potty humor creeps into a few lyrics. "For the First Time in Forever" finds Anna singing, "Don't know if I'm elated or gassy." And on "Fixer Upper," a young troll jokes about someone's proclivity to "tinkle in the woods."
References to being gassy or tinkling in the woods surely don't detract much from more serious songs about facing the fears that isolate us, as well as the joys and struggles of sisterhood and true love. And throughout that dramatic, ultimately inspiring journey, Menzel, Bell and Co. lend an already much-loved musical/show tunes panache that's warm enough to thaw even the iciest listener's heart.