Latest reviews of new albums:
  • Songs by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
  • Score by Christophe Beck
  • Disney / 69m

I don’t know how many times you’ve seen Frozen but it’s probably not as many times as I’ve seen Frozen. My daughter was born in 2014 and we probably watched it most days in 2016 and 2017. To be fair, it’s probably Disney’s best movie this century (Moana threatened its crown when it became the daily watch for a while, but that didn’t last nearly as long).

It certainly helps that it’s got a great set of songs (not quite the best this century – in that regard Moana probably does shade it, but it’s close, and The Princess and the Frog reigns supreme even if those ones didn’t enter the pop culture to nearly the same extent.) Before this came out, I knew songwriting duo Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez from their Disney World musical of Finding Nemo which contains a couple of ear-worm songs, but nothing like Frozen‘s.

Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

Of course, “Let it Go” is the one. It was everywhere – it still is everywhere – an insanely-catchy tune, a belting performance by John Travolta’s favourite singer Idina Menzel as Princess Elsa. That it’s the most-played song on my iPod is not entirely my own doing, but to be honest I don’t mind – its female empowerment message is inspirational for any little girl, its show-stopping entertainment enough to satisfy any lover of showtunes.

The other songs are decent too: OK, I don’t suppose many kids are singing the opening folk song “Frozen Heart” quite as often, but it’s still decent; then “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” which has become another classic. “For the First Time in Forever”, a duet between Menzel and Kristen Bell as Princess Anna, is absolutely beautiful; and “Love Is An Open Door”, a duet this time between Bell and Santino Fontana as Prince Hans, a brilliant ballad.

Comic relief comes from the brief “Reindeers Are Better Than People” and especially “In Summer” as Josh Gad’s Olaf the snowman dreams of sunbathing (it’s actually rather witty). After a reprise of “For the First Time in Forever”, “Fixer Upper” is another lovely, feel-good tune. The only one that needs skipping is the traditionally-disappointing pop arrangement for the end credits, as “Let It Go” is given a pointless makeover by Demi Lovato. (That version is most certainly not the most-played song on my iPod.)

Christophe Beck

As is traditional on Disney albums, the songs are bunched together at the start with the score following after – and following those songs is no easy task. Perhaps that’s why Christophe Beck’s very fine score hasn’t ever really been given the credit it deserves. Full of melody and magic, it’s one of the composer’s finest works.

Like the songs, it opens with some folk music in the beautiful choral “Vuelie” and then there’s a gorgeous playful portrait of sisterly love at the start of “Elsa and Anna” before it morphs into some classic adventure scoring. Beck’s main theme for the score is introduced in “The Trolls” (ironically Beck would go on to score Trolls not long later, another film which has received uncountably many viewings in my house) and then heard in a much more celebratory guise in “Coronation Day”.

There’s more glorious choral majesty in “Heimr Àrnadalr” (which sounds like what Travolta called Idina Menzel at the Oscars, come to think of it) and then comes the beautiful “Winter’s Waltz”. The mood changes in “Sorcery” as the score’s main action theme gets its first real airing – it’s big, painted with broad strokes, and very satisfying – and then comes an heroic intervention in “Royal Pursuit” which continues into “Onward and Upward”. There’s thunderous action in the bold and brassy “Wolves” before some florid painting by Beck in “The North Mountain”, which is centred around a very beautiful melody.

Twinkly musical snowflakes open the emotional “We Were So Close”, shot through with sadness and also hope; the most cartoony action yet comes in “Marshmallow Attack!” – it’s solid mickey-mousing that morphs into something much more serious, like the earlier action music. The brief “Conceal, Don’t Feel” is like a little musical pause before emotion returns to the fore in the heartfelt “Only An Act of True Love” (the film’s classic Disney moment).

“Summit Siege” is a really thrilling piece of action (the sort of orchestral action music that is only really found in animated movies these days, which is a shame) which continues into “Return to Arendelle”, adding a choir into the mix. The second half of that piece has a distinctly tragic feel to it – and then comes “Treason”, which not surprisingly has that even more. The emotional transformation starts emerging in “Some People Are Worth Melting For” and continues into “Whiteout”, initially more of that full-bodied action music before all the iciness starts to vanish in the cathartic “The Great Thaw”, which reprises the opening choral “Vuelie”. Finally we have an “Epilogue” in which Beck incorporates some of the song melodies (which have been only hinted at very briefly previously in the score – and “Let It Go”, interestingly, doesn’t appear anywhere).

With excellent songs and a very fine score, Frozen is a great musical package. Even if you’ve more than had your fill of “Let It Go” (the cold never bothered me anyway), Beck’s score is actually really very impressive indeed itself and makes this more than worth it for film music enthusiasts – a vintage action/adventure score in the classic style, it’s truly very satisfying.

Rating: **** | |

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  1. Ismail (Reply) on Saturday 16 November, 2019 at 14:55

    Will there be a review of the Mandalorian?