No. I like the song Let it Go, despite how often it got played on the radio or covered on YouTube. In fact, after arranging this song for my a cappella group, I gained more respect for the actual composition. It is so persistent with its open fifths until the first chorus where the first major tonic is pounded into the audience’s ears, foreshadowing the happiness that seeps into Elsa after she finally gets to say, “let it go.” It’s honestly an awesome piece of songwriting.
So… why didn’t I like this more when I first saw this in theaters? Many critics attributed this very moment as being the pinnacle of the film, the moment when they knew Frozen was going to be a special movie. The moment that swept them off their feet. The moment when they fell in love with the film. So… why didn’t I like Let it Go more?
It’s been a question that has been bothering me. I went from almost boycotting the song, still bitter about Elsa’s rise to fame instead of Anna’s, to practically loving it. At first I thought it was because Let it Go pushed my favorite song of the film, For the First Time in Forever, off to the side, but I think I finally figured out why I didn’t like Let it Go when I first saw it. Let it Go is misplaced in the film.
Think about it. This is Elsa’s big song. This is her big moment to let you know how she’s feeling, what she wants, and who she is. In many respects, these questions are answered. She’s scared, she wants to be free, and she’s not the perfect queen her parents made her out to be. However, all of these questions are resolved within the song itself. She’s scared at first, but then becomes liberated by doing some ice magic. She wants to be free, and then becomes free by building herself a castle. She’s not the perfect queen her parents made her out to be, but… who is she? Does she want love? Does she want friendship? No. She wants to shut the world out, be by herself, and live a life in eternal isolation.
It’s not the message of the song I have a problem with, as was the case with Hakuna Matata. It’s how the filmmakers used the song in the context of the film. This song is not the typical “I want” song of protagonists in Broadway musicals or even the more typical Disney princesses that came before her. This song is a catharsis song. And a beautiful song about cartharsis shouldn’t come so early in a film, only to be rejected wholeheartedly by the end. Let’s make a comparison to my favorite Disney princess song, Part of Your World.
Look at that shot. Compare that shot to one of the closing shots of Let it Go I’ve provided above. Ariel is filled with conflict, desire, and even remorse. Part of Your World comes early because it establishes how Ariel is feeling, what she wants, and who she is. Ariel feels restrained, she wants to go up above, and she is a dreamer. You learn so much about her, and yet, this song provides the road map for what the rest of the movie is going to be about. It’s a perfect “I want” song.
Let it Go is placed like it is supposed to provide us with some direction to the story, but if anything, it just confuses us. Why is this happy song about liberation coming so early, only to be thwarted by some physical threat of an eternal winter? No, people. This song had to come at the end.
I honestly don’t know how the filmmakers would have been able to accommodate for this, but I think Let it Go should have meant more than just running away from everyone else. It should have only been about the embrace of oneself. I think that’s ultimately what people got out of Let it Go and why so many people connected with it. It’s not that Elsa hid herself away in some giant fortress on top of some really tall mountain that we related to. It’s that Elsa accepted herself. She was finally free. We were happy for her.
Letting it go should have meant bonding with her sister. Letting it go should have meant unfreezing Arendelle. Letting it go should have meant anything, except for closing herself off from the world. This is why I said Let it Go felt like a music video within the movie. It’s because Let it Go doesn’t quite fit in with the scheme of the story, serving as a red herring instead of the self-empowering catharsis song it was meant to be.