The Frozen Phenomenon

If you have kids in your life in any capacity, odds are that you can sing “Let It Go” from memory.  The hit song from the new Disney feature Frozen has swept the nation.  It seems that every child in America has seen the film, downloaded the soundtrack, and proceeded to listen to each song on endless repeat.  Not since High School Musical or the early days of the TV show Glee , have I witnessed my students become so completely enraptured with something musical.  And while High School Musical and Glee seemed mainly to excite the kids who were already interested in music or theatre, Frozen has an unprecedented mass appeal.  The middle school choir that I accompany is singing “Love Is An Open Door” in their next concert.  I head the same song playing in a Berkeley coffee shop that I walked into last week.  The children that my friend babysits for can act out all of “Do You Want to Build a Snowman.”  I’ll even admit to listening to “For the First Time in Forever” while out on a jog.  But it’s the Oscar-Nominated song “Let It Go” that seems to have become the anthem of a generation.

Good Morning America hosted an “Epic Frozen Sing-a-long” last week featuring Idina Menzel, the New York City Children’s Chorus, and the stars of several viral YouTube cover videos. http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/gmas-epic-frozen-sing-long-live-22678570

The film was released just three months ago, and there are already thousands of cover videos on YouTube, including Alex Boye’s Africanized Tribal version:

The Piano Guys’ mashup of “Let It Go” with Vivaldi’s “Winter”:

And, of course, little Maddie and Zoe:

What is it about “Let It Go” that appeals to kids and adults in such a massive in such a massive way?  ABC’s Nightline recently aired a segment during which they talked to song writers Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez about the song’s inspiration and message. http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/video/frozen-songwriters-reveal-hit-songs-inspiration-22693456

I was trying to think of a movie or song from my childhood that had the same effect.  The closest one I could come up with was “Part of Your World” form The Little Mermaid.  It seemed like everyone knew that song, and it continues to be popular today.  “Part of Your World,” though, has a decidedly different message from “Let It Go.”  The Little Mermaid is entirely about how Ariel wants to physically change in order to leave the underwater world where she doesn’t fit in.  With legs, she is able to go to the human world and meet the handsome prince whom she loves.  She goes to extreme lengths to change.  “Let It Go” is about being true to yourself.  Elsa has a great and potentially dangerous power.  She is afraid of hurting the people around her, so she keeps it shut away until it is impossible to hold it back anymore.  “Let It Go” is her great release.  She decides to forgo the world and what people think in order to be free to explore the depths of her power.  In the end, it is the bond between Elsa and her sister, Anna, that saves the day; and neither girl has to compromise on values or power.

It’s a striking message.  In this era where accepting people for their differences is on the forefront of most educational campaigns, “Let It Go” provides young people with a striking anthem.  Who among us can say that he has never felt oppressed or unable to work to his fullest potential?  Kids are told “No” all the time.  Here comes a song that is all about saying yes – Yes to being different.  Yes to taking chances.  Yes to finding your own way.  Last week during a dress rehearsal for a show I’m directing, I could hear half of the cast singing “Let It Go” from backstage.  It has brought kids together in a remarkable way.  Boys and girls alike can relate to its message of finding inner strength.  There’s a remarkable series on YouTube called “Kids React.”  In this episode, boys and girls of all ages are shown a video of “Let It Go” which seamlessly transitions between 25 different languages.  Their reactions are priceless and enlightening:

It is clear that Frozen has made an important mark on our cultural history.  We will see how it holds up in the long run.  A full-length Broadway production is already in the works.  “Let It Go” is nominated for an Oscar, and Idina Menzel will be performing it life at the awards ceremony tomorrow.  Interestingly, Disney had pop star Demi Lovato record an official cover of the song for the soundtrack release, but it’s Idina Menzel’s version that everyone seems to be listening to.  I have a feeling this is because her voice is a lot stronger.  People are attracted to the power and brass that her voice conveys.  Lovato’s just doesn’t carry the same weight.  The official video is below.  And if you haven’t seen the movie yet, I recommend that you get to the movie theatre or order the digital copy before you’re left out in the cold.

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About rachelrobinsonmusic

Rachel Robinson is a teaching artist, director, music director and performer based in San Francisco. She is a graduate of New York University’s Steinhardt School, and holds a degree in Vocal Performance. In addition to her work as a singer/actress, Rachel maintains a very busy schedule directing, music directing, and teaching. Rachel grew up in the Washington, D.C. area where she became an active performer at a very early age. She appeared many times with The Washington Opera, and she also played roles at the Adventure Theatre and with the Washington Savoyards. In 2003, Rachel moved to New York City to begin her degree at New York University. During the next four years Rachel appeared in many cabarets and productions, both at NYU and in the city. After graduating in May 2007, Rachel became the resident Music Director at Stage Left Children’s Theater in Tappan, NY. She was in residence there for three seasons. At the same time, she founded a private voice and piano studio. In September 2010, Rachel relocated to San Francisco. She began working as a music instructor at ViBO Music, Village Music School, and the San Francisco Friends School. She also was brought on as a music director at the Willows Theatre Company. In 2011-2012, Rachel spent a year as the Conservatory Director at the Willows, where she worked on developing opportunities for youth and up-and-coming theatre artists. No matter what level of student she is working with, Rachel believes in finding the student's "natural voice." Playing any instrument is a process, not an event, and her goal is to make that process as fun, productive, and insightful as possible.
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