When Frozen first captured audiences’ hearts back in 2013, one of the film’s selling points was its full-on return to the classic Disney animated musical. Aside from The Princess and the Frog and Tangled in recent years, it had been over a decade since a Disney theatrical release of that nature, and those films arguably helped lay the foundation for the massive modern-day musical success that Frozen turned out to be.
Let’s pull ourselves away from “Into the Unknown” for a moment and take a look back at the original Frozen soundtrack that rightfully cemented itself into pop culture. The following tracklist is put in order of this author’s personal preference, but we’d love to hear you give your own rankings in the comments below!
1. “Let It Go”
This one should come as no surprise. “Let It Go” won both the Academy Award for best original song written for motion pictures (2014) and the Grammy Award for best song written for visual media (2015), along with a large number of other impressive accolades. During the peak of the Frozen obsession, you had a hard time finding someone who hadn’t at least heard of the tune (whether they wanted to or not). The song has been translated into 41 different languages, and it has touched the hearts of audiences worldwide.
On a personal level, “Let It Go” is a meaningful power ballad about being true to yourself, no matter who that self may be. As someone who’s often hid myself away in anxiety and depression, I really connected with the song’s lyrics. Some fans saw the song as a metaphor for coming out about one’s sexuality, and whether or not that was the original intent, the fact that the song has empowered people in so many ways really demonstrates its strength. “Let It Go” also speaks to not letting fear dictate your life, which is exactly what the trolls warned young Elsa about at the beginning of the film. I often find myself falling back on this song when I’m letting fear or anxiety prevent me from doing something I otherwise want to do.
2. “For the First Time in Forever”
It’s not the first song in the movie, but “For the First Time in Forever” is the first big musical number. It effectively introduces the audience to present-day Anna and Elsa, their wants, and their problems: Anna wants to find love but she’s restricted to life in the castle, and Elsa wants to control her icy powers but doesn’t know how.
“For the First Time in Forever” is Frozen’s equivalent to The Little Mermaid’s “Part of Your World” or Tangled’s “When Will My Life Begin?”. Those songs have a strong emotional draw and make us care about and root for the heroine, and “For the First Time in Forever” succeeds at doing that for not one, but two main protagonists. It’s also a genuinely catchy song; no wonder it was included in the final theatrical trailer.
3. “For the First Time in Forever (Reprise)”
The reprise of this song takes the melody from the first round and amps up the emotion exponentially during a pivotal point in the film. Elsa’s gradual transition into panic as she learns that she’s frozen the entire kingdom of Arendelle is handled with tact and refreshing realism. The two sisters’ lines are timed and delivered perfectly, making this reprise possibly the best conversational duet in Disney’s theatrical animated catalog.
4. “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”
I find myself tearing up at a lot of the songs in Frozen, but possibly none more so than “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” After Elsa accidentally hits her younger sister with a blast of ice, the song paints the rest of the girls’ childhood for us.
We see Anna continually begging her older sister to come out and play and Elsa repeatedly refusing, hiding in her room out of fear of hurting Anna again. This is also of course the song that bookends the scene where the girls’ parents die in a shipwreck, and so Anna’s final plea to her sister, wearing mourning gowns after their parents have passed, is particularly poignant (and tear-worthy).
This isn’t a traditional character-performed tune like the rest of the songs on this list, but it’s a beautiful Norwegian number that sets the tone of the film while lending it cultural authenticity. In an era when pop songs permeate a lot of animated fare, this is an incredibly welcome opener.
“6. Frozen Heart”
Frozen lets us know it’s going to be a musical from the very start, and from the first pickaxe clink, “Frozen Heart” takes us into the story without hesitation. It’s a nice fairytale prophecy sort of song that foreshadows events to come without really giving anything away.
7. “Love Is an Open Door”
This song, while clever and cute, has nothing on the emotional power of Anna’s other vocal performances in this film. It serves a plot point by showing the love-starved Anna falling for Prince Hans, but it feels empty in comparison to “The First Time in Forever.” Maybe that was intentional, given we all know how the Anna/Hans relationship ends? Still, this song scores points for the lyric: “We finish each others’ sandwiches,” which Disney diehards know made it to the t-shirt Anna sports in Wreck-It Ralph 2.
8. “In Summer”
I love Olaf. I really do. However even his clever little ditty ends up toward the bottom of the list when compared to Anna and Elsa’s musical repertoire. It feels a bit out of place compared to the rest of the film’s songs, but I can’t say too many negative things about “In Summer” because it gave us an animated sequence of Olaf dancing in a top hat alongside a seagull wearing a matching top hat. And really, who doesn’t love Olaf’s sweet naivety?
9. “Fixer Upper”
“Fixer Upper” is another well-intentioned song that feels somewhat out of place. It’s a shame that Frozen frontloads its runtime with most of its tracklist, as this definitely isn’t the strongest song to end on. It’s nice to see more of the relationship between Kristoff and his adoptive troll family, but the song feels like more of a diversion than a plot device. But perhaps we needed something to balance Anna’s infatuation with Hans in “Love Is an Open Door.”
10. “Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People”
I will be honest – I forgot this song was even part of the film, hence its lowly position on this list. Yes, it gives us good insight into Kristoff (he’s a good-hearted goof, and I love him) but if I had to knock any one song off the Frozen tracklist, it would be this one. As Kristoff sings in the outtake “Reindeer(s) Remix” (featured on the original Frozen Deluxe Edition Soundtrack): “Why didn’t I get a real song?” (Of course now we know it was to save his vocal chops for the sequel!)