There are two versions of the Frozen soundtrack available, a standard 32-track edition, and a Deluxe Edition that comes with an extra 27 tracks. We got our hands on a copy of the standard edition for review, and of the 32 tracks, 10 are songs, while the rest make up Christophe Beck’s score. The Deluxe Edition, meanwhile, comes with nine more songs (a mixture of demo and outtake tracks), 13 Christophe Beck demos, and 5 instrumental karaoke tracks so you can go all Stars in Their Eyes on a handful of the film’s best songs. I can’t speak for the quality of those additional tracks, but based on what I have heard I’ll be shelling out for the extra content regardless.
To Beck’s score first, which is probably going to be a bit of an added extra for anyone who takes the decision to purchase the soundtrack. The composer also worked with songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez on some of the song arrangements, and it’s a credit to his score that it complements the songs rather than distracts from them. “Our goal was to create a cohesive musical journey from beginning to end,” says Beck in the press notes, and it’s almost a shame then that the songs and score are separated, denying us going on that cohesive journey that we’re allowed to take in the movie.
And while that separation may see the score destined to forever play second fiddle to the songs when listened to in isolation, it certainly doesn’t deserve to be ignored. Influenced by the Norwegian-inspired setting of the film, Beck’s music evokes a sense of place effectively, and the tracks that employ native Norwegian vocals are a distinctive delight. However, there are also times, particularly on tracks like ‘Wolves’ and ‘Summit Siege’ that score the film’s action sequences, that things begin to sound a little generic. Ironically, it’s the tracks that score Frozen’s ice-free scenes that are probably the strongest. Ivories are tinkled and strings swell on early tracks ‘Elsa and Anna’ and ‘The Trolls’ and there’s a definite sense of that classic Disney magic, as if the orchestra’s been sprinkled with a touch of Tinkerbell’s fairy dust.
But honestly, the most evocative moments in the score (most notably on the wonderful capper ‘Epilogue’) are when there are musical cues shared with the songs. Whether that’s through the power of association or not, it only highlights how good those songs are. The stand-out track, as anyone who has seen the film will already know, is Idina Menzel’s show-stopping ballad ‘Let It Go’, which I suspect will stand the test of time every bit as well as Menzel’s Broadway classic ‘Defying Gravity’. According to Anderson-Lopez, the track was the first thing they wrote for the film, the “lynchpin” that they built everything else around. It’s one hell of a platform, and they build around it superbly.
The next best song is ‘For the First Time in Forever’, a track that would probably steal the show in most of Disney’s recent musicals, and knowing they’re onto a winner Lopez and Anderson-Lopez give us a much-appreciated reprise of it before the end. Kristen Bell’s a revelation singing as Anna on the track. She injects a great deal of pep and personality into the talky-singy parts, but who knew Veronica Mars was also such a great singer. Of course, she doesn’t have the epic vocal strength of her co-star, but she more than holds her own and shines on those tracks, as well as the almost as good ‘Love Is an Open Door’.
Josh Gad performs as Olaf the Snowman on the brilliantly funny (but also kind of tragic) ‘In Summer’, which is as refreshing a change of pace on the soundtrack as it is in the movie. There’s a bit more comic relief from the movie’s big troll number, ‘Fixer Upper’, which will probably be the most divisive offering, but really grows on you after a few listens.
The misses that Stefan was presumably referring to, are to my mind confined to the two shortest songs on the soundtrack. ‘Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People’ is no more than a forgettable ditty that’s lucky to be on the soundtrack at all, while the opener ‘Frozen Heart’ feels a bit superfluous, and not really of a piece with what follows. That being said, it’s followed directly by the heartbreakingly beautiful ‘Do You Want to Build a Snowman?’, so all is quickly forgiven.
Bridging the gap between the film’s main songs and Beck’s score is Demi Lovato’s cover of ‘Let It Go’ that plays over the end credits, and it’s the one track on the album you’ll definitely want to skip over. It’s not that Lovato’s voice is weak or that she butchers the song, but it pales in comparison to Idina Menzel’s version. Why listen to something second-rate when you can just skip back a few tracks. It’s the equivalent of listening to Wheatus’ ‘A Little Respect’ when you could be rocking out to Erasure’s original (hmm, well that analogy works for me, anyway). Do yourself a favour, skip past it to Beck’s score or start the whole record again – that’s what I’ve been doing all week.
If you have access to Spotify, it’s available for streaming right here.
‘Frozen’ the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is out on 2nd December from Walt Disney Records