Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Let It Go

Okay, so "Let It Go" was not my favorite song in Frozen. For one thing, it sounds like it's written about a step and a half too high for Menzel; she has a fabulously powerful voice, but the vocal strain on the higher notes makes me wince. But for another, it doesn't seem to be about what everyone thinks it's about. THIS IS NOT A HAPPY SONG, folks. This is something that has been driving me crazy.
Elsa's character has lived in stifling isolation for years and years, fearful of her magic and what might happen if she made one wrong move. So, in that sense, it's a step toward happiness; she's no longer living under that immense pressure. But she's not there yet.
The snow glows white on the mountain tonight/ Not a footprint to be seen/ A kingdom of isolation,/ And it looks like I’m the queen.
That sounds more like bitter resignation to me. "I can only be queen if I'm cut off from society."
The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside/ Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I tried
Don’t let them in, don’t let them see/ Be the good girl you always have to be/ Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know/ Well, now they know
This is a good(ish) step. We know that fear of her gift is what makes it so wildly uncontrollable. So she's given up hiding it, but only by running off to a mountain by herself instead of taking on her responsibilities as queen and by breaking the heart of her only remaining family member.
Let it go, let it go/ Can’t hold it back anymore/ Let it go, let it go/ Turn away and slam the door
This reminds me of nothing so much as a rebellious teen fleeing authoritarian parents. It might be good that she's escaped, but that doesn't mean her actions are commendable.
I don’t care/ What they’re going to say/ Let the storm rage on,/ The cold never bothered me anyway
It’s funny how some distance/ Makes everything seem small/ And the fears that once controlled me/ Can’t get to me at all
It’s time to see what I can do/ To test the limits and break through/ No right, no wrong, no rules for me/ I’m free
This is not freedom. She's free only so long as she's alone. That sounds like another sort of prison to me. I do not believe this is accidental on the songwriters' parts. She's on a trajectory that can't be sustained. There's a reason this is in the middle of the story, not the end. If this were the happy ending, the place where she should end up, the movie would end here. But it's not. She clearly needs people, especially her sister. Without that, how long would it be before bitterness and eventually hatred set in? Perhaps even a desire for vengeance against the people who drove her away?
Let it go, let it go/ I am one with the wind and sky/ Let it go, let it go/ You’ll never see me cry
Here I stand/ And here I'll stay/ Let the storm rage on
My power flurries through the air into the ground/ My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around/ And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast/ I’m never going back,/ The past is in the past
This sounds like denial. She's reveling in her power and telling herself that all the other things--her beloved sister, her kingdom--don't matter. The rest of the movie proves that's not true.
Let it go, let it go/ And I'll rise like the break of dawn/ Let it go, let it go/ That perfect girl is gone
Here I stand/ In the light of day/ Let the storm rage on,/ The cold never bothered me anyway
More denial.
Elsa only becomes free when she turns back and reaches out to her sister in love instead of fear. This song is about false freedom. It's at the midway point for a reason. It's the height of a crisis. It's the beginning for Elsa, but it's certainly not the end.
No, my favorite song is "In Summer." Especially when Emmy traipses around the house singing, "A drink in my hand, my snow up against the burning sand/Prob'ly getting gorgeously tanned in summer." The mental imagery is hilarious.

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