"Let It Go" is a song from Disney's 2013 computer-animated feature film Frozen, whose music and lyrics were composed by husband-and-wife songwriting team Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. The song was performed in its original show-tune version in the film by American actress and singer Idina Menzel in her vocal role as Queen Elsa. It was later released as a single, being promoted to adult contemporary radio by Walt Disney Records in January 2014. Anderson-Lopez and Lopez also composed a simplified pop version (with shorter lyrics and background chorus) which was performed by actor and singer Demi Lovato over the start of the film's closing credits. Disney's music division planned to release Lovato's version of the song before Menzel's, as they did not consider Menzel's version a traditional pop song. A music video was released separately for Lovato's version.
The song was a commercial success, becoming the first song from a Disney animated musical to reach the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 since 1995, when Vanessa L. Williams's "Colors of the Wind" from Pocahontas peaked at number four on the chart. The song is also Menzel's first single to reach the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making her the first Tony Award winner for acting to ever reach the top 10. The song was the ninth-best-selling song of 2014 in the United States, with 3.37 million copies sold in that year. As of December 2014[update], the song had sold 3.5 million copies in the US. It was the biggest-selling foreign song from any original soundtrack in South Korea as of March 12, 2014[update].
The song presents Queen Elsa, who flees her kingdom when she publicly loses control of her ability to generate ice. Up in the mountains and away from the townspeople, Elsa realizes that she no longer needs to hide her ability and rejoices in not only being able to use her power freely but also the freedom from others' expectations of her as a royal. She sheds her royal accessories, creates a living snowman, and builds a magnificent ice castle for herself.
The Daily Telegraph explained that instead of the villain originally envisioned by the producers, the songwriters saw Elsa as "a scared girl struggling to control and come to terms with her gift." When interviewed in January 2014 by John August and Aline Brosh McKenna, Frozen director Jennifer Lee gave her recollection of the song's conception: "Bobby and Kristen said they were walking in Prospect Park and they just started talking about what would it feel like [to be Elsa]. Forget villain. Just what it would feel like. And this concept of letting out who she is[,] that she's kept to herself for so long[,] and she's alone and free, but then the sadness of the fact [sic] that the last moment is she's alone. It's not a perfect thing, but it's powerful."
"Let It Go" was the first song written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez for the film that made it in, since songs composed earlier were eventually cut. The story outline they were given had a place reserved for "Elsa's Badass Song", which was what they were trying to write. The duo took inspiration from the songs of the Disney Renaissance such as The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast and various artists including Adele, Aimee Mann, Avril Lavigne (whose 2002 debut album was titled Let Go), Lady Gaga, and Carole King. The song finally began to gel one day as the couple walked together from their home in Park Slope to nearby Prospect Park while they were "thinking from an emo kind of place." Anderson-Lopez explained what happened next: "We went for a walk in Prospect Park and threw phrases at each other. What does it feel like to be the perfect exalted person, but only because you've held back this secret? Bobby came up with 'kingdom of isolation,' and it worked." Lopez was able to improvise the song's first four lines on the spot. Back at their home studio, they composed the rest of the song by alternating between improvising melodies on a piano and brainstorming lyrics on a whiteboard, and finished it within a single day.
"Let It Go" is a power ballad in the key of A-flat major overall, but begins in the relative minor (F minor). The song is in quadruple meter, and has a fast tempo of around 137 beats per minute (allegro). The song's vocal range spans from F3 to E♭5. Anderson-Lopez and Lopez specifically wrote the song for Idina Menzel, referring to her as "one of the most glorious voices of Broadway and an icon in musical theater." Menzel's vocal range was taken under consideration during the music's composition, as she was well able to span three octaves. The song was originally written a half-step lower, in the key of G. During recording, Menzel felt it sounded "womanly" and "sultry" and suggested to raise the key to make it more "innocent and juvenile", which also made it more challenging to perform.
For each song they created, including "Let It Go", Anderson-Lopez and Lopez recorded a demo in their studio, then emailed it to the Disney Animation production team in Burbank for discussion at their next videoconference. After the film's release, Anderson-Lopez was shown an "explicitly honest" fan version of the song with very colorful lyrics, and in response, she noted that in the videoconferences she herself had used similarly candid language to describe Elsa's mindset at that point in the plot: "After a while, Chris Montan, the head of music at Disney, would be like, 'Whoa, language!'" She also disclosed that Disney Animation's Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter (who served as executive producer for Frozen) was so taken with "Let It Go" that he played her original demo of the song in his car for months.
Once approved, the song's piano-vocal score, along with the rest of their work for Frozen, was eventually forwarded to arranger David Metzger at his home studio in Salem, Oregon, who orchestrated their work into a lush sound suitable for recording by a full orchestra at the Eastwood Scoring Stage on the Warner Bros. studio lot in Burbank at the end of July 2013. The song's vocal track was recorded separately prior to orchestration at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, with the piano track from the demo playing into Menzel's headphones. That piano track, played by Lopez himself, was not re-recorded by a session musician at the orchestral recording session; it is the same piano track heard in the final mix of the song.
Character rewrite and film sequence
Although unintentional, the song's composition was pivotal in the film's characterization of Elsa. Although Elsa was originally written as a villain, co-directors Chris Buck and Lee gradually rewrote Elsa into one of the film's protagonists after "Let It Go" was composed. About that, Lee later explained, "the minute we heard the song the first time, I knew that I had to rewrite the whole movie." Buck further clarified: "Jen had to go back and rewrite some pages in the first act to build up to that scene..... You have to set it up well enough in advance so that when the song comes, the audience is ready for it and there's an emotional payoff."
When it came to animating Elsa's scenes for the song, Lopez and Anderson-Lopez insisted on the particular detail that Elsa should slam the palace doors on the audience at the song's end, which they acknowledged was similar to the ending of the Broadway musical Sweeney Todd. Lopez explained that they wanted that feeling of how "this character doesn't need us anymore," because he had always loved that feeling "when a character just kind of malevolently looks at you and slams a door in your face," although in the final version, Elsa's facial expression ended up as more of a "sly smile". According to Lopez, it was the last line at the end, "the cold never bothered me anyway," that was "our little Avril Lavigne line".
On December 6, 2013, Walt Disney Animation Studios released a video of the entire "Let It Go" sequence as seen in the movie, which has over 700 million views as of August 2020[update] on YouTube. On January 30, 2014, a sing-along version of the sequence was released and has received more than 2.6 billion views on YouTube as of October 2021[update], and more than 2.7 billion views as of 18 January 2022, and is one of the site's 40 most-viewed videos.
Besides the original English version, Disney Character Voices International arranged for Frozen to be dubbed into another 41 languages and dialects worldwide, to which 3 more versions were added in the following years, raising the number of official versions to 44. A major challenge was to find sopranos capable of matching Menzel's warm vocal tone and vocal range in their native languages. Rick Dempsey, senior executive at Disney Character Voices International regarded the process as "exceptionally challenging", explaining, "It's a difficult juggling act to get the right intent of the lyrics and also have it match rhythmically to the music. And then you have to go back and adjust for lip sync! [It]... requires a lot of patience and precision".
On January 22, 2014, Disney released a multi-language version of the "Let It Go" musical sequence, which featured vocal performances of 25 different voice actresses who portrayed Elsa in their respective dubbing versions of the film. At the annual meeting of the shareholders of the Walt Disney Company on March 18, 2014, in Portland, Oregon, chairman and chief executive officer Bob Iger praised the team who did "an incredible job casting fantastic international talent so that Frozen truly belongs to the world," then showed the entire multi-language video clip of "Let It Go" to the assembled shareholders. On March 31, 2014, an in-studio multi-language video of the song was released, showing singers of 25 different languages recording their versions of "Let It Go".
"Let It Go" received widespread acclaim from film critics, music critics, and audiences, with some comparing it favorably to "Defying Gravity" (also performed by Menzel) from the Broadway musical Wicked.The Rochester City Newspaper called it the best song of the film's soundtrack, writing; "Performed with belty gusto by Idina Menzel, it's got every element needed to be a lasting favorite. ... Menzel should be credited for providing as much power and passion to this performance as she did in her most famous role."Entertainment Weekly's Marc Snetiker described the song as "an incredible anthem of liberation" while Joe Dziemianowicz of New York Daily News called it "a stirring tribute to girl power and the need to 'let go' of fear and shame".
On the other hand, Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot of the radio show Sound Opinions criticized the song; DeRogatis labeled it "schlock", and Kot described it as a "clichéd piece of fluff that you would have heard on a Broadway soundtrack from maybe the fifties or the sixties".
By spring 2014, many journalists had observed that after watching Frozen, numerous young children in the United States were becoming unusually obsessed with the film's music, and with "Let It Go" in particular. Columnist Yvonne Abraham of The Boston Globe called the song "musical crack" which "sends kids into altered states." A similar phenomenon was described in the United Kingdom.
Some viewers outside the film industry, including one evangelical pastor and commentators, believe that the film is a promotion for the normalization of homosexuality, while others have argued that the character of Elsa is a representation of positive LGBT youth and the song is a metaphor for coming out. The LGBT community, however, had a mixed reaction to these claims. When Frozen co-director Jennifer Lee was asked about the purported gay undertones, she stated that the film's meaning was open to interpretation: "I feel like once we hand the film over, it belongs to the world, so I don't like to say anything, and let the fans talk. I think it's up to them." Lee added that the film's meaning was also inevitably going to be interpreted within the cultural context of being made in the year 2013.
Another interpretation for the song and the movie is that they promote self-affirmation for people with disabilities, especially those on the autism spectrum. Co-writer Kristen Andersen-Lopez has stated that her younger brother has autistic traits and that inspired the song insofar as it deals with the concept of having a "special sibling."
In November 2017, Chilean pop singer Jaime Ciero sued Disney, Idina Menzel, and Demi Lovato, claiming that "Let It Go" was extremely similar to his 2008 song "Volar". Ciero dropped the suit in May 2019.
The decision to release a single for "Let It Go" was made after the song was written and was presented to Disney. Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez selected American singer and former Disney Channel star Demi Lovato, who also appears on Disney's Hollywood Records roster, to cover the song on the soundtrack album. It was included in the deluxe edition of Demi.
Lovato's version was officially released in nine other languages, eight of which are included into "Let It Go the Complete Set": French, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Kazakh, Korean, Malay, Mandarin Chinese (China's version), Spanish (Latin American version) and Russian. The Indonesian pop version was released as leading single of We Love Disney, Indonesia.Anaïs Delva and Marsha Milan, who performed the song in French and Malay respectively, also voiced Elsa in the movie, performing the same song in its movie version.
In South Korea, the pop version of the song by Hyolyn reached number six on the Gaon Music Chart in February, while the Japanese versions of the song, performed by May J., reached number 8 on the Japan Hot 100 after the film's Japanese release in March 2014 and was certified platinum for 250,000 downloads. May J. recorded a rearranged version of the song on her album Heartful Song Covers, which was released on March 26, 2014.
Highlighted versions were released later than 2013
Anderson-Lopez said that choosing Lovato was inspired by the singer's own past experiences, which were "similar to Elsa's journey of leaving a dark past and fear behind and moving forward with your power." Lovato indeed identified with the song's context, stating "It's so relatable. Elsa is finding her identity; she's growing into who she is and she's finally accepting her own strength and magical powers. Instead of hiding it, like she's done all her life, she's letting it go and embracing it."
Lovato's cover version was released as a single by Walt Disney Records on October 21, 2013. While Menzel's version is performed in the key of A-flat major and a tempo of 137 beats per minute, Lovato's version is performed in the key of G major and a tempo of 140 beats per minute, with Lovato's vocal range spanning from the low note of G3 to the high note of E5. In this version, the line "Let the storm rage on" is omitted from the chorus, along with its unusual accompanying chord progression, and an extra "Let it go" is substituted in its place.
The music video was released on November 1, 2013. It was directed by Declan Whitebloom.
* Sales figures based on certification alone. ^ Shipments figures based on certification alone. Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone. Streaming-only figures based on certification alone.
Other cover versions
Many cover versions have been recorded internationally. In February 2014, Alex Boyé recorded a light Africanized tribal cover of the song, featuring the One Voice Children's Choir and Lexi Walker as Elsa.
In February 2014, a parody YouTuber by the name of Malinda Kathleen Reese used Google Translate to translate the song's lyrics between multiple languages and back to English, revealing expected humorous mistranslations, with lines such as "Let us very angry" and "Give up, tune in, slam the door."
It has been alleged by some commentators that one of the promotional songs for the 2022 Winter Olympics, "The Snow and Ice Dance," has suspicious similarities with "Let It Go." A Chinese media outlet cited technical analysis of the two songs: Both songs employ a piano as the major instrument, have similar prelude chords and an eight-beat introduction, and they run at almost exactly the same tempo.
In September 2020, Japanese composer Yoshiki created a new classical arrangement of the song for the Disney My Music Story: Yoshiki special on Disney+.
In the 2021 film Encanto, in the song "All of You", near the end of Bruno Madrigal's rap verse, he tells his sister Pepa to "Let it in, let it out, let it rain, let it snow, let it gooooooooo", and during the beginning of this line, the opening piano notes from "Let It Go" are heard.
^Caulfield, Keith (January 20, 2014). "'Frozen' - The No. 1 Album That's Been Ignored by Radio". Billboard. Archived from the original on July 11, 2014. Retrieved June 3, 2014. That's partly owed to how none of the album's songs were promoted to radio outlets until two weeks ago, when Idina Menzel's version of the film's "Let It Go" -- the album's best-selling song with 606,000 downloads sold according to Nielsen SoundScan -- was officially serviced to adult contemporary radio stations by Disney.
^ abKnopper, Steve (March 11, 2014). "How 'Frozen' Went From Small Soundtrack to Worldwide Phenomenon". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on June 26, 2014. Retrieved June 29, 2014. Yet Frozen took forever to develop – and that was part of Disney's marketing plan. A few weeks before the album made its debut last November 25th, the company's music division put out reliable pop star Demi Lovato's version of "Let It Go" – and it barely earned any radio play. But somewhere around early January, the album hit a tipping point, shortly after Disney began pushing the version by Idina Menzel, who plays Elsa in the animated film. "You don't really want to go out [first] with a clip of the film," says Ken Bunt, president of the Disney Music Group. "The idea was to go out with the Demi version and follow up with the Idina version. It's a non-traditional pop song for radio. We've been working it for a while, but radio is realizing, 'This is an undeniable song.'"