Let It Go (Disney song)

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"Let It Go"
Song from the album Frozen
Published Wonderland Music Company
Released November 25, 2013 (2013-11-25)
Recorded 2012[1]
Language English
Label Walt Disney
Frozen track listing
"Love Is an Open Door"
"Let It Go"
"Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People"
Video (film sequence)
"Let It Go" on YouTube

"Let It Go" is a song from Disney's 2013 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. Anderson-Lopez and Lopez also composed a slightly different pop version, which was performed by actress and recording artist Demi Lovato over the start of the film's closing credits. A music video was separately released for the pop version.

The song presents the ostracized Queen Elsa, who abandons her kingdom when her magical ability to create and control ice and snow is discovered by the public. Up in the mountains, away from confused and suspicious onlookers, Elsa realizes that she no longer needs to hide her abilities, and so declares herself free from the restrictions she has had to endure since childhood. She rejoices in being able to use her power without fear or limit, to let her past go, and manipulate snow and icicles to create a living snowman and a magnificent ice castle for herself.

Use in Frozen[edit]

Background and composition[edit]

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."[2] When interviewed in January 2014 by John August and Aline Brosh McKenna, Frozen co-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."[3]

"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.[4] The story outline they were given had a place reserved for "Elsa's Badass Song", which was what they were trying to write.[5] The duo took inspiration from other Disney films 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.[6] 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."[7] 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."[8] Lopez was able to improvise the song's first four lines on the spot.[9] 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.[4][8]

"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. The song's vocal range spans from F3 to E♭5.[10] 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.[11]


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.[12] 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: "[A]fter a while, Chris Montan, the head of music at Disney, would be like, 'Whoa, language!'"[13] 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.[14]

Once approved, the song's piano-vocal score, along with the rest of their work for Frozen, was eventually forwarded to arranger Dave Metzger at his home studio in Salem, Oregon, who orchestrated their work into a lush sound suitable for recording by a full orchestra[15] at the Eastwood Scoring Stage on the Warner Bros. studio lot in Burbank at the end of July 2013.[16][17] 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.[17] 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.[17]

Character rewrite and film sequence[edit]

Although unintentional, the song's composition was pivotal in the film's characterization of Elsa.[18] 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.[19][20] About that, Lee later explained, "the minute we heard the song the first time, I knew that I had to rewrite the whole movie."[7] 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."[21]

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".[22] According to Lopez, it was the last line at the end, "the cold never bothered me anyway," that was "our little Avril Lavigne line".[23]

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 350 million views as of October 28, 2014 on YouTube.[24] On February 11, 2014 a sing-along version of the sequence was released and has had over 3 million views on YouTube as of August 14, 2014.[25]

Other languages[edit]

Besides the original English version, Disney Character Voices International arranged for Frozen to be dubbed into another 42 languages and dialects worldwide,[26] with 41 foreign-language versions of "Let It Go".[27][28][29] A major challenge was to find sopranos capable of matching Menzel's warm vocal tone and three-octave vocal range in their native languages.[27][28] 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."[30]

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.[31][32][33] 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.[34] 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".[30][35] On April 15, 2014 a studio recording of the multi-language version was released via digital download.[36][37]

On April 15, 2014, Walt Disney Records released a compilation album titled Let It Go: The Complete Set, with all 41 foreign-language film versions of "Let It Go" and nine end credit versions.[38][39][40]

In South Korea, the pop version of the song by Hyolyn reached number six on the Gaon Music Chart in February, followed by the film version performed by Park Hyena charting at number 80 in March.[41][42] The Japanese versions of the song, performed in the film by Takako Matsu and in the end roll by May J., reached number 2 and 8 respectively on the Japan Hot 100 after the film's Japanese release in March 2014.[43] Matsu's version was certified million for digital downloads in Japan in May 2014, and May J.'s version platinum for 250,000 downloads.[44] May J. recorded a rearranged version of the song on her album Heartful Song Covers, which was released on March 26, 2014.[45]


Critical reception[edit]

"Let It Go" received widespread acclaim from film critics, music critics, and audiences, with some comparing it favorably to "Defying Gravity" (also performed by Idina Menzel) from the Broadway musical Wicked.[20][73][74] 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."[73] Entertainment Weekly's Marc Snetiker described the song as "an incredible anthem of liberation"[74] while Joe Dziemianowicz of The New York Daily News called it "a stirring tribute to girl power and the need to 'let go' of fear and shame".[75]

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".[76]

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.[77][78][79][80][81][82] Columnist Yvonne Abraham of The Boston Globe called the song "musical crack" which "sends kids into altered states."[83] A similar phenomenon was described in the United Kingdom,[84][85][86] where Lorraine Candy, editor-in-chief of Elle UK, wrote of a "musical epidemic sweeping the nation, relentlessly gathering up every child ... in its cult-like grip".[87]

Perceived LGBT parallels[edit]

Some viewers outside the film industry, such as evangelical pastors[88][89][90] and commentators,[91] 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, "Let It Go", is a metaphor for coming out.[92][93][94] The LGBT community, however, had a mixed reaction to these claims.[92] When Lee was asked about the homosexual perception, she stated that the company knew what they had wanted to do and that it was however anyone in the year 2013 wanted to perceive it: "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."[93]


"Let It Go" won the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 86th Academy Awards, where a shortened rendition[95] of the show-tune version was performed live by Menzel;[96][97] with the award, Robert Lopez became the 12th person, and by far the quickest (10 years), to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony in their career.[98]

Award Category Result
Academy Awards[99] Best Original Song Won
Golden Globe Awards[100] Best Original Song Nominated
Critics' Choice Awards[101][102] Best Song Won
Phoenix Film Critics Society[103] Best Original Song Won
Denver Film Critics Society[104] Best Original Song Won
Satellite Awards[105] Best Original Song Nominated
Radio Disney Music Awards[106] Favorite Song from a Movie or TV Show Won

Single releases[edit]

Demi Lovato version[edit]

"Let It Go"
Single by Demi Lovato
from the album Frozen
Released October 21, 2013 (2013-10-21)
Format Digital download
Recorded 2012[1]
Genre Pop rock
Length 3:47
Label Walt Disney
Demi Lovato singles chronology
"Made in the USA"
"Let It Go"
"Neon Lights"
Music video
"Let It Go" on YouTube

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.[12]

Background, release, and composition[edit]

Anderson-Lopez said that Lovato was chosen because of the singer's own personal life; "She had a past that she's pretty open about that is similar to Elsa's journey of letting a dark past and fear behind and moving forward with your power."[11] Lovato indeed identified herself 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."[107]

Lovato's cover version was released as a single by Walt Disney Records on October 21, 2013.[108]

While Menzel's version is performed in the key of A-flat major,[10] Lovato's version is performed in the key of G major, with her vocal range spanning between G3 and E5.[109]

Music video[edit]

The music video was released on November 1, 2013.[110] and was directed by Declan Whitebloom.[111] As of August 14, 2014 it has over 235 million views.[110]


Chart (2013–14) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[112] 25
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[113] 60
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[114] 15
Belgium (Ultratip Wallonia)[115] 21
Brazil (Hot 100 Airplay)[116] 90
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[117] 31
Denmark (Tracklisten)[118] 26
France (SNEP)[119] 131
Germany (Media Control Charts)[120] 83
Ireland (IRMA)[121] 34
Japan (Japan Hot 100)[122] 51
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[123] 70
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[124] 13
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[125] 32
South Korea (Gaon International Chart)[126] 7
South Korea (Gaon Chart)[126] 50
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[127] 25
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[128] 60
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[129] 42
US Billboard Hot 100[130] 38


Region Certification Sales/shipments
Australia (ARIA)[131] Platinum 70,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[132] Platinum 80,000^
Japan (RIAJ)[133] Gold 100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[134] Platinum 15,000*
Sweden (GLF)[135] Platinum 40,000x
United States (RIAA)[136] Platinum 1,000,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[137] Gold 1,300,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Idina Menzel version[edit]

"Let It Go"
Single by Idina Menzel
from the album Frozen
Released January 2014
Format Digital download
Recorded 2012[1]
Genre Show tune
Length 3:45
Label Walt Disney
  • Kristen Anderson-Lopez
  • Robert Lopez
  • Christophe Beck
  • Chris Montan
  • Tom MacDougall
Idina Menzel singles chronology
"Constant Craving"
"Let It Go"
"You Learn to Live Without"

Menzel's version was a single release,[138][139] being promoted to adult contemporary radio by Walt Disney Records in January 2014.[140][141] 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.[141]

It is 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.[142] By June 2014, Menzel's version of the song has sold 3 million copies digital download.[143] As of October 2014, the song has sold 3.5 million copies in the US.[144] It is now the biggest-selling foreign song from any original soundtrack in South Korea as of March 12, 2014.[145]

A remix EP was released digitally by Walt Disney Records on May 19, 2014.[146] The EP features four remixes by Dave Audé, Papercha$er, DJ Escape & Tony Coluccio, and Corbin Hayes.[147][148] Armin Van Buuren produced another remix of the song for the remix album, Dconstructed.[149]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Remixer(s) Length
1. "Let It Go [Dave Audé Club Remix]"   Dave Audé 5:48
2. "Let It Go [Papercha$er Club Remix]"   Papercha$er 4:51
3. "Let It Go [DJ Escape & Tony Coluccio Club Remix]"   DJ Escape & Tony Coluccio 8:26
4. "Let It Go [Corbin Hayes Remix]"   Corbin Hayes 6:48


Chart (2013–14) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[150] 16
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[151] 74
Belgium (Ultratip Flanders)[152] 55
Brazil (Billboard Brasil)[153] 91
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[154] 18
Denmark (Tracklisten)[155] 34
Finland (Nokia MixRadio)[156] 31
Ireland (IRMA)[157] 7
Japan (Japan Hot 100)[158] 4
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[159] 67
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[160] 31
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[161] 10
South Korea (Gaon International Chart)[126] 1
South Korea (Gaon Chart)[126] 1
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[162] 15
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[163] 11
US Billboard Hot 100[164] 5
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[165] 9
US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)[166] 20
US Hot Dance Club Songs (Billboard)[167] 1


Region Certification Sales/shipments
Australia (ARIA)[168] 4× Platinum 280,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[169] 2× Platinum 160,000^
Japan (RIAJ)[170] Platinum 250,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[171] Gold 7,500*
United Kingdom (BPI)[172] Platinum 600,000^
United States (RIAA)[173] 5× Platinum 3,500,000[144]

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
xunspecified figures based on certification alone

Cover versions[edit]

Many cover versions have been recorded internationally.[174] 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.[175][176][177] The Piano Guys' cover version mixes parts of Antonio Vivaldi's Concerto No. 4 in F minor, Op. 8, RV 297, "L'inverno" (Winter) from The Four Seasons into the original.[177][178] The music videos of both covers were filmed in the ice castles in Midway, Utah. In March 2014, Brian Hull recorded a cover of the song while impersonating various Disney and Pixar characters such as Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Goofy.[179] French Metalcore band Betraying The Martyrs released their cover of "Let it Go" on their sophomore album Phantom.[180] The Brazilian singer Luiza Possi recorded the song for the program Mais Você. [181] Rachel Berry (Lea Michele) will cover the song in Glee's sixth and final season premiere episode in 2015.[182]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]