As a full-fledged Disney musical fan, I have to say that nothing gave me a greater joy than the arrival of the musical Frozen last fall — so you can only imagine my elation now: Apparently, the Frozen soundtrack might break some more records. It's been a long time since we've watched Disney win the hearts of popular culture — let alone planted a song firmly into ubiquity. Moreover, watching the tuneful soundtrack stay fixed at the number one spot on Billboard is a clear reminder that there still is power to be held in a family-friendly musical.
We've still got a few months to go before we can definitely declare the Frozen soundtrack to be a record-breaker, but its firm grasp at the number one spot for eight weeks has it tied with Taylor Swift's "Red." All it has to do is bypass Adele's "21," which stayed fixed at the number one spot for twenty four weeks. However, it seems very likely; Billboard has predicted it to outsell "21" as well as Shakira's newest album. Industry folks seem confident in this possibility, which is a victory for both Disney and, really, girls in general. Beyond that, it might have solved the problem that Disney musicals were having.
I say this as a girl who grew up aspiring to be Belle (see my Instagram for proof — that's me at about 3 years old, in total awe of the cardboard cutout of my Disney heroine — I'm assuming three year old me is convinced she's real). What I liked about Belle was not only that she sung the opening number of the animated musical (my favorite song in both the film and Broadway version) — but that she was an outcast because of her intelligence. She read books! How blasphemous in provincial France! She was, as the prologue put it, "a beauty but a funny girl." She valued what was on the inside of others, rather than what was on the outside. She snubbed the testosterone-heavy, beer-slugging, antler-decorating Gaston for — you know, a beast. However, this was the early '90s, and only moms really wanted to hear Peabo Bryson and Celine Dion's syrupy pop version of "Beauty And The Beast" (as much as it as a guilty pleasure for me). "Be Our Guest" was a great song, but served little place on popular radio; it wouldn't have boded well alongside the other hits of that time (which, at the turn of 1991 to 1992, was Mariah Carey's "Can't Let Go").
Frozen, however, which came out 22 years after Beauty and The Beast (both films dropped in November of their respective years), does a wonderful job of marrying pop music to the old school tunes of Disney, the songs that fill you with nostalgia. And that's why the soundtrack really works — it doesn't stay stuck in the past, but it plays on what made the Disney masterpieces work, while working with what's at hand in popular music.
Frozen also has two glorious female protagonists — we've discussed its grasp of modern feminism at length, even if some folks disagree (that's cool; we've got a Disney movie in the popular discourse!). We have the plucky Anna (who, like Belle, picks the beta male over the self-important alpha male, but more specifically — picks her family), and Elsa, who, too, is outcast for being misunderstood. We also have a power pop anthem — that's right, an anthem for young women — that's a full-fledged, show stopping number. Idina Menzel's "Let It Go" is a good, catchy song, anthemic in its power and lyrics, and its Oscar was very much deserved. It's a victory for girls who now have a Disney princess with whom they can sing along. It's a victory for girls who didn't have a literary Belle to look up to when they were kids.
If Frozen stays atop the charts, it's well deserved, and it's a clear indication that Disney musicals are doing something right. The only thing we can hope for next? Another musical in this vein next fall. I may be 25, but give me a Disney princess worth rooting for, and I turn into a three year old girl again.
Actually, scratch that. I'm a 25-year-old woman who's rooting for Disney princesses. These are songs — and heroines — with which anyone at any age can connect.
Besides, this song is freaking glorious: