Like its predecessor, the blustering avalanche that is “Frozen 2" brings plenty of ice, power and earworms.
The record-breaking blockbuster builds on the musical tradition of Disney’s 2013 animated hit “Frozen” with plenty to say about how relationships evolve — in song. But alas, Queen Elsa’s flagship number “Into the Unknown” is not the film’s best song, even if its siren call is the most recognizable.
Oscar- and Grammy-winning duo Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez returned to write seven original songs for the Scandinavian-inspired sequel. You can praise (or blame) them for the tunes being stuck in your head or sung repeatedly by the little kids in your life.
Actor Josh Gad, who voices the film’s sentient snowman Olaf, even had to apologize in advance for the musical’s earworm potential given the juggernaut that was “Frozen’s” “Let It Go,” to which many of the new runaway hits are being compared.
Here’s how the original songs stack up based on their emotional impact and universal themes, which give each track a practical life outside the world of “Frozen.”
Caution: Many “Frozen 2" spoilers ahead.
1. “The Next Right Thing”
OK, before you send the Northuldra and Earth giants after me, hear me out.
Princess Anna’s heartbreaking ballad about pulling yourself out of grief and depression has the most real-world applications. It’s a brief song about mental health in disguise. Kristen Bell’s vocals leap during this tear-jerker, which calls on the heroine to be her own hero in the simplest way: “You are lost, hope is gone, but you must go on and do the next right thing,” she sings.
“That’s actually a mantra that I have in my life when I’m anxiety-ridden or depressed — that’s the only thing you can do — the next right thing,” Bell said in the film’s press materials. “It’s baby steps for anyone who has experienced a hardship or is flat on the floor and feels they can’t pick themselves up.”
The song is arguably more poignant because of whom it’s coming from, a startling reminder that anyone can be overcome with sadness despite the personality they show to the outside world. Here’s the film’s spunky key optimist, completely deflated by the loss of everyone she holds dear, picking herself up to save the day. At one point, the girl who is afraid of being abandoned (in not one, but two films) says “Hello, darkness, I’m ready to succumb.” But she doesn’t.
It’s nice to see the heroine of both films not only carry on, but completely shine on her own. Queen Anna, indeed.
2. “Show Yourself”
Coming in at a close second is another majestic Elsa anthem, “Show Yourself.”
While “Let It Go,” the ice queen’s signature hit from the original film, was about self-acceptance, “Show Yourself” is a slow-building ballad about self-love.
The new song features Idina Menzel’s soaring vocals and parallels the maturation of Elsa’s voice and narrative: On the mysterious island of Ahtohallan, she realizes her powers and duties extend beyond the kingdom of Arendelle and to the elemental spirits that bestowed her with freezing abilities.
The revelation-filled number is packed with important memories and also marks the next step in her mythic journey. It also briefly gives a much-appreciated nod to the youthful bravado of “Let It Go.”
“Show Yourself,” which has a dynamic build similar to that of “Let It Go,” certainly has film-specific references, but its lyrics are universal too. The song gets even better (and emotional) when it turns into a bit of a medley. Aurora, the Norwegian singer who recites “Into the Unknown’s” siren song, reappears vocally, as does Evan Rachel Wood, who duets with Menzel’s Elsa on a triumphant few lines from the sequel’s track “All Is Found.”
This one gets extra points because of how it incorporates the film’s other musical motifs.
3. “Into the Unknown”
Aurora’s haunting tune combined with Menzel’s vocals is “Frozen 2’s” signature song (for now), setting up Elsa’s journey into the enchanted forest. But it also speaks to anyone who’s ever tried to quiet a niggling voice beckoning them out their comfort zone.
Narratively speaking, it’s an adventure song that explains why Elsa is being pulled away from the first film’s happily ever after. That could be why Disney released it first: It comes early on in the film and contains fewer story spoilers than some of the others ranked higher here.
Musically, its riff is the most recognizable (and Disney knows it) and has been the most closely compared to its Oscar-winning predecessor.
“Like ‘Let It Go,’ when you heard ‘Into the Unknown’ for the first time, we just got chills, and you felt it,” Clark Spencer, president of Disney Animation Studios, told The Times at the film’s red carpet premiere. “It’s an anthem that kids, and adults, can really relate to — that sense of, you’re being called to go do something, but you don’t know what it is or where it’s going to lead you ... It sort of says, ‘Follow your calling.’ ”
Look out for toddlers following that calling too and belting this track at the top of their lungs. And for its inevitable Academy Awards campaign.
4. “All Is Found”
“All Is Found” is a beautiful bedtime lullaby from Elsa and Anna’s mother, Queen Iduna (Wood), that serves as a road map for the film thanks to retroactive continuity.
In a flashback, the queen sings the ethereal tune about a river that holds all of the answers. The song is full of secret messages, haunting warnings, metaphors and big ideas for the production — mainly film-specific references that limit its wider reach.
However, the retcon lullaby explains music’s importance to the Arendelle princesses and harks back to connections made between them and their mother throughout.
5. “Lost in the Woods”
Kristoff’s proposal to Anna is thwarted yet again, and their latest relationship roadblock comes secondary to the main narrative, unlike many relationship arcs of past Disney films.
The possible break-up is much harder on the ice master and deliverer, making the reversal in Jonathan Groff’s power ballad the funniest song of the film. It’s an irreverent rock opera meant to appeal to the parents who’ve become all too familiar with the genre’s tropes. (The kids will love all the over-the-top elements and reindeer, though!)
Kristoff also gets the ’80s music video treatment, complete with a wind dial and dramatic chorus of reindeer.
6. “When I Am Older”
Comic relief isn’t Olaf’s sole purpose in “Frozen 2.” Gad’s Olaf — the audience’s stream of consciousness — is still soaking up the sun thanks to Elsa’s magical permafrost. He’s now three years older, which is a lot in ice years, and his eponymous solo, “When I Am Older,” showcases that evolution (he can read now too).
He has blind faith in his aging friends but is also trying to make sense of the world around him. The curious little guy asks plenty of developmental questions in the film and makes many of its poignant observations. But you wouldn’t know it at first, given the light ditty, a fun number reminiscent of his “Frozen” solo “In Summer.”
7. “Some Things Never Change”
This ensemble piece early in the film serves a more functional purpose. “Some Things Never Change” gives the characters a moment to reintroduce themselves to audiences as maturer versions of themselves. The title is completely misleading because just about everything changes after this point in the film.
There are asides from Elsa and Kristoff, but Anna and Olaf perform the main duet in this traditional musical number. They talk about “certain certainties” and how they’ll always hold on to each other, which ultimately sets up pivotal moments for the two characters during the movie’s climax.
It’s a charming, finale-like number that speaks to the theme of transformation in “Frozen 2,” but it doesn’t have the same emotional impact as the first film’s sister duets, “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” or “For the First Time in Forever.” Then again, Kristoff and Olaf are part of their family now, so the familial love argument can still be made for a higher ranking.
Times staff writer Christi Carras contributed to this report.