Chart Beat

Five Burning Questions: Billboard Staffers Discuss the 'Frozen 2' Soundtrack's Ascent To No. 1

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Frozen 2”
Courtesy of Disney

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Frozen 2” 

On this week’s Billboard 200 albums chart, the soundtrack to Frozen 2 climbs to the top spot, rising 3-1 with 80,000 equivalent album units, according to Nielsen Music. Of course, the Frozen 2 soundtrack follows the blockbuster album that accompanied the original Disney animated film in 2013; amazingly, the Frozen soundtrack, led by Idina Menzel’s top 10 hit “Let It Go,” spent 13 total weeks atop the Billboard 200 in early 2014 as the film became a phenomenon on its own.

The Frozen 2 soundtrack, which features more original songs performed by Menzel as well as cast members Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff and Josh Gad, is now the first soundtrack to an animated film to hit No. 1 since... the original Frozen soundtrack, nearly six years ago. How does the sequel’s music compare to that of the original? And could we be in store for another extended run atop the Billboard 200 for the Frozen franchise? Billboard staffers debate these questions and more below. 

1. How surprised are you, on a scale of 1-10, that the Frozen 2 soundtrack was able to climb to the top spot of the Billboard 200 chart in its third week of release, against stiff competition from Post Malone?

Jason Lipshutz: I’d give it a 3. Even considering the phenomenon of the original Frozen, there was no guarantee that the Frozen 2 soundtrack would be another blockbuster -- it’s been six years since the original, and the first soundtrack was powered by “Let It Go,” the biggest Disney song in a generation. Still, this is Frozen we’re talking about; even if Disney couldn’t re-create the crossover success of “Let It Go,” the franchise is massive enough to propel the sequel’s soundtrack to the top spot, especially against quieter competition (the Post Malone album is three months old, after all).

Lyndsey Havens: Not at all surprised, so a 0. The first Frozen and its soundtrack were such massive successes, and the team behind Frozen 2 knew exactly how to release a worthy follow-up. The built-in, eager fanbase -- paired with more sing-alongs, performed by the likes of Idina Menzel -- was of course going to reach No. 1. 

Stephen Daw: I'm at about a 2. As ubiquitous as Hollywood’s Bleeding has become since its debut in September, this is Frozen that we're talking about. The soundtrack of the original film (and, frankly, the original film itself) absolutely dominated not just the charts, but any and all pop culture discussions upon its release. With the sequel getting so much hype from fans, Frozen 2's soundtrack achieving No. 1 status was, to me, inevitable. 

Kevin Rutherford: 2. Frozen 2 went the route of the pre-movie-release soundtrack drop, so chances were the album was always going to gain after release week; even some of the most diehard of fans probably didn’t stream the album off the bat thanks to spoiler concerns (full disclosure: I listened beforehand, and thankfully, nothing major was spoiled). As the film got its Thanksgiving week/weekend bumps at the box office, it was only natural the soundtrack’s sales and streams would leap, too. Only reason I rate my surprise a 2 instead of a 1 is because, I mean, shoot, you never really know for sure that a sequel is going to take off in the way its predecessor did. Not that that ended up being the case.

Colin Stutz: Let's say a 2. When the stiffest competition is an album that was released in September -- even if it is a very popular album -- it's not that hard to see how this happened. In a down week without stiff competition, it was able to ascend with what's a pretty soft number for a chart-topper of 80,000 equivalent album units. But also when you think about how soundtracks are consumed, Frozen 2's rise three weeks after its release also makes a lot of sense. Kids -- and parents like me -- are seeing this movie over the holiday, then bringing the songs home with them. This isn't the same all-at-once type of streaming frenzy that you get when a Post Malone or Taylor Swift releases an album -- it's a bit more grassroots, and swells in relation to the film's fandom. 

2. What’s the best overall song on the Frozen 2 soundtrack?

Jason Lipshutz: I’m tempted to say Jonathan Groff’s pitch-perfect ‘80s camp spectacular “Lost In The Woods,” which certainly gets the most playful treatment in the film, but lately I’ve been bumping Idina Menzel’s ballad “Show Yourself,” which is more emotionally resonant than the breakout single “Into The Unknown.” When the music drops out at the beginning of the first chorus? Chills!

Lyndsey Havens: Look, I'll be honest... I've played this soundtrack a lot. I keep going back to the most epic track of all, "Into the Unknown," but also the more tender "Show Yourself." Impossible to pick just one between the two. Also, Kacey Musgraves' end-sequence version of "All Is Found" is chilling (pun intended). 

Stephen Daw: As much as "Into the Unknown" so desperately wants to be the sequel's "Let It Go," the real standout amongst this soundtrack set is "Show Yourself." It comes at the film's most emotional, critical moment, and sees Elsa coming to terms with the inner demons she bellowed about in "Let it Go.” While "Into the Unknown" puts Idina Menzel through her vocal paces in a way that can seem a little showy (that chorus is ridiculous), "Show Yourself" allows her to still have those shining vocal moments, while imbuing the song with deep and profound emotion.

Kevin Rutherford: The technically best song is “Show Yourself,” which is the “Let It Go” follow-up we actually needed; sorry, “Into the Unknown.” It’s more of a spiritual successor anyway, with its themes of self-discovery, and the buildup to Idina Menzel and Evan Rachel Wood’s final chorus harmonies is chill inducing. But my favorite is “All Is Found,” a lullaby that feels so timeless that it might as well have been written many centuries before the rest of the soundtrack. The moment its melody resurfaces within the bridge of “Show Yourself” is my favorite musical movement in the movie.

Colin Stutz: My 6-year-old daughter and her friends at school really love the lullaby "All Is Found," which is an odd choice to me because it's so subdued, minimalist and traditional without any characteristics of pop music. I can't really explain it, other than it's the crux of the film narrative and so it resonates. One of my personal favorites is Olaf's "When I Am Older," also because of how it relates to the film, and the snowman's existential crisis was my favorite comedic bit. Kristoff's "Lost in the Woods" is also great in its pure '80s power ballad beauty.  

3. Is the music of Frozen 2 better than that of the original Frozen? Why or why not?

Jason Lipshutz: I’ve gotta give the edge to the original still. “Let It Go” remains transformative, and nothing on the sequel’s soundtrack comes close to its level of indispensability, but even so, “For the First Time in Forever,” “Love is an Open Door” and even the Olaf showcase “In Summer” are all more memorable than the enjoyable, yet not quite transcendent, songs of the sequel.

Lyndsey Havens: I was actually surprised at how evenly matched the songs on Frozen 2 are -- they really hold their own and deliver the same power and intention that the original songs did. Even so, it's hard for anything to rival the juggernaut that is "Let It Go," or the playful "Do You Want To Build a Snowman?,” so while I might actually prefer a small handful of songs on Frozen 2, as a whole the OG Frozen soundtrack comes out on top for me.

Stephen Daw: Simply, no. The soundtrack of Frozen was filled to the brim with undeniable earworms, and only a couple of songs you could maybe skip over. To me, the opposite is true of the sequel — there are a couple of tracks like "Show Yourself" and "Lost in the Woods" that I'll find myself going back to, but everything else feels skippable. Bobby Lopez & Kristen Anderson-Lopez's songwriting felt so fun and natural on the original soundtrack, while the sequel, unfortunately, feels weighed down by the burden of trying to live up to its overachieving older sister. 

Kevin Rutherford: Overall, no, but here’s the thing: while Frozen 2 has no song better than Frozen’s best, it also has no song worse than Frozen’s worst. You’re not going to find a song that exceeds “Let It Go” or “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” (look, was anyone even expecting to?), but everything on Frozen 2 tops “Fixer Upper” and “Frozen Heart.” So perhaps it’s… more consistent?

Colin Stutz: Overall, no. I didn't and still don't care for "Let It Go" from the first soundtrack, but that was a full-on cultural phenomenon. "Into the Unknown" doesn't feel as impactful to me. Aside from those two tracks, it feels like they were sure to check some of the same boxes the second time around: Frozen 2's "Some Things Never Change" is to Frozen's "For the First Time in Forever" as "When I Am Older" is to "In Summer," and so on. But overall, there's a more melancholic turn that fits the film but doesn't translate to a fun soundtrack that I think will have the same kind of success as the original. 

4. Just like Demi Lovato’s take on “Let It Go” from the original, a “pop version” of “Into The Unknown” by Panic! at the Disco plays over the Frozen 2 credits. Do you prefer Idina Menzel or Brendon Urie diving into “the Unknown”?

Jason Lipshutz: Idina, all day, every day. No offense to Mr. Urie, who does an admirable job tackling the high notes in “Into The Unknown,” but Menzel was born to sing songs like “Into The Unknown,” and turns the song into one of the musical highlights of the film. Side note: I’d love to hear Menzel try her hand at my favorite Panic! At the Disco, “Nine in the Afternoon.”

Lyndsey Havens: Idina, of course. I do applaud and enjoy Panic!'s take on this track, but it's way too hard to just "let go" of Idina's sky-high range. Just talking about it gives me goosebumps.  

Stephen Daw: I am a sucker for Brendon Urie's gravity-defying vocal range, and getting to hear him hit those stratospheric notes in the song's chorus is a marvel. But ultimately, it feels like that spectacle is pretty much all the Panic! at the Disco version has to offer. Once I heard Brendon Urie hit those insane notes, the cover's novelty wore off, and I found myself going back to Idina's version. "Into the Unknown" serves as yet another classic "I Want" song from Disney, and translating that into a pop-rock context is hard when it was so clearly built to be sung by a princess (or in Elsa's case, a queen/elemental spirit?). 

Kevin Rutherford: Just like Demi vs. Idina in Frozen, the movie versions trump the established artists’ recordings in every way. I’d say it’s because I’m a little Brendon Urie’d out (it’s been a big two years for Panic! at the Disco), but the same is true of the “Lost in the Woods” and “All Is Found” re-dos – and come on, who’s out here outperforming Idina Menzel?

Colin Stutz: These "pop versions" are a big no in our house, so here's a vote for Idina. For some reason my daughter just can't stand them, and show's over when they come on (always at the end of the soundtrack). That's fine by me, because while I can appreciate the concept behind these "reimaginings," here especially I find the maximalist production unnecessary.

5. The Frozen soundtrack stayed at the top of the Billboard 200 chart for 13 non-consecutive weeks. How many weeks do you think the Frozen 2 soundtrack will ultimately stay at No. 1, based on the reception to the sequel compared to the original?

Jason Lipshutz: With the film still going strong at the box office and a relatively sleepy album release schedule (as is the case in nearly every December), the Frozen 2 soundtrack could stay in the top spot for another 4 or 5 weeks when all is said and done. That’s not exactly on the level of the original Frozen soundtrack’s run, but then, few things are. 

Lyndsey Havens: I wouldn't be surprised if it held on for another week, but I don't think it will get close to a double-digit streak. Especially with the untimely death of Juice WRLD, I would expect his album Death Race for Love to shoot to the top.

Stephen Daw: I'm calling it at 5 weeks total. Even though Frozen 2 and its soundtrack aren't able to live up to their predecessor (because how could they?), we cannot underestimate the importance of the Child Factor: there are children ages 2-12 across the world who will be demanding their parents to play this album on repeat for weeks on end, attempting to belt along to every song, regardless of whether or not it is as good as the original. With that alone, the album should perform very well, though still falling significantly short of the original's dominance on the chart.

Kevin Rutherford: What helped Frozen – and what will help Frozen 2 – is timing. Both were released at notoriously slow times for the music industry in terms of new releases, meaning there’s less competition at the top (see also: the Billboard Hot 100). That being said, Frozen was a phenomenon all its own, and its sequel will absolutely not stay on top for as long. But I am expecting more than one week at No. 1, perhaps at the end of December and into the beginning of January.

Colin Stutz: My guess is this is it for the soundtrack at No. 1. Camila Cabello will probably nab the top spot this week, then it's Harry Styles next week and then the Cats soundtrack could dominate the holiday soundtrack market, and there are rumors of a new Kanye West album coming up and maybe some other big names rolling into the new year. That said, there are a number of "ifs" there, and we know the film is outperforming its predecessor in the box office. So as long as kids -- and parents like me -- keep listening, the soundtrack could top the Billboard 200 again on a relatively slow week.