From using her ice powers for an awesome costume change to declaring that “the cold never bothered me anyway” with so much chilly attitude, Elsa arrived on the big screen like an empowered one-woman blizzard in 2013’s original “Frozen” with her signature anthem “Let It Go.”
One Academy Award, more than 300 million Spotify plays and so many viral videos later, the song still stands as the movie’s most iconic, but it now has some company. The new animated sequel “Frozen 2” (officially opening Friday, though theaters will show it Thursday night) gives snow queen Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) another powerhouse track with “Into the Unknown,” a key to unlocking new aspects of the character’s complex personality.
“Let It Go” was “a moment for Elsa to sort of say she’d had enough and she was going to live her life in a different way,” Menzel says. “And the songs in this next film are her going deeper and deeper in her evolution as a young woman, as a person and a human being.”
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Pop music fans might have already heard “Into the Unknown”: Panic! at the Disco did a version as the first single, a la Demi Lovato’s take on “Let It Go” six years ago. But now that the soundtrack’s out, the “Frozen” faithful are weighing in on Elsa’s movie song: @MoeMoments is “getting ‘Wicked’ vibes” (referencing one of Menzel’s famous Broadway musicals), Matheus Dias calls it “freaking amazing,” @FILMemesTW admits “my ears are pregnant now,” while @coopie1986 tweets that “16 years after Defying Gravity and 6 years after Let It Go, Idina is still Queen.”
While “Let It Go” was Elsa breaking free of her metaphorical chains, “Into the Unknown” finds her content with “the acceptance of who she is and all of the playfulness and excitement for what she can do in her life – sort of stepping into her power and owning it,” Menzel says.
Elsa hears a haunting female voice (that of Norwegian singer-songwriter Aurora) singing a distinct melody off in the distance – she’s initially taken aback but the music creates a curiosity and stirring inside of her. In “Into the Unknown,” the queen tries to ignore it (“Everyone I’ve ever loved is here within these walls/I’m sorry, secret siren, but I’m blocking out your calls”), worrying that she could be risking everything. Yet over the course of the song, she realizes that part of her longs to explore, and ultimately heeds the cry, belting in harmonious unison with this mysterious stranger.
For Elsa, the tune is her “definitely facing a fear but having the confidence in herself,” Menzel says. “In this film, there’s an optimism and an enthusiasm about her. And even though she doesn’t know what’s out there, she knows that it’s something that she needs to go toward, that she’s not afraid of.”
Menzel also connected with “Into the Unknown” on a personal level: “Are we always being our authentic selves? Are we living our passion? That’s the life of artists.”
Director Jennifer Lee talked with resident “Frozen” songwriting duo Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez about “freeing them from an ‘I want’ song” akin to “Let It Go” and instead thinking of “Frozen 2” as the second act of a Broadway musical, with tunes that mature with the characters.
However, Lee loves that “Into the Unknown” is “this sort of anti-want that becomes a want and becomes a drive song through Elsa. One of my favorite things is where she begins vs. where she ends.”
Menzel sees a “Frozen” song like “Into the Unknown,” the later Elsa song “Show Yourself” or even “Let It Go” as “this beautiful map, and the chords and the melody and the notes, they take me on this journey and I just open myself up and stay vulnerable and allow the truth to come out.”