How And Why “Let It Go” Became A Classic

Behold the story of a revolution in musical form, a hymn to individual and community achievement that spontaneously swept the world nearly three years ago. It remains an essential part of the soundtrack of our times, as child after child becomes obsessed with the film “Frozen” and every single song in it, especially “Let It Go.”

 

Its success is based on far more than its beautiful music and compelling performance. Its triumph as popular art tells us something about where we’ve been and where we are headed as a political order and a people.

The story of this song is something absolutely magical. You can look at the metrics and see what has happened. The sing-along version online is the most popular with nearly 1 billion views. The original version has half a million. The other versions in other countries have views in the many millions too. There are countless covers. Of course, there are parodies too. A prominent musicologist made a video explaining why the song is so wonderful. It has won the Grammy and Academy awards.

Let it go
Image credit: K.Prarin Lekuthai – Flickr
Let It Go

Let It Go –

Let It Go elsa photo
Let It Go Photo by Sam Howzit

One Song to Change Everything

I can recall my own feelings when I first heard the song in the theater. The sense of excitement was overwhelming. It left me breathless at the end. It was amazing. I wondered if others shared my view, and recommended the film to friends. They had the same feeling. There was growing excitement over this all through the holiday season, and it intensified into the new year. And it kept expanding.

During the making of “Frozen,” Disney Studios had some inkling that the song “Let It Go” — composed in one day by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez — was going to be big. The original story line had a placeholder for “Elsa’s Badass Song”, but the result was far more complicated and wonderful. The plotline of the movie was even changed to accommodate a newly sympathetic Elsa — once cast at the relentlessly bad “ice queen,” then changed to a flawed but daring individualist who only needed to discover how to reconnect with her community.

But surely Disney had no idea how viral this song would become. In fact, before the canonical version sung by Idina Menzel was released, Disney had released another version by Demi Lovato. It has different words, and a less challenging musical structure. It was designed for radio play, with all the conventional features you expect in that genre. It must have come as a shock that the soaring and hyper-dramatic version by Menzel became the radio hit.

Here we see the power and glory of popular culture, defying every prediction and every expert, taking a song from an animated film and turning it into a global anthem that sings of the great themes of our times.

Let It Go – What It Means

This is the struggle of the whole of the world, saddled down by a failed experiment to centrally manage societies and economies.What is the source of power here? Is it just the “you-only-live-once” song of the year? Is it only about one person’s struggle to escape the confinement of social expectations and find freedom? Perhaps, but the extent of the energy behind its popularity suggests something much more robust is going on here.

The opening segment has Elsa wandering alone on a mountain, walking through fresh snow, like a pioneer seeking out something entirely new and uncertain. It is a dangerous and uncharted world she has entered, and she has entered alone. She is reflecting on what she left. She was supposed to be the queen, so she had spent her life so far complying with her duty. That required her to conceal, to deceive herself and others, not to feel anything real, not to have emotions and ambitions, not to seek freedom.

This is not only about one woman’s struggle. This is the struggle of the whole of the world, saddled down by a failed experiment to centrally manage societies and economies. It all began about a century ago when governments started aggressively taxing, regulating, blocking, prohibiting, and prodding people in their economic relationships. As the years have gone by, restrictions and regimentations are not repealed; they are only added to, like bad traditions in aging monarchies, stultifying and suffocating the human spirit.

People once believed that states could restrict themselves to “economic” regulation while not impinging on human freedom more generally, as if economics was somehow a separate field from human choice more generally. But now we look around us and what do we find? Every aspect of our economic lives are touched by imposition from states. To regulate our economic lives means to regulate our lives; to take away our economic liberties is to take away our human liberties.

Let It Go – Let Us Go

We cannot keep the money we make. We cannot start enterprises without begging bureaucrats for permission. We cannot buy and sell without constant attention to compliance issues. Every aspect of our interaction with the material world is managed by public employees and their laws and regulations they are charged to carry out. And the prohibitions of modern life are morally and emotionally debilitating. The war on drugs continues on and on despite its incredible cost. The prisons fill up with non-violent offenders. Our every social interaction is watched, captured, and kept to be used against us later.

Leaving the regime and embracing the future with daring determination is precisely what the young generation is doing in a huge range of areas.We are all versions of Elsa in her old kingdom. We are expected to submit, to comply, to keep quiet, to carry out our duties to the political order. Conceal your opinions. Don’t feel. It’s the tyranny of the status quo that people continue to tolerate because no one is permitted to think of another way.

But like Elsa, many people are seeing that there is a way out. Once it became obvious to everyone in the kingdom that she wasn’t the right person for the job of queen, she fled the anger of the mob, running across the lake and entering into an unknown realm. It is at first terrifying but then empowering. This is a good description of the harrowing life of entrepreneurship and innovation, of trying new tools in a digital age, of daring to step outside the plan and break free from the crushing regimentation of life under the state.

Leaving the regime and embracing the future with daring determination is precisely what the young generation is doing in a huge range of areas. They are eschewing the plan because the plan no longer works for them. The retirement systems that governments established are a joke. The tax take from our paychecks is a self-evident racket. The many ways that government promised to help us turn out to be just benefits bestowed

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