Recording information: Avatar Studios; Capitol Studios; Chalice Recording; MixStar Studios; Ora Studio; Sunset Studios; Warner Bros. Eastwood Scoring Stage.
After years of movies that often downplayed characters breaking into song, the Disney musical returned in a big way with 2013's Frozen. Along with winning that year's Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film, it also won the Academy Award for Best Song with "Let It Go." Much like another Disney classic, The Little Mermaid, Frozen was inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale -- in this case, The Snow Queen. And while Robert Lopez (who became the 12th person to have earned an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony thanks to his work on the film) and Kristen Anderson-Lopez aren't as established a songwriting team as Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, they bring plenty of contemporary Broadway dazzle to songs like "Love Is an Open Door" and "Do You Want to Build a Snowman," which outlines the complicated relationship between Frozen's leading ladies, the sisters Anna (Kristen Bell) and Elsa (Idina Menzel). While the tracks that offer comic relief, such as "In Summer" and "Reindeer(s) Are Better Than People," are cleverly written, Frozen's best moments reveal Elsa and Anna's feelings. "For the First Time in Forever" and its reprise contrast Anna's open-hearted nature and Elsa's more guarded one, something that "Let It Go" examines in more depth. Rounded out by Demi Lovato's Top 40-friendly version of "Let It Go" and Christophe Beck's score, which provides much of the soundtrack's drama and suspense as it incorporates orchestral, choral, and folk-inspired elements, Frozen may be somewhat slighter than some of the vintage Disney musicals, but it's still a welcome return to form. ~ Heather Phares