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'Frozen' soundtrack: Kids can't 'Let It Go'

| Thursday, April 17, 2014, 8:55 p.m.
This image released by Disney shows Elsa the Snow Queen, voiced by Idina Menzel, in a scene from the animated feature 'Frozen.' (AP Photo/Disney)

When it comes to a popular Disney song, some parents are finding it difficult to “Let It Go.”

The smash song from the equally successful film “Frozen” has been dominating charts and minivan radios since its November release. For parents, that means an incessant loop of Elsa, the character voiced by Broadway star Idina Menzel, belting out her signature song.

“We love the movie and soundtrack,” says Shana Mackie of Wexford, mother of Noah, 7; Madison, 5; and Logan, 2. “All of us watch the movie often and listen to the songs. I could think of worse songs to get stuck in my head!”

This week marks the soundtrack's 10th at the top of the Billboard 200. It's sold more than 2 million copies. Disney stores can't keep it, let alone any other “Frozen” merchandise, on their shelves.

Disney announced plans for “Frozen” to become a Broadway musical. And for those few who still can't get enough, Disney this week released the Karaoke Series version of the film's soundtrack. The CD contains all eight songs as instrumentals only, so you can add your own voice, and in their vocal versions.

The package includes printed lyrics for the songs as well, just in case you can't remember the words. But most parents are finding them hard to forget.

Richard Randall, assistant professor of music theory at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Music and director of the Music Cognition Lab at the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, says earworms like “Let It Go” are a “very well-documented phenomenon, but not very well understood.”

“There are a variety of reasons why it happens,” he says. “Music has a very strong ability to trigger strong emotions. If it triggers our limbic system, we might get shivers, which is a very pleasurable response. As your brain sorts through things, it can get hung up on that response.

“(‘Frozen') has a very strong positive association with it,” Randall says. “Kids associate with the sound, and it becomes a cycle of pleasure and rehearsal in the brain. You can consciously say, ‘I wish this was out of my head,' and your brain will say, ‘No, we like this.' ”

Randall says the best way to beat an earworm is to stop worrying about getting rid of it.

“If you focus on them and obsess and try to get rid of it, it will last twice as long as if you'd just go about your business,” he says. “The only way to get it out is to preoccupy yourself. It's very zen exercise — trying to ignore something you're thinking about.”

Michelle Dawson, mother of three boys and co-director of The Academy of Dance by Lori in Mt. Lebanon, calls “Let It Go” “the most popular song you can play.” The instant she puts it on, her little dancers are on their feet.

“It's so charming to watch them immerse themselves in that song and in that character, whether they're 3 years old or 9 years old,” Dawson says.

Charming, yes, but irritating after a while?

“I love it, too!” Dawson says with a laugh. “I get all in there with them. When you watch a 3-year-old belting their heart out, how can you not want to participate?”

Students at Karen Prunzik's Broadway Dance Studio & Performing Arts in Robinson will dance ballet to “Let It Go” at their June show. Prunzik says when she told the class, ages 8 and 9, their show would include the “Frozen” hit, they started jumping up and down.

Students as young as 2 know the song, Prunzik says, and toddlers even mimic Elsa's movements when singing it. Prunzik admits she does occasionally get tired of the song, but seeing the kids' joy makes it bearable.

“I love anything that makes dancers emote, and this is one song that does,” she says.

For many parents, what's even more frustrating than hearing the same song a million times is the shortage of “Frozen” merchandise.

“Madison wants an Elsa costume, but I can't find it online for less than $150!” Mackie says.

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or rweaver@tribweb.com.

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