'Show Yourself' vs. 'Into the Unknown': Idina Menzel weighs in on Elsa's Frozen 2 showstoppers
An unavoidable byproduct of following up the global frenzy of Frozen is the invariable debate over which song from the sequel is destined to inherit the crown sashayed around the ice caps by the queen mother of movie tunes, “Let It Go.” While it’s unlikely that any Frozen 2 song will quantifiably match the success of L.I.G.’s run at the top — 33 weeks on the chart, honey! — it’s now time for the 2013 song to bequeath her scepter to a new lip-sync lady in waiting worthy of becoming every little Elsa’s new favorite karaoke number in 2020.
In making the music of Frozen 2, the filmmakers wisely doubled down on Idina Menzel’s talent as a power-ballad beltress and gave Elsa not one but two huge musical numbers, both of which propel the story while simultaneously stopping the show: There’s “Into the Unknown,” the curiosity-fueled wailer that Elsa sings while following a distant voice across the Arendelle castle grounds, and “Show Yourself,” a slow-burn anthem that builds to Elsa’s emotional climax and straightened hair — both zeniths equally stunning.
Of the two, Disney already seemed to show its hand as far as song allegiance goes: Much of the rollout of Frozen 2 has been in support of “Into the Unknown.” It’s one of three songs covered by mainstream artists on the soundtrack (and Brendon Urie’s bop version plays over the end credits), it’s already gotten prime play on Dancing With the Stars, and it also serves as the subtitle for a Frozen 2 making-of docuseries announced earlier this year for Disney+.
This Oscar season, all signs point to “Into the Unknown” as Disney Animation’s choice contender to take on the likes of Beyoncé’s “Spirit” (also in the Disney family) and Taylor Swift’s “Beautiful Ghosts” (of genus Cats) for Best Original Song. And yet, out here in the gritty soundtrack-swapping streets, “Show Yourself” may show itself to be the real heart-melter of the people — and Menzel might even agree.
“They’re both huge, epic, anthemic melodies and songs,” Menzel tells EW. “They talk a lot about ‘Into the Unknown,’ but the second one they don’t talk about as much, but we’ll see what kind of an effect it has on people. ‘Show Yourself’ is actually one of my favorites. I think just knowing [songwriters Bobby Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez] even more intimately and deeper as artists and musicians now, they really know my voice inside and out and write for me in that way. So they really wrote where every facet of my vocal ability and also my emotional accessibility as an interpreter could shine. I think we found each other even more this time around.”
For what it’s worth, both of Menzel’s powerhouse songs are equally catchy, and arguably mark the standout achievements on the soundtrack (besides “Lost in the Woods,” the Jonathan Groff ’80s power jam worthy of a Best Picture nomination of its own). On an anecdotal level, “Show Yourself” has emerged as the crowd favorite here at the EW office. Maybe it’s the cathartic emotion or the spine-chilling build to a powerful duet, or simply a response to what might already be “Unknown” ennui despite Frozen 2 only having been in theaters for approximately 10 minutes.
One thing to consider is the relationship each song has to interpretation beyond its narrative focus — and through that lens, “Into the Unknown” may suffer slightly from leaning toward specificity over universality. If “Let It Go” applied liberally to the liberation of any deeply-rooted insecurity, “Into the Unknown” is not really about anything other than… Elsa hearing one very specific voice. Lyrics like “Are you someone out there who’s a little bit like me?” could arguably apply to, I don’t know, prospective students visiting a college campus, but the crux of the song nevertheless feels tied to plot in a way that “Let It Go,” despite its own hyper-specific citations for frozen fractals, did not. On that front, “Show Yourself” takes the edge for comparatively expansive allowance for extrapolation. Self-encouraging lyrics like “Show yourself, I’m dying to meet you; show yourself, it’s your turn” offer plenty of room for empowered introspection (so that you can at least pretend you’re benefitting from some kind of existential engagement when your child loops the song for the ninth time on the same Costco run).
So, what’ll it be? “Show Yourself” stans? “Into the Unknown”-atics? Also, Earth is experiencing its second-warmest year since the beginning of modern temperature recording. Which Frozen 2 song will YOU be singing come awards season?!