Right now, if you’re reading this, you’re probably in one of two camps: either the camp that says, “Descendants was really good!” or the “I hate Descendants and I never want to see anything like that again!” camp. Well, that’s the thing about Descendants, Disney’s polarizing new TV movie that pays homage to classic Disney animated films, either you liked it or you hated it. Or you live under a rock.
What took me by surprise upon watching Descendants for the first (and honestly, last) time was the presence of songs. “Oh, they’re making this a musical, cool,” I thought. Not cool. Definitely not cool. The music in Descendants is kind of what makes the movie so bland and forgettable. Even with High School Musical director Kenny Ortega at the helm, the music fails to hit the right notes.
The soundtrack opens with the ridiculously cheesy song “Rotten to the Core.” People, I introduce you to a little something called autotune. The only thing I’ll say about this hip-hop/dance/pop song – with half the lyrics spoken – is “WHY?”.
However, things pick up musically and we can thank Kristin Chenoweth for the shamelessly Broadway themed “Evil Like Me.” Chenoweth is completely in her element, belting out and hitting notes with ease. It’s the “Mother Knows Best 2.0” you never knew you wanted. Still struggling to emulate High School Musical, the song “Did I Mention” features old school rock and roll and modern teen pop blended together. There’s nothing to write home about, but you’ll enjoy it if you liked Teen Beach Movie.
Those who watched Friday’s premiere agree on one thing: Dove Cameron absolutely sparkled as Mal. This status remains on the soundtrack too, as the song “If Only” proves to be the best of all. The heartfelt ballad soars and is sincerely delivered. It harkens back to classic Disney princess ballads like “Part of Your World” and “I Won’t Say I’m In Love” in terms of angst and emotion. It is, hands down, one of Disney Channel’s best songs in a long time. There’s also a reprise of the song, but it’s too short and pointless to even matter.
Beauty and the Beast fans have something of a treat in store, because there is a Disneymania-esque cover version of the classic song “Be Our Guest” on the soundtrack. The singing parts are serviceable, but when the hip-hop parts come in (with the lyrics left intact) get ready to cringe. Look, we’re all for Disney covers, but could we please do justice to the original? Finally, in the grand tradition of Disney Channel musicals, there’s a grand finale group song “Set It Off.” Yes, it’s the kind you can dance along to, even though it’s not a musically memorable song. Honestly, it makes me miss the “We’re All In This Together” days even more.
Teen star Shawn Mendes provides the obligatory end credits song “Believe,” which isn’t one of his best, but it’s quite alright. It does provide a pleasant background for the end credits montage/blooper reel. The album also contains several ‘bonus tracks,’ which are basically covers by some of the film’s stars and some additional pop songs. Sofia Carson (who plays Evie) delivers a fun version of “Rotten to the Core” which instantly makes you forget the original (in case you somehow didn’t already). Radio Disney starlet China Anne McClain gives us two songs, “Night Is Young” and “Good Is The New Bad” (which features Cameron and Carson). They’re both radio friendly songs that serve their purpose: background music for sleepovers. Finally, Felicia Barton provides the song “I’m Your Girl,” a pleasant, upbeat love song. No clue why this was included but, yeah, it’s fun enough.
The music is one of the weak links of the Descendants film and, unless you’re in the target audience (preteen girls), there isn’t much here for you. Even as a longtime Disney Channel musical fan, I found the songs weak, unnecessary, and tacked on. The film could have done just fine without songs. However, Dove Cameron’s “If Only” moment is reason enough to check out this soundtrack.
Check out our full Descendants movie review!
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes