Disney, Music, Opinions, Soundtracks

‘Moana’ Soundtrack Review

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The wait is over! It’s been almost a week since Moana hit theaters and we have a bunch of new Disney songs to memorize. After the enormous success of Frozen, with its Broadway-type songs written by the married duo of Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Disney decided to repeat the formula and go for the biggest Broadway star of the moment. The choice was obvious: Hamilton composer, lyricist, and star Lin Manuel Miranda.

Besides being one of the biggest stars of the moment, Miranda was the perfect choice because of his deep love of Disney music. He even said once that The Little Mermaid was the reason he got into musical theater:

“When Sebastian the crab began singing a Caribbean calypso number in the middle of a Disney movie, my life has sort of never been the same since.” – Lin Manuel Miranda

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“I’d rather be shiiiiiny, like a treasure from a sunken pirate wreck.”

To make sure they respected and honored the culture they were representing, the entire Moana team did a ton of research, interviews, and trips to immerse themselves in the world they hoped to portray on screen. But not matter how much research you do, nothing compares to having someone who is authentically from that place, so Disney recruited Opetaia Foa’i, a Samoan musician, to help Miranda with the music.

The result, accompanied by the score by Mark Mancina, is absolutely delightful. It might take some people a while to get used to the new rhythms, since this is not as Broadway-ish as Frozen, but I firmly believe we will all be singing these tunes for years and years to come.

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“You’re welcome for that.”

The standard soundtrack features plenty of new songs. There are many that prominently feature Polynesian vocal groups and choirs, while others are the more traditional Disney songs that advance the plot and character. Those include “Where You Are,” a song – featuring Christopher Jackson (Hamilton) and Nicole Scherzinger – Moana’s parents sing to her about the island they live on; “How Far I’ll Go,” the classical “I want” song performed by Auli’i Cravalho; “We Know The Way,” composed by Foa’i and featuring vocals from Miranda; “You’re Welcome,” performed by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and a fan favorite for sure; “Shiny,” a deliciously evil song by Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Concords) that steals the show; and “I am Moana,” which made me cry even before seeing the movie.

The score by Mancina perfectly suits the movie and uses motifs from the songs to enhance the experience of watching it. Overall this is a fantastic soundtrack and absolutely worth your money. And for a few bucks more, you can get the Deluxe version, which includes some demo songs and, more interestingly, songs that didn’t make the movie. “More” (an early version of “How Far I’ll Go”) and “Unstoppable” (the proto “You’re Welcome”) are the standouts. If you’re obsessed with Disney music, and being a Rotoscoper reader chances are you are, this is definitely worth your money.

You can get the soundtrack on Amazon.

So, what do you think of the music? What are some of your favorite songs from the Moana soundtrack? Do you know the lyrics to them all by now?

Edited by: Hannah Wilkes

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About Pablo Ruiz

Pablo Ruiz is a Colombian filmmaker. Movies like Toy Story, The Lion King and Aladdin made him fall in love with the art form and now he hopes to dedicate his life to telling stories, hopefully for Pixar. Some of his ambitions are making a movie as emotionally impacting as Toy Story 3, meeting JK Rowling and petting a million dogs. Follow him on Twitter (@PabloRV7).
  • I have heard mixed things about the soundtrack. I heard a lot praise Miranda, while others think the soundtrack is a bit mixed. I heard a few of the songs, and How Far I’ll Go is definitely my favourite of them all.

    • Jackie Wong

      Me too. I didn’t like ‘Shiny’, I’m 30 and my mom thinks grown people shouldn’t sit in theatres with little kids.😑We went with the kids, though. I liked the ‘Where we are’, ‘I’m Moana and ‘How far I go.’

  • Phoenix Wright

    My only real complaint with the soundtrack was that I wish that there were just like 1 or 2 more musical numbers

  • I went into this movie wanting to absolutely love the soundtrack. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t blown away by it. I guess I fall into the group of people who have mixed feelings about the soundtrack as a whole.

    I had heard before hearing it, that ‘How Far I’ll Go’ was going to be the next ‘Let It Go.’ I thought the song fell a little short of it’s potential. The song starts off nice, but I feel it ended way before it had a chance to shine. I feel it needed a bridge to build the song up further and then a final chorus/finale. Imagine if ‘Let it Go’ ended right after the second chorus, before we get to hear her sing, “My power flurries through the air into the ground..” that whole bridge that builds the song up into a big finish. If that was the case, ‘Let it Go’ would’ve felt lacking. That’s the case with ‘How Far I’ll Go’ for me, anyway.

    I will say though that the reprises of ‘How Far I’ll Go’ are some of the best songs on the album with the final reprise ‘I Am Moana’ being the best. That song has it all and brought the emotional connection I was looking for the whole movie. It starts off small and then slowly builds adding more layers and elements, from instruments to the ancestors chanting. It builds itself up and finishes huge with Moana finally embracing who she is, “I am Moana!” If only more songs in the movie were like that this soundtrack would have been something special.

    The worst song in the entire film had to be ‘Shiny.’ Oh boy. The moment this song started playing in the movie I was instantly removed. It felt so out of place and was completely jarring. It felt like it belonged in another movie and did nothing to further the plot. My opinion is that they could removed that scene entirely and the movie would’ve flowed just was well and maybe even better. For me, it brought the entire movie to a halt. I know which scene I’ll be skipping when I get the Blu-ray.

    The other songs were just fine. I like the ones with the Polynesian lyrics, the first one, for me, being the best. The second one, I think, sounds too much like the first song, but still has a nice melody. ‘You’re Welcome’ was a good song. It was fun and I felt it really showed Maui’s character. There were some bright spots on the album including ‘I Am Moana,’ which I mentioned before, and ‘Know Who You Are’. I really wish ‘Know Who You Are’ was longer since it was such a cool song and amazing moment in the film.

    So there it is, my review of the soundtrack. For me it had it’s hits and misses and didn’t quite seal the deal for me. I’ll definitely listen to it for it’s bright spots, but more than likely I’ll skip over some tracks to get to the ones that really move me. I think the music had so much potential, and I feel that it didn’t quite live up to it. I know most of you won’t agree with that opinion, but it’s just my opinion.

    • Anonymous

      I felt mostly the same way. I like your reasoning for How Far I’ll Go seeming kind of incomplete; I was thinking there was something missing, and now I have to agree, it does seem to lack a bridge! The sudden key change makes it seem rushed.

  • Marielle

    I especially love the contributions made by Opetaia Foa’i and the other members of his Oceanic music group Te Vaka. It’s exactly what the movie needed. They are very talented!

  • ITS ON MY CHRISTMAS LIST!! But man listening to them by myself and then after seeing them with the movie was just so much fun!! I personally love the music (despite Lin Manuel writing them and he’s just AMAZING!!) I cried through practically 3 of the songs in the movies and it really it a core with me, specifically the “How Far I’ll Go (Reprise)” weirdly enough but it was just so powerful to me and kinda made me relate a bit
    Sooooo cannot wait to have this soundtrack in my collection :))))

    • Ryan Prieto

      It is a fantastic Soundtrack, it even has a bunch of outtakes, and rough audio of the songs before their final forms. Also some of the songs oriented in different ways.

  • “Shiny” was my favorite song. Another great villain song and I love the David Bowie feel of it. “I Am Moana” was my second favorite. Very powerful and emotional. The rest like “We Know The Way”, “You’re Welcome” and “Where You Are” were decently enjoyable. The rest were forgettable and that includes “How Far I’ll Go”. It’s not a bad song, but it’s the typical empowerment song and it lacks that extra punch that made “Let It Go” a classic.

    • Neni Viani

      New Movie 2016-2017

      Moana Online Link : OW.LY/5MkO306RXBg

      HD quality…

  • Jamie Nelson

    I rarely leave a Disney movie without a new song or two pleasantly stuck in my head, but this time, sadly, I did. I went in with the highest of hopes and was somewhat disappointed. The songs weren’t bad, per se, but I just didn’t enjoy them the way I’d found myself enjoying, even enthralled with, songs from Disney movies past. The images and story were beautiful, though. Really fantastic.