Moana’s Soundtrack Analysis
The new Disney movie Moana came out the week 23rd of November, but I got an advance look at the soundtrack and here’s what I think of it! i.e. what you should look for first, auli’i Cravalho provides stunning vocals as the title role for the Polynesian Disney princess very impressive and even comparable to many voices on Broadway impressive for a young island girl. She is Hawaiian, and only sixteen years old. She was the very last person in a long line of girls to audition for the role.
Alongside Cravalho is Dwayne “the rock” Johnson who is half Samoan. Johnson is surprisingly good at a lot of things, for example, wrestling and acting. However, singing is not on that list. Though he is not terrible. In musical theater, we have this term: “character singer” we use for people who aren’t the most melodic in their singing but still sing just well enough to pass for a certain character. Think josh Gad as Olaf in frozen. He’s not got quite the melodious voice of Kristin bell or Idina Menzel. But I digress. Johnson’s one solo song, “You’re Welcome is very harmonic, to say the least, and what you would call a character song. The rock does it just about as well as you would think though I personally prefer the version covered by Jordan Fisher on the soundtrack.
Now let’s get to the main part, “How Far I’ll Go” arguably the best song in the movie. Right next to “I am Moana” the emotional finale reprise of the same song. Yes, how far I’ll go is the big “I want” (Disney princess) song of the movie. Here’s another term from musical theater/Disney movies and “I want” song is the song in a musical where the main character stops to tell you what they, well, want characters in musicals express themselves in the song because music is inherently an emotional medium. Think about it. Every other character in a Disney movie explains what they want through song. Think Ariel-”the little mermaid “her song; “Part of Your World” is pretty self-explanatory, what she wants more than anything in the world is to be part of prince Eric’s “world” and so from the song it seems what Moana wants more than anything is to leave the island and find herself in the world which isn’t really a spoiler for anyone who grew up on an island or really, a small town; now, I haven’t seen the movie yet, but Disney has already answered in an interview that Moana will not have a love interest much like her fellow princess Merida from Brave and anyway more about the song. So, in the song Moana, she does this thing very often where she jumps from a note to the note right above it in music theory. Moana makes in her big song are because of a concept called session which happens when a chord is one note away from resolving to the “home” chord the main chord of the song. So, from a music theory viewpoint, it seems like Moana is trying to resolve her inner tension. Also, lyrically Moana goes back to singing about going back to the water which is true if you live near the sea, it always calls you back. And much in the tradition of musical theater, there are several reprises a reprise is where the character sings her song again later in their journey from the viewpoint of his or her new position. On their emotional quest. In this, we have two reprises, one actual reprise and another at the end when Gramma Tala Asks her who she is she answers with a very emotional reprise of her song while answering she is Moana
In conclusion, the music from the new Disney movie Moana Won’t disappoint as much as it will impress. My only issue is the inclusion of a version of “how far I’ll go” by Alessia Cara of “here” fame as the end credits and promotional song for the movie. Traditionally this “radio version” of a Disney classic doesn’t bode well with fans for in comparison it just doesn’t compare to the normal musical version of the song. Examples include Demi Lovato’s version of “Let it Go” from Frozen, and peabo Bryson’s version of “A Whole New World” from Aladdin, and Christina Aguilera’s version of “Reflection” from Mulan. And a personal worst of mine is Michael Bolton’s version of “go the Distance” from Hercules well, here’s some food for thought. Alessia Cara is actually not a bad singer, and her version of the song is not bad but people will hate on her invariably just because she’s the singer for this one. Have an open mind when you listen to her version? It is not terrible. Contributed by Francis Benavente
Also published on Medium.