In my review of MOANA, I praised the picture as being “a culturally beautiful creation, unlike anything we’ve seen probably since THE LION KING.” In that grand tradition, the music is equally as impressive, rich, and engaging. From meaningful solos to catchy upbeat numbers, the soundtrack runs the gamut of emotions.
And of course, the music has become an obsession. Sure, for a Disney picture it’s not very hard for that to happen but there’s something distinctly special about the music in MOANA.
The soundtrack features seven original songs, plus two reprises, as well as two end-credit versions of songs. It all comes together thanks in part to a trio of magical music makers: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa‘i. They respectively gave life to the lyrics, score, and authentic cultural influences of the soundtrack which is percussive and choral and orchestral, but then also pop.
The enchanting “An Innocent Warrior” is like a lullaby introducing us to to Moana and her special relationship with the ocean, we quickly get the sense for the beautiful sounds of the islands that were so carefully crafted for this project.
“Where You Are” is unmistakably a Lin Manuel Miranda influenced song. No, it’s not exactly Hamilton on the Sea but the rhythm, lyrics, and flow–colored by a fun and upbeat music–help establish a fast paced story about Moana’s people and their reliance on their island home to provide everything they need in life from the food to fill their bellies to the clothes on their backs.
“How Far I’ll Go” gets a few beautiful reprises in the soundtrack which is fitting because it’s a classic new Disney princess song. Following in the tradition of songs like “Part Of Your World” and “When Will My Life Begin” it’s another fantastic “want” song that establishes a main theme for the character of Moana. The reprises are effective and used oh so perfectly as we follow Moana and her evolution in the story. It’s a memorable song that should promise to have staying power thanks to its iconic sound.
If there’s the ONE song that you will walk away humming it’s the uplifting “We Know the Way”. Performed by Lin Manuel Miranad and Opetaia Foa’i, it works as a central theme for the entire film. It is, in essence, the “Circle of Life” for the film and equally as epic and enchanting. Aue, Aue!
Sometimes a Disney film is cast with leads who are not singers. “You’re Welcome” is the song that gives Dwayne Johnson his solo in the spotlight and it works surprisingly well. With a mega catchy hook–and animated in a fun fantastically colorful style like “Just Can’t Wait To Be King”–the song establishes the character of Maui. We learn a bit of his mythical history as a demigod and unravel a bit of his cheeky personanlity. We aren’t talking about Grammy awards here for this one but it certainly earns is place on the soundtrack as one of the other most memorable tunes in the roster; once which we should expect to hear in Disney Stores, Disney hotel elevators, and while on hold with a Disney representatives for quite some time.
If there’s one song that sorta tilts your head a little it’s the fabulously 70s-inspired “Shiny” performed by Jemaine Clement. While the song certainly adds to the musical variety of the soundtrack’s offerings, it comes from a character who–while important–is not all that integral to the overall story line. In essence, it works as a pre-request villain’s song which would have been great had the character who sings it–crabby old Tamotoa–were actually a primary villain. This one gets a pass just because it does offer some relevance to the story in that it offers one possible path for Moana to take as she strives to find her way.
“I am Moana” is not just the name of this character defining song but is also the one line that brings all the chills. It’s that “cold never bothered me anyway” moment for the character and it’s belty, big, and beautiful. Auli‘i Cravalho has a wonderful meekness and strength in her voice that makes this song work so well. There’s bonus points for not only for featuring a reprise of her main theme “How Far I’ll Go” but also for using a line that plays homage to “We Know the Way” earlier in the film.
“Know Who You Are” is a melodic, mesmerizing tune that brings a climatic scene to its resolution. What could have been a big brash explosion of noise was instead done in the softest beautiful way. Love, as we have come time and again to realize, is the key to undoing evil.
“We Know the Way (finale)” is a wonderful song that brings the movie to a close. Book-ending the film, it’s a theme that fits well to highlight Moana’s journey. Aue, Aue, once more!
There’s also two “radio” edits of the film’s songs courtesy of Alessia Cara performing “How Far I’ll Go” and with Jordan Fisher and Lin-Manuel Miranda performing “You’re Welcome”. Both are suitable songs but neither really packs a lasting punch. I long for the day of the Disney singles that dominate the Billboard charts like “Whole New World” or “Beauty and the Beast.” We do not have that level of epic with these two songs.
Overall, the original motion picture soundtrack for MOANA is an undeniable most own for a Disney fan. With the 2-disc set offering up 40 tracks that include the original songs plus much of the score, it’s a great way to relive the film and its beautiful sound.
The MOANA SOUNDTRACK is available now.
You can give the full songs a listen courtesy of VEVO at the link below.