Archive for category Music
With Frozen blowing up box offices and “Let It Go” erupting from the mouths of children (and adults) everywhere, it seems that there is small but noticeable interest in music in animation. Once considered a time-wasting trope that dotted Disney hand-drawn films, a tolerable exercise in audience patience, now seem to making a powerful resurgence, in TV shows and films alike. There were a few years where songs were on their way out – Toy Story nixed them, and Shrek actively called them out on their uselessness. Now expect to see them all over the place.
That all being said, there are a few songs out there that we ought to give more love to, whether it be the surprising craftsmanship, the entertaining performance, the perfect mood-setting, or just an overall catchiness. For this list I try to look outside of Disney’s oeuvre, although there are some of them here. I also try to focus on songs that aren’t discussed or overplayed, and have a unique quality beyond being designed for a sing-a-long. And of course, it’s personal, but I will try to explain why I like them. So, here we go:
10) Frozen – “Fixer-Upper”
The trolls in Frozen are somewhat problematic; even through they’re part of the original fairy tale, they really add nothing to the plot, and there is a creepy vibe to this song, a message that seems to run counter to the film’s general idea of a woman’s agency being beyond getting the guy. Yet “Fixer-Upper” works because its rhythmic quality is catchy, and its goofy lyrics keep it from becoming too forceful. It kinda reminds me of the Fraggle Rock theme song, with specific beats designed for specific lines. I personally think it’s better than “Let it Go.”
9) An American Tail: Fivel Goes West – “The Girl You Left Behind”
So it’s hard to really get a sense of this song since the animators decided to stage the Fivel chase sequences around the music, drowning out the Western/Country instrumentals and many of the sassy lyrics with the events of chase. Yet Tanya’s “debut” song is energetic and catchy, as the cats around her can attest to, and it’s energetic as all hell, even if the actual song has nothing to do with the film. It feels like a ol’ classic Western song by way of a full orchestra, which works better than it should. It’s a wonder more symphonies don’t channel old music and retool them for Radio City Music Hall.
8) The Spongebob Squarepants Movie – “The Best Day Ever”
I’m cheating here. “The Best Day Ever” is actually from an episode of Spongebob Squarepants of the same name. It was simply replayed during the movie’s end credits, yet for some reason, it works so much better there, mainly because it’s a stupidly fun denouement to a stupidly fun movie. It takes it its time with the lyrics and letting the simple guitar riff and drum beat carry it, and while Spongebob’s voice can be annoying, his words can’t help but make you smile a little bit. There’s a bit of a Beach Boys quality to it – which is obvious in retrospect. Modelling a song from a band known for its “perfect” beach music would be exactly how you’d tackle a song involving talking sea critters.
7) Cats Don’t Dance – “Big and Loud”
I will always look for excuses to post anything about the underrated Cats Don’t Dance. It’s such a fun, sincere, enjoyable movie that was hurt by bad marketing. That being said, I will admit that, for a movie defined by its 1950s Hollywood aesthetic, the music isn’t that good – but part of me thinks that’s by design, since it’s more about invoking a specific sensibility – the Merrie Melody short – than selling out its soundtrack. Yet “Big and Loud” is designed for the stage. Performed by Darla Dimple in a bid to manipulate Danny, “Big and Loud” is both a send up to the over-the-top performances of ridiculous set pieces as well as pointed satire calling out its superficiality, especially performed by the film’s antagonist. The reprise, which gives a more sinister edge to it, signs that satire in blood.
6) A Goofy Movie – “After Today”
Buzzfeed seems to have a hard-on for this film, which is fine, except they keep ignoring the film’s more important moment – the dark, confrontational hot tub scene between Goofy and Pete. Yes, Powerline’s mid-90s R&B-stylized songs work so well in the movie’s context, leaving a generation to wonder why there’s no “official” Powerline album, but it’s the opening montage “After Today” that has stood the test of time. A rallying cry for summer vacation and all the “freedom” it entails, “After Today” surges by on energy and commitment alone. And if the animated version for some reason turns you off, there’s always the, uh, live-action remake.
5) Anastasia – “Journey to the Past”
There’s a sad desperation to Anastasia, Fox’s attempt to muscle in on the Disney Princess market. Even though the movie is fairly flat and lifeless, there is a Frozen-esque dedication to its songs, given an otherwise forgettable film a fairly decent soundtrack. “Journey to the Past” is like a proto-“Let it Go,” what with both women singing about their fates and desires in snow-capped locales. “Journey” is typical animated music fare but it builds nicely, with those jamming violin strings giving it a unique rhythm within its heavy orchestration that gives it a pep. It’s goose-bumps inducing, particularly that final line as the full scale of the song comes in full force.
4) South Park – “What Would Brian Boitano Do?”
“Blame Canada” got the Oscar nomination, but “What Would Brian Boitano Do” is the best and catchiest song of a movie filled with them. South Park, particularly the movie, reminds the world that Trey Parker and Matt Stone are clever, crafty, and talented musicians, and this ridiculous non-sequitur song cue gives the four main characters their own moment of inspiration. Many people may miss the film’s overall putdown of animated films’ over-reliance on song cues, but that doesn’t mean South Park can’t relish in them. Also, it sounds remarkably similar to “The Girl You Left Behind,” which either means BLATANT PLAGIARISM or just an example of my taste in music.
3) Ferngully – “Toxic Love”
There’s really nothing about Ferngully worth discussing. It’s typical environment clap-trap, aggressively biased filmmaking that encourages the protection of our resources (not that this isn’t an important message, but it’s no excuse for a mediocre film). That being said, “Toxic Love” is a surprising standout, with Tim Curry’s amazing crooning skills to a bluesy soundtrack, singing a sexually-charged ode to pollution. Even Captain Planet would be taping his toes to this one, especially in the final refrain as the trumpets blare and the background vocals add to Curry’s voice. We know Curry can sing, but turning an anthropomorphic smog-guy into a one-hit wonder is another thing entirely.
2) The Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation – “Forever Young”
There isn’t much going on with The Care Bears, the greeting-cards-turned-children-mascots that were popular in the 80s. Overall cutsey and cuddly, the only interesting angle was their “care meter” – if too many kids stopped caring, their world was destroyed. Odd. The movies aren’t much better, but the second one ended with this remarkably powerful ballad by Carol Parks, a musician known for her marriage to Dean Parks. “Forever Young” is perfectly 80s, but rather understated, particularly for this kind of film. It’s not a movie about passing down the “Care Bears legacy,” but the song, with its simple machine-produced beats and fake-instrumentals, as paired to the surprisingly poignant montage, creates a small piece of crafty work. Carol never oversings her lines, and the addition of the kids and adult choir lets the song end nicely. The electric guitar is unnecessary, but like I said, perfectly 80s.
1) The Brave Little Toaster – “Worthless”
Honestly, we should be talking about the music in The Brave Little Toaster more often, mainly because it’s so unique and quite unlike any animated film’s soundtrack out there. It feels experimental; its unrefined quality actually adds to the charm. And while “Cutting Edge” and “It’s A B-Movie” are specifically creepy-yet-enjoyable mood-setters, “Worthless” is by far the strongest, with aggressive piano and trumpet work, creating an angry and depressing homage to country music. The combination of multiple vocal styles gives it an everyman quality, leaving viewers contemplating their own legacy. It’s dark, it’s scary, it’s good.
Welcome back to Tumblr Tuesday! Nice selection of stuff today.
— I am always amused by black people being unamused by white people:
— What people tell you about college in high school is bullshit:
— Brass Instruments 101:
— Disney’s comments that animating pretty women is hard is bullshit when looked at through the scope of the company’s past productions:
— Speaking of which, this post breaks down how this supposed difficulty is a product of the current, stifling animation style:
— And finally, an actual native Hawaiian uses Lilo and Stitch to tell wannabe cultural advocates to STFU:
In the past few weeks, I’ve received a number of hits and views due to some wonderful connections I’ve made through Twitter and emails. To which I say: welcome! Thanks for the wonderful comments and observations.
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