Five Burning Questions: ‘Encanto’ Soundtrack Takes Over the Charts - DMT NEWS

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Five Burning Questions: ‘Encanto’ Soundtrack Takes Over the Charts

One of the first major chart success stories of early 2022 has emerged in the form of the soundtrack to Encanto, the computer-animated Disney movie about the magical Family Madrigal that debuted in late November and arrived on the Disney+ streaming platform over the holidays.

After debuting at a modest No. 197 on the Billboard 200 albums chart in early December, the film’s soundtrack has leapt up the chart in subsequent weeks, and jumps from No. 7 to No. 1 on the listing this week — the first soundtrack to top the chart since Frozen II in 2019. Meanwhile, the film’s breakout hit has proven to be the foreboding “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” credited to cast members Carolina Gaitán, Mauro Castillo, Adassa, Rhenzy Feliz, Diane Guerrero and Stephanie Beatriz (as well as the “Encanto Cast”), which catapults from No. 50 all the way to No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week.

Will “Bruno” break the nearly three-decade streak of Disney hit songs failing to top the Hot 100? And what can the folks behind future blockbuster soundtracks learn from Encanto‘s slow-building success? Billboard staffers discuss these questions and more below.

1. The Encanto soundtrack finishes its climb to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart this week, after having originally debuted at No. 197 back in December. At a time when few albums and fewer soundtracks make any kind of slow climb to No. 1, to what do you attribute it having caught fire like this?

Katie Atkinson: While the music is great on its own, it’s even better after seeing the equally fantastic movie. This chart climb started after the film moved from theaters (which are still struggling to recover from the pandemic) to Disney+, so the audience just made a huge leap, too. As the mom of a 4- and 1-year-old, we’ve listened almost exclusively to the Encanto soundtrack as we say an annual post-Christmas farewell to our festive friends Mariah & Brenda.

Stephen Daw: I was not very aware of Encanto until Christmas weekend, when it had finally dropped on Disney+ after it’s 30-day theatrical release. All of a sudden, people were asking me if I had seen it, TikTok would not stop talking about somebody named “Bruno,” and it felt like it was everywhere very quickly. I’m still not sure if it was guerrilla marketing, or just Disney fans really fawning over this movie, but it worked and I ended up watching it that week. After watching Encanto, I get it — Lin-Manuel Miranda’s songwriting is as sharp as ever, and each of the songs are catchy and fun and moving. Even I couldn’t resist blasting “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” on repeat for a few days after watching the film.

Jason Lipshutz: Pretty simple to me: Encanto premiering on Disney+ on Dec. 24 after a 30-day exclusive theatrical run. Encanto enjoyed a successful box office run, but once the film became available to stream in millions of homes over the holidays, its popularity skyrocketed, as did interest in its soundtrack. Had Encanto been released directly to Disney+, its soundtrack likely wouldn’t have had to climb quite as slowly or steeply, but since the film became way more accessible one month after its release, the 197-to-1 jump makes sense.

Kristin Robinson: The holiday season proves to be a really difficult time to promote traditional pop music releases every year because consumers are more interested in spending time with family and friends than in their usual grind. So much of our typical music consumption is during our commute to work, while working out at the gym, during a party with friends, etc., but the holidays are different. With jobs and gyms out of the way, we are often cutting our regular consumption of music and replacing it with safe, family friendly songs that suit the whole family. This is precisely why Encanto’s soundtrack has done well as typical chart toppers flounder.

Andrew Unterberger: The timing was certainly inspired here — not just because of the holiday season, but because of the lack of competition from non-holiday-themed releases at the end of the year. Not everyone wants to to spend their family gatherings watching A Christmas Story or It’s a Wonderful Life (or listening to the Amazon Holiday Essentials playlist) for the 500th time, so  give ’em some secular content with good buzz that works for the whole family and there’s a big market there waiting to consume it. Let TikTok provide the streaming accelerant, and you’re on your way to blockbuster success.

2. The top-performing song from the soundtrack thus far is easily “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” which shoots to No. 5 on the Hot 100 this week — a very unusual sort of breakout song for a Disney movie, given the plot-heavy nature of its lyrics and the cast-recording nature of its performance. Why do you think this was the song to really capture such a wide streaming audience? 

Katie Atkinson: This song has the witty and speedy wordplay Lin-Manuel is known for, as well as Les Mis levels of vocal stacking, so it bears repeat listens just to hear how it’s all pulled off. It’s also the peak of the movie’s core mystery (Who is Bruno? Where is Bruno? We need to talk about Bruno!), so it hits especially hard in the context of the film. And then on a very simple mom level, every toddler’s favorite word is “no,” so they picked up that chorus very quickly.

Stephen Daw: Of all of the numbers throughout Encanto, none of them comes even close to having the earworm quality that “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” does. Everything in the song — the cha cha melodies, the impeccable vocals from the cast, and the intertwining verses immediately come to mind — is built to force you to remember it. While it’s certainly interesting that a solo number like “Surface Pressure” or “Waiting for a Miracle” didn’t have quite the same bubbling-up effect, it’s undeniable when you listen to the song itself (and have the context to understand what it all means).

Jason Lipshutz: “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” is the rare Disney song that’s plot-dependent and ensemble-driven, and also the best song within its respective animated musical. Standout Disney songs are typically solo ballads that can stand apart from the story in which it is woven, but “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” crackles, a multi-part jam built around a refrain, “We don’t talk about Bruno, no, no!,” that’s fun to sing even if you have no clue who Bruno is. The reality is, most listeners probably do know who he is at this point, since Encanto has been available to stream and morph into a homebound phenomenon for a few weeks now.

Kristin Robinson: Children! I think we forget how big of consumers kids can be, and how obsessive they are when they find something they enjoy. If your kid loves a song, they will listen to it a million times in a row without any ounce of shame. Adults just don’t act like that (I mean, at least not in public!)

Andrew Unterberger: Pretty simple: It’s by far the most memorable song from the movie. That’s partly because it’s the musical number that the entire movie seems to building to — it’s title phrase is snapped by multiple characters in the film’s dialogue, mostly without explanation, before the song and its lyrics provide the “why” payoff. And it’s also just because the melody of that title phrase is an undeniable brain-sticker. No one’s gonna be performing all seven or eight parts in an Idol audition anytime soon, but it’s the song you’re must likely to leave the movie humming.

3. While “Bruno” is the top-streamed song from the soundtrack, Billboard reported last week that the only song from the film’s soundtrack submitted for Oscar consideration was the Sebastián Yatra-performed “Dos Oruguitas.” Was that the right choice to you, and do you think it will be nominated? 

Katie Atkinson: I think it will definitely be nominated, as the lone representative from the most high-profile Disney musical of the year, but I think “Bruno” would have had a better chance of winning than the Spanish-language ballad does. It’s a bummer to think that just in 2018, “La La Land” was able to pull off a double nomination in the category — for “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” and eventual winner “City of Stars” — but the cautious route led to Encanto‘s biggest hit being left out. I would have made a case for “Surface Pressure” as a nominee too, because the Oscars value a song playing a part in a film’s narrative (which is why credit songs are a hard sell), and Jessica Darrow’s struggle as the strong sister in the Family Madrigal is perfectly set to music in the unrelenting song.

Stephen Daw: For the Oscars, “Dos Oruguitas” was definitely the correct choice of those in the film. “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” is fun and funny and is certainly having its moment on the charts, but “Dos Oruguitas” carries a level of emotional resonance and beautiful sentimentality that “Bruno” does not. Say what you will about the best original song, but they sure love a heartwarming ballad. As far as a nomination, yes, “Dos Oruguitas” will absolutely receive one — the movie is having too much cross-cultural success for the Academy to snub them.

Jason Lipshutz: “Dos Oruguitas” is absolutely gorgeous — so gentle and understated in its beauty that it’s nearly distracting from the story when it shows up in Encanto. “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” is the best song on the soundtrack, but “Dos Oruguitas” is its own type of show-stopper that I can understand why it was selected as the Oscars submission, and hope it snags a nomination.

Kristin Robinson: I wonder if Disney was surprised by the success of “Bruno.” Picking the song for awards consideration is a guessing game based on what the internal team thinks people will like best, especially since this film came out so late in the year. They didn’t have time to mull over what audiences were attracted to before submitting their selection in the way other films with earlier release dates did. I think that they just guessed the wrong one!

Andrew Unterberger: It’s definitely the Oscar-iest song in the film, even as one of the few sung entirely in Spanish — and it is quite lovely, with a sensitive performance from Latin pop star Sebastián Yatra. That said, I think you’re always safer going with the song folks like the most from your movie, so I might’ve still opted for “Bruno” — or maybe the more conventionally poppy “Surface Pressure,” also a top 20 Hot 100 solo hit currently for cast member Jessica Darrow. But “Dos Oruguitas” should still get nominated for the Oscar, and might even have a decent shot at winning.

4. It’s been nearly 30 years since a song from an animated Disney musical captured the top spot on the Hot 100, when Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle’s recording of “A Whole New World” from Aladdin hit No. 1 in March 1993. Do you think “Bruno” or another of the Encanto songs will break the streak — and which non-Encanto Disney song from the 29 years since are you most outraged at having been denied the top spot?

Katie Atkinson: I don’t see “Bruno” climbing all the way to the top. It doesn’t feel like it will be the cultural phenomenon that “Let It Go” was back in 2014 – so I guess that’s my answer to the second part of the question, too. It does make me wonder, however, whether the Frozen hit could have gotten there if streaming were as popular then as it is now.

Stephen Daw: Look, I’ve made it clear that I really like “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” — I love it, even. But I do not see a future for this song at the No. 1 spot on the Hot 100. As “Easy on Me” enters its eighth week at No. 1 (after briefly relenting so Mariah could bring us some Christmas cheer in the top slot), with “Stay” continuing to, well, “stay” just behind it at No. 2, “Bruno” would have to conquer some streaming behemoths in order to take that top spot. As far as outrage — it’s from before 1993, but it will never make any sense whatsoever to me that “Part of Your World” not only was denied the top spot, but was even denied an entry on the Hot 100. It is, to this day, the quintessential Disney “I Want” song (sorry “Let It Go”), and it reigns supreme as Howard Ashman & Alan Menken’s greatest musical offering in their extensive history with Disney.

Jason Lipshutz: Yep, I’d bet “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” gets there. The song is already at No. 5 on the Hot 100, and it feels like the Encanto craze is just beginning — when it comes to a months-long, Frozen-esque phenomenon, we’re at the tip of the iceberg (pun intended). “Bruno” could linger in the top five but be blocked from the top spot, yet I don’t foresee a gargantuan hit keeping it away from No. 1, which means we’ll finally have another Disney chart-topper. As for a hit that should have reached No. 1, “Let It Go” from Frozen is already a pantheon-level Disney single, and while the cold doesn’t bother me anyway, its too-low No. 5 peak on the Hot 100 certainly does.

Kristin Robinson: I don’t think it’s too likely “Bruno” or any of the other Encanto songs will be able to get to No. 1, since with big new albums from The Weeknd and Gunna impacting the charts next week, the top of the Hot 100 is about to get a lot more crowded and competitive. Also, c’mon … no love for Phil Collins’ “You’ll Be in My Heart” from Tarzan in 1999?

Andrew Unterberger: “Bruno” has got a shot, for sure — any song that moves from No. 50 to No. 5 on the chart in one week generally does — but it’ll have its work cut out for it displacing Adele, who has a massive airplay advantage that the fairly radio-unfriendly “Bruno” is unlikely to cut into much. Still, the song’s streaming supremacy has been pretty steady for the past few weeks, and the upcoming award season can only really help; I’d say it’s about 50/50 to capture the top spot for at least a week or two before all is said and done. And while it’d only be a slightly more conventional chart-topper than “Bruno,” I would’ve been happiest to see the Dwayne Johnson-sung (and once again, Lin-Manuel Miranda-penned) “You’re Welcome” from 2016’s Moana conquer the Hot 100; it’s the funniest and most likeable Disney song of the 21st century.

5. What lessons, if any, do you think the Encanto breakout success can teach record labels and/or film studios about the way movie soundtracks can or should be rolled out/promoted at this point in the streaming era? 

Katie Atkinson: Hire Lin-Manuel Miranda? Seriously though, just like Hamilton and Moana before it, these songs are begging to be relistened to multiple times to pick up every lyric and plot point. If Stephen Sondheim’s career were just getting started, he would also be a streaming favorite.

Stephen Daw: Never undervalue the importance of a good hook. There is certainly much to be said here for fans being driven en masse to see this movie once it dropped on Disney+, therefore driving streams of the album in turn. But had “Bruno” and much of the rest of the album not been as catchy and infectious as it was, it never would have had the same effect — it certainly didn’t happen with other movie musicals released in 2021 like Tick, Tick, Boom!Dear Evan Hansen, or even LMM’s other big project, In the Heights.

Jason Lipshutz: Animated musicals that dominate pop culture for weeks on end can still happen — they just need to happen in the streaming era. Perhaps Disney knew all along that Encanto was going to be massive, setting it up for a limited theatrical run to plan for an even bigger impact upon its Disney+ arrival. But increasingly, labels and studios will need to turn those streaming-service debuts into at-home events, especially as we continue to navigate the pandemic and theaters slowly work to call back moviegoers. Encanto has exploded not just because it’s great, but because we can watch it again and again, and stream its songs over and over, with streaming subscriptions many of us already have set up. That sort of ubiquity will change how these phenomenons occur as compared to pre-streaming cultural crazes, but don’t dull their impact a bit.

Kristin Robinson: I think it proves that children stream, and they should be taken seriously as a demographic. Children’s films should be more thoughtful about their roll outs and recognize that a good soundtrack is not just about furthering the film, it’s also a money maker in and of itself.

Andrew Unterberger: I think the success of “Bruno” in particular shows that the Big Ballad-forward model of Disney/musical soundtrack promotion might be getting a little archaic — no point in putting all your resources into such a show-stopper (or getting a current pop A- or B-lister to do a re-recording of it for pop radio) when an unpredictable hit like “Bruno” might end up emerging as the viewer favorite.



via https://www.DMT.NEWS

Billboard Staff, Khareem Sudlow