The Sounds of Pixar’s Brave

Since I was a kid, I’ve always had a thing for movie soundtracks. One of my first albums was probably Aladdin on cassette. I got it for Christmas, and I remember listening to it on repeat while sitting near our decorated tree in our living room. Then there was The Lion King soundtrack (still a cassette) I listened to during a vacation at the Jersey Shore. (They were always playing Elton John’s version of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” on the boardwalk — romantic times for tiny me. Kidding.)

This brings me all the way to Brave. I’ll admit I didn’t connect with any of the previews much until I heard the one with Scottish folk singer Julie Fowlis singing “Tha Mo Ghaol Air Aird A’ Chuain” (“My Love is on the High Seas”) towards the end. This is when I got goosebumps. This is when I got truly excited to see this film.

(Watch the whole thing, but the song comes up at 1:55.)

In the past, I don’t remember being so taken with music during a Pixar preview. Afterwards was always a different story — I adore Randy Newman, sometimes think the orchestrations from A Bug’s Life sound like an Stephen Sondheim musical, and I turn into a puddle when I hear “Married Life” from Up. (And how can I forget Peter Gabriel’s “Down to Earth” from WALL E?)

But I went into Brave on Saturday night totally aware of the music and wondering how well it would suit the film.

Much of the score by Patrick Doyle reminded me of the Tangled soundtrack (Alan Menken) especially one of my favorites, “Kingdom Dance”. The woodwinds in both bring to mind a European country feel.

But while I have been happy to discover Julie Fowlis, the use of “Touch the Sky” in an early scene felt too cliche. Of course, let’s use a powerful ballad as the princess runs through the woods on a horse. Sure, it was effective  but it seemed unPixar-like to cash in on a moment like that. It’s always a risk to have a singer interrupt the environment of an animated movie… sometimes it works (Tarzan) and sometimes it doesn’t (like here).

Perhaps my most anticipated moment was hearing “Learn Me Right” sung by UK musician Birdy with backup provided by Mumford & Sons, who also wrote the song. In true Estelle tradition, I didn’t know of Birdy’s existence until I downloaded The Hunger Games soundtrack back in March. My life is now complete. I am a full-fledged fan. (And since downloaded her album.) For being only 16, her unique voice is filled with such soul and maturity. She wrote “Just a Game” for The Hunger Games soundtrack, and not only do I listen to it on repeat, but I was immediately impressed with how perfectly it encompassed the relationships and horror of the book series and, ultimately, the movie.

Once Pixar wine and dined Mumford & Sons over at their studio (aka gave them a look at secret rooms and fed them sandwiches), the group took to work writing “Learn Me Right” and they knew they wanted a female to sing their song. They immediately thought of Birdy and she accepted.

Isn’t she super cute? Here’s the song from the soundtrack — it’s played over the final scenes and the credits. In my mind, perfect timing.

Birdy: “I love it because it tells a story. Although it has a lot of emotion, it’s also very upbeat and you want to dance to it, which is why it works so well.”

Mumford & Sons crafted a song that lyrically and melodically sums up the Brave: “We will run and scream / You will dance with me / We’ll fulfill our dreams / And we’ll be free / We will be who we are / And they’ll heal our scars / Sadness will be far away.”

If you’ve read the blog before or any of my Twitter feeds, you’ve probably seen how important park audio is to my park experience. It’s the same thing with movies — they set the mood and long when the movie is over, the music helps you to remember those particular scenes in a film and brings you back.

Brave‘s soundtrack, rich with Scottish vibes, showcases some fun and up and coming artists and was a great accompaniment to a lovely film.

Music shopping >>
(Buy the soundtrack here.)
(Birdy’s self-titled album.)
(The Hunger Games soundtrack.)
(Mumford & Sons album.)

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