The score to Disenchanted is a strange beast

After audiences first fell in love with Amy Adams’ Giselle in Disney’s Enchanted, they’ve been clamouring for a sequel. And, after 15 years of wait, that sequel finally came in the form of last year’s Disenchanted, a film that received a mixed reception across the board. One of the elements that picked up average plaudits were the new songs and music from Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz – the duo returned for this film after picking up three Oscar nods for Best Song for the original and they brought their magic back for this sequel.

Despite some weaker songs in the expanded mix, I’m at odds with the critics in that I think the music for Disenchanted is actually better than the original (even though the 2007 film contained the absolute classic that is ‘That’s How You Know’). The soundtrack album amplifies the lows and the highs of this new selection of music, but then it also contains some unusual presentation choices that render it not quite the essential album it should be.

People have been singing the praises of the villain song ‘Badder’

The bulk of the album is comprised of the songs, which make up ten of the 14 tracks. These follow the order of the film, meaning we start off slowly with ‘Andalasia’ and ‘The Magic of Andalasia’, both of which are ‘nothing songs’ on the album and used mainly for exposition purposes – you’d be hard-pressed to really remember either of them, but they do introduce a musical idea for the magical land that keeps creeping into the score. Sandwiched between the two is ‘Even More Enchanted’, a bouncy number that showcases Adams’ strong vocals.

I think things pick up past once the stage is set, with two songs entitled ‘Fairytale Life’ (before and after she makes a wish to transform her life with a wand of wishes). The first is a typical Menken ballad, and then it gives way to a fun song that truly recaptures that sense of Disney parody that made the original so good. Morgan, Robert and then the whole town joins in a fun song that combines fairy-tale jokes with references to classical Disney films in Schwartz’s lyrics. Sadly, though Morgan’s song ‘Perfect’ employs the same ballad style and features a superb performance by Gabriella Baldacchino, the lyrics here are somewhat generic.

People have been singing the praises of the villain song ‘Badder’, a duet between Adams and Maya Rudolph, but I don’t like it that much. Many of the lyrics are weak, particularly as they try to force a rhyme (comparing one of the women to the bladder is a low point), and Menken’s orchestration falls a little flat – the saxes try to be a little sultry and funny and manage neither. But the low is followed by the high, and Idina Menzel’s beautiful ballad ‘Love Power’, a song about memories and the impact of people on your life. The strings conjure up a sense of majesty, and listen to how Menzel holds that note at the end – it’s magical. A few reprises later, including a heart-breaking ‘Love Power’ reprise that might bring a tear to the eye, and a use of choruses in the final song to directly evoke the first.

The Disenchanted album is a strange beast

After the songs are through, we’ve a bit more music to come. The soundtrack to Enchanted contained almost all of the score, culminating in a fun suite that presented instrumental versions of the five songs. This soundtrack, by contrast, offers only a single piece of instrumental music – the aptly-titled ‘Disenchanted Score Suite’, which showcases some of the elements of Menken’s score. The instrumentation is lush, and about five minutes into the seven-minute track, there’s a beautiful swell that meshes strings with a chorus and is stunning to listen to. However, despite Menken’s wonderful scoring, this suite is largely centred around the Andalasia motif (with a little action music in between), and thus it fails to offer the cohesion that the earlier suite does.

Then, rather than more score music, we’re treated to two demos of songs cut from the film. The first, ‘Hard Time for Heroes’, expands the singing roles of the townspeople and would have fleshed out Robert’s subplot, while the second, ‘Something Different This Year’, adds depth to the romance between Morgan and Tyson that doesn’t exist in the film. Both are well-performed and interesting songs (I love a demo), but they’re strange artefacts to include on a first-release album, particularly when there’s room for more cues. They fare better than the final track, the end-credits version of ‘Love Power’ which ‘popifies’ the song, making the music more contemporary-sounding and stripping away much of the emotion as a result.

The Disenchanted album is a strange beast, with some songs rivalling the original and even the weaker ones picking up a lot of traction, but presented in a package that includes an unusual mix of extras. It’s still worth a listen, certainly, but it wouldn’t be surprising if you found yourself choosing to skip over half the album on a re-listen.


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