‘We’re not talking about Bruno:’ The music from Encanto’s viral TikTok hit
Last week, the song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from Disney’s new sleeper hit Encanto outmoded FrozenThe smash hit “Let It Go” became the most successful Disney single since 1995. The song, a classic musical theater ensemble number, is a lively, layered salsa about a creepy uncle and his habit of telling misfortune. and sadness. prophecies.
Because it leans heavily on the context of the musical, “Bruno” bears little resemblance to more typical Disney headliners like “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “Colors of the Wind,” which were intentionally generic. in order to serve as marketable hits. for their movies. Rather, “Bruno” serves as a spokesperson for an adorably dysfunctional Colombian family and their darkest plot-related secrets.
But despite, or perhaps because of, its weirdness, “Bruno” topped them all, climbing even higher to land at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in its fourth week on the chart — making it the song Highest-Ranking Disney Since Aladdinin 1993, the hit “A Whole New World”.
So how did you this happen?
The simple answer probably isn’t as surprising as it would have been a few years ago: TikTok, the platform that has embraced and driven viral hits such as “The Box,” “Blinding Lights,” and what sea song, worked his magic on Encanto.
The platform fell hard for “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” in particular, although Lin-Manuel Miranda’s song score for the animated musical received plenty of love all around. “Surface Pressure,” arguably the film’s best song, sits at No. 10 on the Hot 100 as of January 25, making Encanto the first Disney film to produce multiple top 10 hits, while other songs from the film float lower in the chart. (Although “Bruno” is the film’s structural centerpiece, Disney chose a quieter ballad, “Dos Oruguitas,” as Encantofor the Oscar for best song.)
It’s not all that unusual for more nerdy, less pop Disney hits to become fan favorites. But the combination of “Bruno” being a complex ensemble number intended to convey plot rather than general themes, in addition to being a hit that aired primarily through TikTok rather than mainstream radio, thus spurring Encanto to become a hit. slow-burning sleeper for Disney, maybe needs a little explaining. So: Let’s talk about “Bruno”!
“Bruno” is a kind of modernized salsa. Salsa music – the broad description of a wide variety of predominantly Afro-Cuban musical styles – is built on rhythmic patterns that overlap to create the energetic beats of Latin songs. Each rhythmic pattern within these layers is distinct but equally important. This structure pairs extremely well with a common characteristic of musical theater in which each character has their own competing, even conflicting part within the same song. Miranda capitalizes on this affinity to great effect in “Bruno”, giving each character their own distinct perspective on Bruno. and their own individual rhythmic pattern to match. (They also get their own individualized choreography, based on Colombian folk dance and other Latin dances.) Musical theater influences on Miranda’s songwriting are evident here as throughout the film. But it’s the Latin stylistic influences that make the biggest impression.
Sergio Ospina Romero is a musicologist at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music and affiliated with its Latin American Music Center. He agrees that the layered structure is the key to “Bruno’s” success. It’s “simple” but “ingenious”, he told me, “a repetitive harmonic progression in C minor but which serves as a vehicle for different verses, each presenting a melody, a rhythm, a timbre, a texture , a character and, above all, a distinct personality.
“On top of that,” he added, “the song’s story is simplified enough to take us to a thematic climax which is mirrored by the song’s musical climax: the moment when all the verses previous ones reappear together simultaneously, almost like in a mash-up.
This structure in turn inadvertently makes “Bruno” a perfect song for TikTok virality because it’s broken down into subsections by character, all of which are individually catchy. So it’s easy for TikTok audiences to choose a different entry point into ‘Bruno’ – many people start at the beginning, while others find the ‘7ft frame, rats in the back’ of Camillo! pours or the sneaky section on Dolores’ tiptoes to be the highlight. Some just get their ears plugged by the whole song.
“Bruno” also served as a hook for Encanto himself, turning a movie that had a jittery and disappointing Thanksgiving outing, lukewarm critical reception and an atypical lack of support from Disney’s marketing team into a surprise hit. Between the Covid-19 lockdowns, the influx of families turning to Disney+ over the holidays, and the “Bruno” memetic attraction, Encanto became something of a New Year’s miracle. Significantly, before topping the Hot 100, “Bruno” topped the streaming charts – a clear sign that the internet was fueling the song’s success – while it gradually pushing Encanto towards a national profit of 100 million dollars during the month of January.
But if Bruno’s structure can contribute to its virality, the “mashup” feeling does not stop there. The song’s overall musicality features a mix of modernized Latin styles and sounds that remind Ospina Romero of other global Latin hits like “Despacito” and Marc Anthony’s 1999 “I Need to Know.” different types of engagement than these mainstream pop hits, Ospina Romero observed that it is also indicative of a broader modern aesthetic, “synthesizing a collective taste – almost global”. Much has been written about the song’s international popularity and efforts to translate it into dozens of languages. (I’d like to give special thanks to the Danish voice actor who sings “Now look at my face!” like his whole life is wasted.)
But the very qualities that make “Bruno” such a portable global hit may also be flaws, depending on your perspective.
“Films are inevitably American, based on American assumptions, American hopes, and american fears,” writes the Atlantic’s Tom McTague of Encanto and its spiritual and creative twin Moana, which features more or less the same creative team and similar themes of an undervalued girl restoring something broken about her family and culture.
In “Bruno,” Americanization translates into a cultural mix – which translates into an updated, pop version of traditional music. “The music takes significant advantage of 21st century models in the Latin pop music industry,” Ospina Romero told me, “especially those who have managed to reimagine and rework the traditional sound of Cuban ‘guajiras’. and the Cuban “son” according to modern pop sensibilities (read ‘Anglo’).”
The result is something that first disappointed him when he first heard the songs of Encanto. “When I first saw the film, I was disappointed with the music as a whole, and I took the opportunity to put forward some really cool Colombian beats, which are barely hinted at. [at] and somewhat inauthentically stated, such as vallenato (in ‘The Family Madrigal’) and bambuco (in ‘Waiting on a Miracle’).
As for “Bruno” in particular, “it’s not traditional Colombian music at all, except for the cumbia dance moves of Pepa and Félix (quite funny for a Miami-style Latin beat) and, more importantly, again, for the enormous cultural significance that salsa has in Colombia, especially in the city of Cali.
Miranda is no stranger to this kind of criticism, no doubt having created musicals that are not entirely historically accurate or entirely culturally authentic. He has also inadvertently become a symbol of an outmoded cultural centrism that many people don’t like, especially since Miranda is often treated as the face of a progressive and diverse Latin culture.
Yet while Miranda seemed to draw the most criticism from audiences, both before and after the film’s release, he is just one of many creators responsible for Encanto, including Germaine Franco, who wrote the film’s instrumental score with care to represent Colombia’s indigenous music and instruments. And anyway, concerns about authenticity might be out of place with a song like “Bruno,” which has more narration than most other songs in the film.
“That, to me, is what’s fascinating about ‘Bruno’,” added Ospina Romero. “That even without seeking any kind of Colombian authenticity, it has managed to captivate Colombians and people around the world far more than the seemingly deliberately ‘Colombian’ tunes, including the song by Carlos Vives [‘Columbia, Mi Encanto’].”
Is it just Miranda’s magic touch? May be. It could also be that the song’s multiple entry points lend themselves to repeat engagement, which lends itself to virality, which lends itself to a hit. Or maybe “Bruno” is just one of the first big, fleeting trends of 2022.
Either way: Hey, it’s catchy, it’s fun, it’s different — and best of all, it gives us something to talk about.