A Review: Tangled Original Soundtrack and Score

I bought the soundtrack for Tangled today. I want to preface this review by saying that I'm basing this solely on listening to the songs out of the context of the film and that there are a great many musicals that I didn't warm up at first hearing. That said, I will say that I enjoyed the music, but, there's nothing that is jumping out at me as something that I will sing in the shower, in the car, or, for that matter, while working at my computer.
I think my biggest complaint is that there is no musically thematic cohesion to the soundtrack. I realize that, as a composer, Alan Menken would want his music to stand out and not seem formulaic. But, at the same time, his musical compositions for Tangled seem to be all over the place.

For example, the first song "When Will My Life Begin?" sounds like a poppier version of a Joni Mitchell song. Later, in "Mother Knows Best," Donna Murphy as Mother Gothel sings pure Broadway. Then, "I've Got A Dream" featuring a chorus of Thugs sounds like a wanna be showstopper a la "Be Our Guest from Beauty and the Beast but ends up being the kind of forgettable 1980s Disney soundtrack a la "Ratigan" from The Great Mouse Detective. "I See The Light," a love song between Rapunzel and Flynn Rider, is back to a Joni Mitchell-esque song.

Individually, I like the songs (well, most of them), but, as a soundtrack, I'm befuddled.

I'm also a little disappointed by the lyrics of Glenn Slater. Slater provided the lyrics to the additional songs of the stage adaptation of The Little Mermaid which I thought were wonderfully thoughtful and witty. But, in Tangled, the lyrics lack that kind of complexity. "When Will My Life Begin?" is the best example of this (which is actually sung in one main song and two reprises). The yearning song is a Disney tradition and is what gets you to feel for the main character. But, the main version of the song just sounds like a laundry list followed by the line "When will my life begin?" I understand that she's expressing the mundane and repetitve lifestyle she lives, but, I think laundry lists (lyrics that say "I'm doing this, that and the other thing and then this, that, and the other thing") is a little lazy.

What's interesting, though, is that the two reprises are better than the main version with the second reprise almost sounding like classic Disney. I see what they were trying to do with Rapunzel experiencing a little more of the world with each reprise, but I think the reprise should compliment the main song and not compete with it. Great examples of how main song and reprise compliment each other are "Part Of Your World" and the reprise to "Part Of Your World" in The Little Mermaid.

Speaking of reprises, "Mother Knows Best" and its reprise are far more successful at complimenting each other. When I first listened to the main song, it didn't seem to have that "it" factor, but, after listening to it a few times, its cute in the way that Mother Gothel tries to guilt Rapunzel into staying in the same way a passive aggressive mother would approach a child. The reprise, however, has the claws you want to hear in a villain's song...yet, at the same time, it is still that passive aggressive mom speaking out of exasperation. The one complaint about the main version of the song, again, is that Slater seems to like to use laundry lists as lyrics. But, it doesn't bother me as much in this song because I think this is the kind of thing a mother of this variety would say.

I have to admit that the love ballad "I See The Light" has grown on me quite a bit. It was made public last week and is the song I've been able to listen to more than the others, but, as I was walking my dog earlier, I found myself humming the tune. So, that's a good sign. I also think Mandy Moore and Zach Levi sound really good with each other in this song.

The one song I just do not like is "I've Got A Dream." It really does sound like it wants to be some kind of showstopper akin to "Be Our Guest." I would really have to see it in the context of the film. Perhaps I'll fall in love with the Thugs and think its the best song ever. But, it really does sound more like "Rattigan" from The Great Mouse Detective. And, to me, that's not a good thing.

Following the soundtrack is the original score composed by Alan Menken. I think he does a good job with the score. Interestingly enough, his score seems more inspired by Michael Giacchino (The Incredibles, UP, LOST) and Hans Zimmer (The Pirates of the Caribbean movies). It seems more epic than I'm used to from Menken. On some levels, I wish that he would have found more ways to incorporate the Joni Mitchell feel he gives to Rapunzel's songs. It only makes those songs stick out a bit more as awkward to the whole. The only piece that I thought reflected those songs was "Waiting for the Lights," which I also thought was the most original sounding.

The last song on the album, in true Disney form, is the song they're marketing as the pop song associated with the film. Grace Potter (of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals) sings "Something That I Want" which I think is a nice song. I'm also glad they didn't choose your standard power balladeer (a la Celine Dion) or R&B/Hip Hop artist which would have been the more obvious choice. Then again, since they went with a more earthy roots rock feel, why didn't they give the pop version to Mandy Moore herself?

Again, not having seen everything together, I can't honestly say if it does or doesn't work and wouldn't be surprised if my feelings change entirely after seeing the movie - which I cannot wait to see next week!

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