Guest Post: Moana Soundtrack Music Review

It’s time for a new guest post and I’m excited to say that my husband and blogger over on his own music review blog is today’s guest! If you’ve been listening to our podcast, then you’re probably aware that I really enjoyed the Moana soundtrack. I realize that’s not saying much as I love lots of Disney music, but this album in particular is beautiful for so many reasons. And I’m happy to have Tim share his review as he is able to express with words much better than I can the many reasons why this soundtrack is destined to be a classic Disney soundtrack. Take it away Tim!

Welcome, welcome. Let’s start this post off with a little introduction. I’m Tim Cooper, Meredith’s other half. I am a software developer by day and music appreciator, father and amateur handyman by night. I run a blog over at Bearded Music Reviews, where I review albums on a weekly basis and then compile it all at year’s end to create a Top Albums of the Year list.

Meredith asked if I would write a post about the Moana soundtrack, so here we are. I did review the deluxe version, just to make sure we’re all talking about the same thing. I did give this album five full listens, two of which came back to back. On top of that, I have three kids so I’ve listened to handfuls of these tracks many, many times.

This is the soundtrack to the newest Disney movie, Moana. The music was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa’i and Mark Mancina. Miranda is coming off his award winning run as writer and performer in Hamilton on Broadway and if you haven’t listened to the soundtrack to that by now, please do so. And just recently released, he has signed on as Executive Producer for the Kingkiller Chronicles, excitement level 100! Opetaia has been writing Pacific flavored music with his group Te Vaka since the mid 90’s. Mark Mancina has worked on many soundtracks from The Lion King and Con Air to Speed and Tarzan.

The deluxe version of this soundtrack breaks into three sections: songs from the movie, score, and demos and outtakes. The first section contains all of the lyrical songs that appear throughout the movie, most of which were written by Miranda and Foa’i. These songs have some really strong melodies and their instrumental backing has a nice touch of Pacific sounds. I found that all the tribal drumming and choral voices really tie the music to its location and pull you deeper into the film. And all of the performers from the movie do a really great job of bringing these songs to life. The songs flow well and do a great job of telling the story. This first section ends with the two pop versions of How Far I’ll Go and You’re Welcome by Alessia Cara and Jordan Fisher/Miranda respectively.

This movie captured some really catchy songs. If you’ve heard them enough times, it is hard not to sing (or at least hum) along. Miranda has a real talent for telling stories in his lyrics that I just can’t get enough of. His work on Hamilton, with its base in Hip-Hop, paid off here as he can pack a lot of story elements into one song. Furthermore, he doesn’t force a song to rhyme A to B, crafting some really memorable rhyme schemes. This has a slight trade off though, as all the words can make the songs harder to sing on first listen. I found that if you put in the time, they are just as catchy though and are much more fun to sing.

The second section also does a great job of taking you through the movie. I’m reminded of scenes and emotions that arose while I watched the movie. Again, they did a great job of coming up with solid melodies in these tunes. They bring them back throughout, as any good soundtrack should, and their attachment to the characters and themes brings you deeper into the movie. I get a bit of a Peter and the Wolf feel from this soundtrack, where certain sounds and melodies are attached to characters. So when I hear the airy, almost wind chime sounds, I know that Moana’s Grandmother is the focus. There are some majestic moments balanced well with the wayfaring tunes that have a softness to them that was nice to hear.

The deluxe version rounds out with some demos and outtakes. The outtakes were nice to hear and there was one that was so strong (More), I’m surprised it didn’t make it into the movie.

The demos for the songs might have been my favorite portion as it allowed a little peak behind the curtain. Hearing the demo for Shiny, you get a touch of a David Bowie sound in Miranda’s voice. But then listening to the movie version, performed by Jemaine Clement (from The Flight of the Conchords fame), you hear how much more he brought to the performance. And I do have to disagree with the ladies on this one. If you haven’t listened to their podcast on Moana, please go do that, I’ll wait.


Lots of homework on this post, I know, but if you aren’t listening to their podcast, you should make that a part of your week as they can be a real treat. Unfortunately, on the podcast they said they didn’t really enjoy Shiny. Most of the movie takes place in the sunny atmosphere of the Pacific and when they travel to Lalotai, the Realm of Monsters, the movie needed a sonic shift, which this song brought. You get the skeletal marimba sounds and the slow lurching bass, I mean, when I hear it, I’m right back with Tamatoa. 

moana soundtrack

The more I listen to this album the more of the tiny elements peek out of the compositions, you get a grunt here that really ties the song together or that pulling bass line that comes in after the hook joke in Shiny. It really seemed like everyone brought their A-game to this music/soundtrack and I think it really paid off. I’ve already heard many of these songs hundreds of times (again, I do have three young kids that love this album) and probably will hear them many many more. And thankfully, they are solid songs that don’t get old (at least not yet).

I hoped you enjoyed my guest post. Thanks to The Mouse and the Monorail for having me. If you did, please check out my blog Bearded Music Reviews. Hopefully you’ll find your new favorite album. I’ll even give you a sneak peek at my not-yet-released Top Albums list for 2016. Spoiler: The Moana Soundtrack lands at #44 out of 61!

Thanks Tim and I agree with so many of your assessments, especially the bits about Shiny and More. Can’t wait to have you back to review more Disney music!

If you’d like to hear the entire Moana soundtrack, it’s available for purchase via iTunes and Amazon as well as in most stores. If streaming is more your style, then you can find the deluxe version on Spotify (my preferred choice) or visit the DisneyMusicVevo YouTube channel. They have the complete soundtrack including select songs with the video too! (That’s where the above videos came from). You can even test out your karaoke skills with karaoke versions of How Far I’ll Go and You’re Welcome! What did you think of the Moana soundtrack? ~Meredith ºoº

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