"Bridge of Light" may only be four minutes long, but boy, does it feel a lot longer than that. This potential empowerment anthem just drags.
Though Pink's signature smoky vocal packs an emotional punch, the stale melody and generic lyrics about finding a light of optimism deep within oneself are well-treaded territory and not particularly gripping. Pink has successfully done this kind of song before and since ("Try," "Glitter in the Air”), but this one fell flat.
Every good animated movie needs some sort of "now we're traveling and bonding and growing!” montage, and Blake Shelton's "Friends" is destined for just that sort of scene. Featuring more fiddles than you can count, this song is Shelton's most family-friendly tune by a long shot, straying away from his typical heartbreak-and-whiskey lyricism and swapping it for clean lines about overcoming differences and becoming buddies.
As singles further down this list prove, just because your song is from an animated movie doesn't mean it has to be childish and simple. That's a lesson Shelton and co. could have taken up for "Friends," which is watered-down and forgettable.
The time between Rihanna's Unapologetic and Anti may have felt like an eternity for her fans, but there was a slight relief from a lack of new music courtesy of the Home soundtrack, which featured three new songs from the pop superstar. Featuring a confident, persevering central theme and a deliberate, crawling beat, "Towards the Sun" is a determined song, but includes a sleepy chorus. Rihanna is known best for her dancehall jams, and this lacks the sort of punch that she's perfected over her prolific career.
There's an endless sense of optimism and hard work in Zootopia's main protagonist Judy Hopps (she's a bunny, get it?!), and that's reflected in Shakira's poppy soundtrack contribution "Try Everything." This single, too, falls into the trap of thinking that songs aimed for a cartoon audience need to be childish, with clean- cut lyrics about perseverance and, well, trying everything and anything you can to reach a goal. In the end, the biggest redemption factor for "Try Everything" is Shakira herself, whose unmistakable voice is always a delight, regardless of the material.
Epic may be a quickly-forgotten animated feature, but it starred none other than Queen Bey herself, and she offered up this Sia-penned single "Rise Up." Beyoncé's 2010s output has featured some of the most innovative, interesting pop of the decade, but that unique factor is all but wiped clean in "Rise Up."
Of course, it's nearly impossible for Beyoncé to sound bad, and her delivery is fittingly spirited for this dignified, inspirational track. But it's missing any and all intrigue, and feels sounds like something Beyoncé would might have dropped, say, 15 years ago at the onset of her solo career, not the woman responsible for Lemonade.
Britney Spears' 2010s output hasn't been her strongest material to date (remember "Pretty Girls"?), but her The Smurfs 2 soundtrack contribution "Ooh La La" is a shimmery, sweet and pure pop offering. Add in a thumping post-chorus power drop and you have a dynamic single that appeals to Britney fans new and old. Unfortunately, this track falls a bit in to the meaningless children's song trope. I mean, what does it really mean to be someone's "Ooh La La"? Does anybody know?
The Peanuts gang is cute and classic, and that's the exact lane Meghan Trainor went down for her soundtrack single "Better When I'm Dancin'." Featuring a peppiness that is often missing from Peanuts gang leader Charlie Brown, Trainor emphasizes the power of feeling good and getting down (even if it's something she's not always so good at). Though this song may be fine enough for Snoopy to boogie to, "Better When I'm Dancin'" does lack some of the power hooks and insatiable melodies of Trainor's biggest hits making it not quite up to par.
There's always been a quirky, slightly off-kilter aspect to the SpongeBob Squarepants franchise, and that's something N.E.R.D. embraced in full on their its three soundtrack contributions to the second SpongeBob movie, Sponge Out of Water.
"Squeeze Me" is already an oddball track from the title, considering the main character is a sponge (and thus squeezing could result in a loss of crucial water). With emphasized upbeats, a strange-yet-entrancing vocal delivery from Pharrell and that signature sense of N.E.R.D. funk, the hip-hop trio's first new single may have come from an unexpected source, but it was perfectly imperfect.
Before Frozen took over the world and Idina Menzel's Queen Elsa-sung version of this track hit the top five of the Hot 100, Disney was banking on Demi Lovato's pop version to take on the charts. The structure and songwriting in "Let It Go" made it a bona fide Disney classic from the start, and Lovato tackled it well. She is a strong vocalist who boldly took on this notoriously difficult melody with ease, but there's a lack of an emotional connection here that permeates Menzel's take. And that's likely why her version stuck around while this one quickly fell off.
A movie about a racing snail got a theme song courtesy of Snoop Dogg, because, why not? This song bumps and grooves and has a major intensity and energy to it. Snoop's delivery is speedy and confident, much like Turbo himself, adding to this track's seamless place in the movie's universe. Somehow, it's the perfect soundtrack for a speedy mollusk. It's hard to listen to "Let the Bass Go" and not get pumped.
Obviously, a movie set in and titled after Brazil needs to have a soundtrack single with a bit of tropical flavor to it, and Janelle Monae's "What Is Love" certainly delivers on that front. Featuring festive percussion and a sunny vocal from Monae, “What Is Love” contains a party-ready atmosphere that’s hard to resist. If the celebratory vibe and Monae's high notes aren't enough to drag you in, just wait for the hook, and become entranced.
A movie like Hotel Transylvania 2 demands a spooky yet danceable soundtrack, and Fifth Harmony delivered with their single "I'm in Love With a Monster." Featuring a deep, jazzy horn line as its main melody, 5H builds upon the song’s base of this song with old-school girl group harmonies. It's a throwback sound, and the pairing couldn't be more seamless.
Rihanna may have contributed the most songs to Home, but Jennifer Lopez's "Feel the Light" is the true standout track from the film. Lopez sings this song with a dainty sensibility, and it's perfectly poignant. The verses are simply pretty, and the chorus swells into a proud crescendo. Some songs work best when you hold back your biggest moments and play them down, and "Feel the Light" benefits from this restraint.
In The Lego Movie, "Everything Is Awesome!!!" is everyone's favorite song. It's meant to be a slight on how all the Lego people are the same, but it's hard not to love this song anyway. The Lonely Island doesn’t do anything halfway, and with the help of Tegan and Sara, they prove that even stepping in mud and losing your job can be positives, if you just look at these things as new brown shoes and more free time. What helps the song most is that all the positivity is played totally straight, and the melody (like the best Lonely Island songs) is freakishly infectious.
Disney's Big Hero 6 is a superhero origin story, and what line could describe that better than "we could be immortals"? Though the message of the song may be a little obvious, Fall Out Boy brought an industrial edge to this children's film, perfectly highlighting the technology-driven plot of the film while simultaneously offering up a mature edge.
While a lot of soundtrack singles are one-and-done, Fall Out Boy was fond enough of this track to include it on its 2015 album American Beauty/American Psycho.
Call it "Happy 2.0" if you must, but Justin Timberlake's latest single from the upcoming Dreamworks Animation movie Trolls is a sunny jam all its own. Featuring the pop megastar's signature falsetto, a funky bass line and an irresistible chorus, the excitedly titled "Can’t Stop The Feeling!” has potential to be a strong contender for 2016's Song of the Summer. After his last album The 20/20 Experience - 2 of 2 received mixed reviews, the soundtrack single is a reminder that Timberlake is an undeniable hit machine with a universal appeal.
The Minions from the Despicable Me franchise may have taken over certain corners of the Internet, but Pharrell's "Happy" from the series' second installment arguably did it better, with 10 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Even with the success of this single aside, "Happy" is the sort of upbeat, positive song that usually accompany kids' films.
It's hard not to be joyous when listening to "Happy," and there's good reason for that. Its infectiousness comes courtesy of Pharrell's production work, which blends together smooth neo-soul with a disco beat that is an instant classic both with and away from its associated film.
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