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How ‘Encanto’ and its vibrant soundtrack became a viral phenomenon

“Encanto” is taking over popular culture. (Disney)
7 min

POV: It’s almost midnight. The kids are finally in bed after a long day of virtual learning — and little to no indication of when things might finally go back to normal or anything like it. The dishes, so many dishes, have been cleaned and put away. You’ve finally quieted your mind enough to go to sleep (before you have to do it all over again) and suddenly, there it is creeping into your head again: We don’t talk about Bruno.

No, no, no.

We don’t talk about Bruno.

“We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” for the uninitiated, is a song from the lively soundtrack to Disney’s “Encanto.” The animated film, about a Colombian family with magical gifts and an enchanted fortress that has protected them for generations, arrived in theaters in November to warm reviews. But the movie and its soundtrack, featuring original songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda and a score by Germaine Franco, have gotten more popular since “Encanto” landed on Disney Plus last month. This week, the soundtrack soared to the top of the Billboard 200 albums chart, becoming the first Disney soundtrack to do so since “Frozen 2” in 2019. The showstopping earworm “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” landed at No. 5 on the Hot 100.

Parents are losing their minds. Time to watch ‘Encanto.’ Again.

In total, four songs from the film are on the Hot 100, nestled between smashes from Adele (whose album got bumped out of the No. 1 spot by “Encanto’s” soundtrack), Lil Nas X, Taylor Swift and the Weeknd. Its success, boosted by the film’s streaming debut and scores of “Encanto”-themed TikTok videos, has earned comparisons to “Frozen” — another musical Disney juggernaut that gets a cheeky shout out from none other than the mysterious Bruno in a different number — and other Top 100 Disney hits.

Here’s what you need to know about the soundtrack lighting up the charts.

It has Lin-Manuel Miranda’s signature touch

“Encanto” has a narrative soundtrack, with songs that move the story forward — and as any fan will tell you, the story is a layered one. The film follows Mirabel Madrigal (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” fame) as she investigates the tenuous state of her family’s miracle: the enchanting events that bestowed her widowed grandmother with a magical casita in which to raise her three children and generations to come. Ultimately, “Encanto” is a poignant exploration of intergenerational trauma, and Miranda’s lyrics speak to the family’s unhealed wounds.

What Luisa from 'Encanto' taught me about defining myself by an endless capacity for hard work

The film’s opening song, “The Family Madrigal,” is a buoyant introduction to the Madrigals and their magical gifts. Mirabel sings of her mother’s ability to heal ailments “with just one arepa,” and of her aunt Pepa, whose moods can affect the weather. She ticks off the extraordinary powers of immediate and extended relatives: a sister with superhuman strength and one with immense beauty; a cousin who shapeshifts and another whose exceptional hearing allows her to “hear this whole chorus a mile away.” By the end of the song, which entered the Hot 100 at No. 62 this week, Mirabel has revealed everyone’s gift but her own — and that’s where the real story begins.

If you didn’t know the “Hamilton” creator was responsible for “Encanto’s” original songs, you would almost certainly know by the time you heard “Surface Pressure.” In the bouncy track, the brawny Luisa (Jessica Darrow) belts out her anxiety and resolve around the (literal) heavy lifting she takes on to help her family. It contains one of the most Miranda-esque lines ever: “Under the surface, I feel berserk as a tightrope walker in a three-ring circus,” Luisa sings before asking, “Was Hercules ever like 'Yo, I don’t wanna fight Cerberus?”

That mythological tidbit feels like it was written by a man who (*checks notes*) read an 800-plus page book while he was supposed to be on vacation and then wrote a Broadway smash based on it. The song is currently at No. 14 on the Hot 100 chart, which isn’t surprising given how much it speaks to the pressure we’re all under — as working parents, caregivers, medical professionals, extroverts eager to return to the world, etc. — in these chaotic times.

How Lin-Manuel Miranda became a go-to songwriter for Disney

The songs pull from traditional and contemporary influences

“Encanto’s” soundtrack and score celebrate Colombia’s rich and diverse musical traditions while featuring some of its brightest stars. “Colombia Me Encanto,” performed by singer-songwriter Carlos Vives, is a love letter to the South American country. Other Colombian musicians, including pop stars Maluma (who has a voice role in the film) and Sebastián Yatra, also appear on the soundtrack.

In a Disney featurette, Miranda said “What Else Can I Do?” — sung by Diane Guerrero as Mirabel’s intoxicatingly gorgeous sister Isabella, with asides from Mirabel — was inspired by the rock en español movement. “It was about finding those Colombian rhythms that are so unique,” he said. The song rounds out the film’s Hot 100 presence at No. 67.

Yatra sings one of the film’s most heart-rending songs, “Dos Oruguitas,” a violin-filled track about two caterpillars that must go their separate ways, despite their immense love for each other, to grow and find their own futures as butterflies. Miranda told Billboard that the Oscar-shortlisted song, envisioned as a Colombian folk song, is his first completely written in Spanish without translating from English (though Yatra also performs a mostly English version called “Two Oruguitas.”). “I was really proud of it, I felt like I pulled it from a deeper place within myself,” Miranda said. The track could also mark another milestone for Miranda, who is merely an Oscar statuette away from achieving EGOT status.

Some “Encanto” fans have lobbied for “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” an ensemble medley inspired by multiple genres, to get an Oscar nod, but the studio submitted only its symbolic, violin-filled tear-jerker. Still, “Bruno” is a pivotal number because it exposes the literal and figurative cracks in the Madrigal family’s foundation. The song revolves around Mirabel’s prophetic uncle Bruno (voiced by John Leguizamo), who became estranged from his family after sharing unsettling visions.

“Bruno” begins with a comedic back-and-forth between Pepa (Carolina Gaitán) and her husband, Félix (Mauro Castillo), who are both eager to recount how they got married in a hurricane after Tio Bruno suggested there might be rain and Pepa’s meteorological gifts went haywire. Later in the song, their daughter Dolores (singer Adassa) provides a hip-hop breakdown of her uncle’s burdensome gift (“It’s a heavy lift with a gift so humbling / Always left Abuela and the family fumbling / Grappling with prophecies they couldn’t understand.”)

Characters sing "We Don't Talk About Bruno" in a clip from Disney's "Encanto." (Video: Walt Disney Pictures)

TikTok can’t get enough

“Encanto” has found its own corner of TikTok, where fans have used the platform to float character theories, dance enthusiastically to musical numbers, therapize the Madrigals (and those who relate to them) and point out blink-and-you-missed-it details — like the fact that “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” is such a bop that even the unfairly maligned Bruno can’t help but nod his head to it. All said, the “Encanto” hashtag has been viewed more than 8.9 billion times on the social media platform.

Abuela would be proud.

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