Today in Exploring Soundtracks, we’ll be looking at the 2017 Pixar animated film “Coco”. This will be the first time we’ve looked at an animated film, as well as any film from Pixar or Disney. I don’t want to promise that we’ll now go back and cover the soundtracks for Aladdin, Cinderella, and The Little Mermaid. We already know those songs so well, that covering them would feel next to pointless.
But I’ve got nothing against going back and covering some of the Pixar films made in recent years. And “Coco” is as good a place to start as any, seeing as how it won both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. It was also nominated for Best Original Song for “Remember Me”.
“Coco” follows the story of 12-year-old Miguel, who dreams about being a musician despite his family’s generations-old ban on it. After discovering a hidden picture, Miguel becomes convinced that his ancestor is one of his favorite music idols. So he sneaks into his idol Ernesto’s museum and steals his guitar. When Miguel attempts to play it at a talent show during the Day of the Dead, he disappears, and is transported to the Land of the Dead. There, Miguel embarks on a journey to discover the truth behind his family’s history.
“Remember Me” is the big ballad of “Coco”. Not only was it nominated for Best Original Song, but it also plays a special role in the film’s narrative. So much so, that it plays in the film three separate times. “Remember Me” was also written by the duo behind the music of frozen, Kristin Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. The song is used in several different situations in the context of the film. But in all of them, it plays a role in tying people together through music, one of the main themes of “Coco”.
“I know you remember me / In those moments just before you sleep / I know you remember me / Swear to me the memory isn’t seen / Promise me / That it doesn’t make your heart beat / Doesn’t make your heart beat”.
“Remember Me” also made it into the top 40 on the Billboard 200 charts, peaking at No. 39. The song also has over 1.5 million plays from online streaming. A huge accomplishment for a song from any film.
For “Coco”‘s Spanish-language version of the soundtrack, Carlos Rivera recorded a cover version of the song titled, “Recuérdame”.
Most of the soundtrack was written by Michael Giacchino, who is no stranger to composing for animated features. He’s worked on scores for movies like “Up” and “Ratatouille”, which both won Grammy Awards for Best Score Soundtrack Album, as well as “The Incredible”, which was nominated for one. Over the years, Giacchino has also worked on countless scores for video games and television.
Giacchino’s diverse orchestration offers a wide range, from subtle, solo guitar, to mariachi, and to the full force of a Hollywood orchestra. The longest track on the album is “Dia de los Muertos Suite”, which comes in at nearly six minutes. The song ties in samples of many of the main themes heard throughout the film, and features the full range of styles at Giacchino’s disposal.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the music in “Coco”‘s soundtrack. As a guitarist, I found myself particularly drawn to the solo guitar pieces, but all of it is just great. There’s a lot that you can find in this soundtrack to love. The fact that it sets the backdrop for a magical, heartfelt narrative, is icing on the cake.