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Comments about the soundtrack for The Emperor's New Groove (John Debney)

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Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review
• Posted by: Jon Turner   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Tuesday, August 5, 2008, at 5:36 p.m.
• IP Address:

(The following donated review by Jon Turner was moved by Filmtracks to this comment section in August, 2008)

The Emperor's New Groove: (John Debney) I purchase soundtrack albums for various reasons. Sometimes it could be that it just so happens to be a score to a movie that I have interest in seeing in. Or it could be that I happen to be a collector of a certain genre, and so purchase them, regardless of how good or bad they are. The Emperor's New Groove falls into this latter category, in that it is the soundtrack to Disney's 39th animated feature, which will be released this December. (Interesting note: this film, which is supposed to be based on an original story - I never thought I'd actually be saying this about a Disney movie! - is getting a lot of outraged reaction from a lot of folks online; some are predicting that it's going to be a dud movie.) I am a die-hard Disney fan, in case you haven't figured it out, and so it's not so surprising that I would buy this album to add on to a collection that I've made over the years. For this soundtrack, Disney once again turns to a new group of artists: rock legend Sting for the songs, and composer John Debney. Is this concoction any good, or is it a piece of trash? I decided to take a look and find out.

This album gets off to a good - or rather, groovy - start with the first track "Perfect World"; it's a jazzy, bouncy, rocking number backed up with a top-notch vocalist (Tom Jones) and a cool chorus. (The best part of the song is when the singers go "Kuzco!") The reprise (Track 5) is every bit as fun as the first one. The next track that follows is "My Funny Friend And Me", a heartfelt - and thankfully not sappy - ballad about the importance of friendship, and not selfishness, performed wonderfully by Sting. (I can see why Sting is considered a great star; his vocal performance is remarkable.) "Snuff Out The Light (Yzma's Song)" could be written off as the typical baddie song (songs of this type have gotten unfavorable reaction from not just the press, but from audiences as well), but the song successfully avoids that fate with a delightfully wicked vocal performance and a surprisingly hooking calypso accompaniment. In fact, I found myself bouncing to (and singing along with) this number! I did the same thing with "Walk The Llama Llama"; it is a really jamming song. (Interestingly, this song, along with "Snuff Out The Light" was cut from the final version of the film. I can see why; as fun as this song is, I can't imagine it going along well with the story.) The only weak song on the album is "One Day She'll Love Me", a sappy love ballad that isn't really all that interesting, despite Sting's good vocal performance. (It also doesn't suit the story; it's a buddy movie, NOT a love story! Thankfully, this song isn't included in the movie, either.)

The only track I found offensive was "Run Llama Run", which is obnoxiously hideous fast action jazz music. I don't usually mind jazz music (I play in the jazz band, and I sometimes find it catchy), but in this case, the music is too blaring and cacophonous to be pleasing to the ear. Even though I did like the moment where we hear some vocalists shout "Run, Llama! Run!", I found myself cringing with dread that Disney would actually contain such an outrageous number in one of their films. (In fact, this track is potentially far worse than the outrageously offensive Hercules.) Thankfully, this is the only stinker of the album. Interesting note: Marc Shaiman was originally chosen to compose the score for The Emperor's New Groove, but for some reason (and I just can't figure it out), the assignment went instead to John Debney. (But then, the entire project was changed again and again before it became the final result that will be unleashed to the world this December.) However, this is not to say that his score is not enjoyable!

Don't expect a sweeping, epic adventure like Mulan, or a fantastic experience like Dinosaur; The Emperor's New Groove's score is very much a typical Disney score, in that it incorporates Sting's songs into the background. However, this is done quite nicely, and it kept me interested as I listened to it. (I especially love the hints of "My Funny Friend And Me".) The best parts of the score is when it is soft and lyrical, and occasionally sneaks in African percussion instruments. The only time it suffers is when it becomes action-comedy music. In my opinion, this kind of music doesn't hold as well when it comes to a listening experience. But then, I have yet to see the film, so I may change my mind about the "abrupt" loudness of the score (The same thing can be said for "Run Llama Run.").

Aside from the so-so love ballad and occasionally obnoxious action music, The Emperor's New Groove was a lot better than I expected. Whether you enjoy this album depends upon how much one can accept that this is not as progressive as Disney's other recent efforts. I can easilly imagine Disney haters tearing this one to shreds (but then, they'd do that to any soundtrack), but in spite of a few lackluster moments, I enjoyed the soundtrack, and chances are you might, too. I have yet to see the film, so I might change my views on some of the tracks on here, but until then, I give this soundtrack a passing grade. Footnote: If you're worried that The Emperor's New Groove is a case of Disney going backwards, fear not; their next project, Atlantis: The Lost Empire is going to be a darker, more adventurous effort. I look forward to it, but until then, get this soundtrack, trash it, avoid it, or do what you will. The choice is up to you. ***

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