“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney
Those words from Walt Disney punctuate the end of Meet the Robinsons, one of my favorite movies of the past decade, and one that seems to be forgotten among other Oscar-nominated Pixar films like Up and Toy Story 3. This soundtrack album is a mixture of the Danny Elfman score, along with some original songs that appear in the movie, including “Another Believer”.
Rufus Wainwright was no stranger to soundtracks by 2007, having recorded original songs for movies such as Moulin Rouge! And Big Daddy. Already known for hooky melodies and introspective lyrics, his cover of Leonard Cohen’s often purposed for films, “Hallelujah” is considered one of the most definitive, along with the late Jeff Buckley’s.
I chose this song, not just because of the film (or that my 6 year old daughter suggested it), but because Rufus is a master of hooks. In fact, it’s hard to identify all the hooks in the song because they are kneaded so thoroughly into every part. As part of the soundtrack, the song opens with the sound of whirring gears and machinery from Lewis’ experiments. The music then slowly rises up in volume with a piano and strings until Rufus first says “Hello, I’ve got something to tell you…” This line is repeated just as often as any other in the song, even though it is technically just the first verse. Rufus uses this modular technique, similar to a Brian Wilson composition where musical themes like this appear often and in different contexts, creating quick familiarity. The end of verse 1 starts another example of this design, “one more chance one more glance, and I will make of you another believer.” Verse two’s ending repeats the first part of this section, but instead, takes it a step further with yet another hook, “one more hand to hold”. The chorus comes in for the first time after verse 2: “You’ve been on my mind…” where backup vocals are used to stirring effect in a call/response type of configuration. While a variety of instruments abound, most interesting are the vocals. Amidst some underlying fuzz base, a banjo, trumpets, and other brassy sounds, scat vocals sing out the melody of the instrumental break. This is unusual in pop music, where the lead vocal is mostly up front and then silent during a guitar solo. See how many reused pieces of music you can count.
These lyrics are well suited for this movie. While it’s been speculated that the words describe Disney himself, they certainly fit Lewis, Meet The Robinson’s future genius with yet unrealized potential. He is a misunderstood orphan wanting to be accepted for who he is by potential parents. The song appears early in the film, as Lewis, the main character attempts to create inventions that don’t quite seem to work out. This mirrors many of the song’s lyrics about “wasting time” but having “something to tell you”, and thus reveals the essentials of Lewis’ character in this five minute this sequence.
If you haven’t seen the film, give Lewis, and Rufus’ tune another look. The song stands out in its own right with such a lush production and varied musical themes. Paired with Meet the Robinsons, I think the experience as a whole is one that holds up to any other feature in this genre.