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How the ‘Encanto’ Soundtrack Became a Smash

Even with the imprimatur of Miranda, the Tony-, Emmy- and Grammy-winning creator of “Hamilton,” “Encanto” might have seemed a long shot as a mainstream pop hit. The album is a pan-Latin fusion that draws on Colombian folk styles like vallenato and bambuco, with touches of salsa, Broadway bombast and rock en Español.

In the past, Disney might have leaned on a Broadway-style ballad, with a globally recognized star singing in English, to propel one of its soundtracks. (Think Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from “The Lion King,” which went to No. 4 in 1994.)

“Encanto” flips that playbook, showcasing Colombian stars like Carlos Vives and Sebastián Yatra. “Bruno,” a complex ensemble piece with a classic cha-cha beat, is credited to six of the film’s cast members. “Dos Oruguitas,” the first song Miranda wrote from start to finish in Spanish, is nominated for an Oscar.

To record the album, producers brought in Colombian specialists to help bring authenticity to the rhythms and instrumental arrangements; most of the sessions, which took place last year, were conducted remotely.

But even with its use of acoustic instruments like the cuatro and the tiple — two relatives of the guitar — the sound of “Encanto” is not as distant from the pop mainstream as it may seem. Mike Elizondo, one of the album’s producers, who has worked with Dr. Dre, Fiona Apple and the band Twenty One Pilots, pointed out the heavy bass that drives songs like “Bruno,” and the presence of synthesizers that would not be out of place on a rap hit.

“When we were making the music to the soundtrack, Lin was very encouraging,” Elizondo said in an interview. “‘Let’s not try and water anything down,’” he recalled Miranda saying. “‘Let’s not feel like we have to follow any of the rules of prior soundtracks.’”



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