When I saw Mulan last March, one of the aspects of the film that really stayed with me was the score. It helped make the live-action story feel so epic and also called back to the 1998 animated film by incorporating melodies from some of the songs that aren’t heard in this non-musical adaptation. Now you can appreciate the score in a whole new way with the release of the Mulan Original Soundtrack.
The score by Harry Gregson-Williams is big and epic, pulling in traditional Chinese instruments and sounds along with more traditional blockbuster arrangements. His past Disney credits include The Chronicles of Narnia film series, Disneynature’s Monkey Kingdom and Penguins, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and ABC’s Whiskey Cavalier. The soundtrack gives you over an hour of score-only tracks, many of which are extended from what you’ll hear in the film.
Used heavily in the marketing campaign, “Reflection appears in the melody of several score tracks. The first time it appears on the albume is in the track “Four Ounces Can Move a Thousand Pounds” where it is interwoven with new melodies to sound quite different. The big epic version heard in the ad campaign is part of the track called “Mulan Rides into Battle” and this version also repeats on “Fight for the Kingdom.” The animated film didn’t have a ton of songs compared to most Disney animated musicals, but just one other gets pulled into the score, fitting still titled “Honor to Us All.”
If you’ve heard the new Christina Aguilara end credit ballad, “Loyal Brave True,” then you’ll recognize that melody in the score as well, starting with the first track. Composer Gregson-Williams co-wrote the pop ballad and the verses become somewhat of a recurring melodic theme for Mulan’s character in the film. It’s one of the most used melodies in the score.
With so much of the score feeling like it’s pulled from songs with lyrics, it’s a bit surprising that choral arrangements aren’t employed. It can also be a little hard to pick out music that’s truly original to the score, but there’s certainly a lot of it. Your brain just tends to shut it out since the lyrical melodies have a greeted impact on your psyche.
In addition to Christina Aguilara’s “Loyal Brave True,” she also recorded a new version of “Reflection” for the soundtrack. I “Burn with the need to know the reasons why” because the original recording was so perfect and this one isn’t as good. However, one good thing to come from it is a demonstration of how Aguilara’s voice has changed in the 22 years that have passed. Every singer’s voice evolves as they age and her lower register has taken on a richer timber than it had in her youth, whiler her higher belt sounds more strained and forced, reaching a point during the bridge where it sounds like it’s about to blow.
The last track is yet another version of “Reflection” from the end credits, this time in Mandarin. The singer is credited as “Crystal Liu,” the musical stage name of actress Yifei Liu, who plays Mulan in the film. Her version is calmer and more subdued than Auguilara’s and with such a beautiful voice, it almost seems a waste that Yifei Liu didn’t get the chance to sing it in the film.
While the score on the Mulan Original Soundtrack by Harry Gregson-Williams is big and grand, more often than not it makes you want to go back and listen to the 1998 soundtrack. The new song “Loyal Brave True” is a wonderful addition to the Disney library of songs, but I think the real standout track is Yufe Liu’s version of “Reflection.”
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.