11/14 Daily What: Moana Songs, Ranked

Moana, wearing a red dress. Copyright Ros Axelrod, 2018

Moana, wearing a red dress. Copyright Ros Axelrod, 2018

If you’re reading this and you’ve interacted with my 3-year-old lately, you may know that she has a slight obsession at the present moment with Moana (Moana the person and various iterations thereof, not Moana the movie quite as much). The other day, she was ready to destroy herself because we were making her leave a friend’s house where she had been playing with a Moana barbie. She had no voice for the rest of the day after that battle. Then, at another friend’s house, she actually introduced herself as Moana. When was the last time you decided to change your name because you loved a fictional character so much?

All I can say is thank god they picked such a good movie to show her at the hospital while they put seven stitches in her toe: if we were talking incessantly about Paw Patrol and listening to its theme music in the car twice a day, every day, my brain would be in little pieces all over Massachusetts Avenue right now. No, Moana is good. I once sat down to watch the last five minutes of the movie with her, not having seen the rest of it in over a year, and immediately, less than 60 seconds in, I had full-on tears were running down my face (the part where the angry, fiery Te Fiti is rushing towards Moana, and she just reaches out and gives the Heart back…god damn it, I’m crying just thinking about it right now).

So without further ado, since I can literally sing every word to every track with lyrics in English on the movie soundtrack inside my head right now, here are the Moana songs, ranked, from worst to best.

7. “Shiny” (Jemaine Clement)

YEAH YEAH YEAH GO AHEAD AND AT ME. This song is FINE. It’s FINE. No, it’s good. You hear it once and it’s the weirdness of Jemaine Clement’s voice and the sort of abrupt tonal shift from the first verse to the chorus (ohhhh how that damn chorus gets stuck in my head). Ros calls this one “Shi-NAY.” That’s how she pronounces it. Did you say Shiny? You’re saying it wrong. Whatever, this song is fine, I have no problem with it, but I also try and skip it sometimes when it comes on and she always catches me in the act and demands I go back. I always go back.

6. How Far I’ll Go (Auli’i Cravalho)

It might be unfair to rank this one second-to-last - I only do so because it’s the one Ros specifically requests most often, so I have probably listened to it more times than any other song on the soundtrack. Last summer at the day care she attends, the 4- and 5-year-olds had a sort of variety show before an audience of parents, teachers and toddlers, and a group of girls in the class put flowers in their hair and sang this song, the whole thing, from memory. Ros, who was not yet three, sang along from the comfort of my lap in the audience. She DIGS this song. I get it. But when she asks me someday before I am ready why Moana says, “I wish I could be the perfect daughter,” I am not going to be ready for that conversation! That’s pretty heavy! And what about the part where she’s like “Everyone else is happy on this island, so I should be happy too!” I know that the “perfect daughter” part is going to get unpacked and somewhat resolved (well, IS IT, though??) but when your kid just repeats phrases she hears…I sure wish that wasn’t one of them!

5. You’re Welcome (Dwayne Johnson)

You’re gonna at me again, aren’t you. Yeah yeah yeah. This song is clever! It’s fine! Points for total self-consciousness (esp that last verse, “now it’s your day to say you’re welcome, ‘cause I’m gonna need that boat!”), points for Maui’s effortlessly amazing hair, points for Dwayne Johnson getting so many people to think he’ll maybe run for president (points rescinded if he actually does it). I know this song is like the darling of the whole movie, and I get it! But it gets a little stale on the eightieth go-round (and yes, by my estimate, we have heard it at least that many times). I could not hear it ever again and my heart wouldn’t break. I really have nothing more to say about it.

4. Where You Are (Christopher Jackson, Rachel House, Nicole Scherzinger, Auli’i Cravalho, and Louise Bush)

I think this one is a little underrated. It’s the perfect introduction to the mentality of the island, without laying it on too thick (“Who needs a new song, this old one’s all we need!”). It’s cheerful and content, and it shows us subtly that Moana isn’t really connecting with its refusal to examine itself more closely. She tends to be like her grandmother…if you hear a voice inside that’s contradicting what’s around you, maybe listen to it! She needs that counterpoint to “Our people will need a chief and THERE YOU ARE!” No pressure or anything, Moana.

3. An Innocent Warrior (Val Mahina, Sulata Foai-Amiatu, Matthew Ineleo)

This song is gorgeous just as an audio track. But seriously - I defy you not to melt completely when you watch TODDLER MOANA playing in the ocean as it sings to her. My god. The song starts about a minute into the clip, and it’s only just over a minute long, but it makes the list. It’s gorgeous, and Toddler Moana is so cute it hurts.

2. Know Who You Are (Auli’i Cravalho, Vai Mahina, Olivia Foa’i, Opetaia Foa’i, Matthew Ineleo)

Yes, here we are at the part that makes me cry instantly without even having to watch the clip. We go from the Moana of the beginning, who is being told by everyone around who she is and she’s not sure whether to agree or disagree, to the Moana who has figured out where she belongs and what her purpose is. In restoring the heart of Te Fiti, she’s righting a wrong that no one else could even acknowledge had occurred, and it takes guts and determination to do it, but she does. She shows no fear before the angry Te Fiti, because she just knows that this is what she must do. Unlike some of the more famous tracks, this song conjures up immediately the exact moment in the movie where it takes place and all the emotions surrounding it, and it never fails to land with me. A-PLUS.

1. We Know The Way (Opetaia Foa’i and Lin-Manuel Miranda)

This was the song that got me into the movie. It comes at just the right time. Exposition has mostly been delivered. We’re intrigued. We like Moana, and we like that she’s not satisfied with the status quo. Then, the big reveal, Lin-Manuel-style, that she is in fact a descendant of explorers. She is not content to stay on the island forever because SHE IS A WAYFINDER, BABY! The song is huge, sweeping, dramatic, and truly captivating. It’s hard to sing correctly! Try to sing it without the music in the background and see if you hit all the notes; I bet you won’t. I say this without knowing much of anything about composition, but this song registers as both more complex and more evocative than the average Disney composition. I will never skip this song. The song announces itself with percussion and builds to a swelling rhythm…as soon as I hear the first five seconds I am IN. Give me this song forever. I wish it were twice as long. It’s always over too quickly, even on the eightieth go-round.

Ros, as Olivia’s mother would say, “you really wear me out, but I love you anyway.” And you have great taste in obsessions, for the most part.

Final note: for the past week, my husband has been collaborating on an amicus brief addressed to the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals, in support of upholding Massachusetts’s assault-weapons ban. His name was admitted to the First Circuit and the brief was filed to the docket yesterday afternoon, at the very moment in which I was putting the finishing touches on my Moana soundtrack curation. All I can say is that it takes all kinds. And, congratulations, Tristan!