As with most movies, all the pieces and parts (from the story to the lighting) must fit together perfectly in order for a movie to truly captivate its audience. The Brave soundtrack/score truly does help the movie soar and you can’t help but feel its traditional roots through Scottish composer, Patrick Doyle. If you’re familiar with Doyle’s work, you’ll certainly hear unmistakable moments of his musical signature – I drew parallels from his Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire score on the track I Am Merida (the dark undertones) and the airiness of Sense and Sensibility at times as well.
Now to get down to some gritty details. When I really want to dig into a soundtrack I make sure to plug in my headphones – this allows me to really experience the soundtrack as the music perfectly pans from ear to ear.
- Touch The Sky (2:31) – The soundtrack rips right into an adventure-inducing acoustic guitar that leads to a rich accompaniment of the full orchestra. Julie Fowlis soon starts singing the song of freedom that we’ve heard in several trailers that sets the stage for Merida’s search to carve her own path.
- Into The Open Air (2:41) – If the opening guitar sounds familiar to you, it’s because it was used in the Mother’s Day and Father’s Day tribute trailers that Pixar released. This instrumental portion of the song really continues the feeling of freedom and the lyrics solidify this view by singing, “Can we carry this love we share into the open air”.
- Learn Me Right (3:46) – The boys from Mumford & Sons wrote a track perfectly suited for Birdy’s voice. The elements of strength and tradition ring true on this Scottish-inspired folk track.
- Fate and Destiny (4:17) – This song probably takes the most twists and turns musically over any other track on the soundtrack – it starts out quite deep and moves to a very uplifting feel in a few short moments. But as quickly as it turns happy, the song also shifts to a much deeper, emotional feeling that carries you through the song with the extremely beautiful ending, in which swells of cellos and violins are accented by the light plucking of a harp.
- The Games (1:53) – As you would expect based on this title, this track really punches up the energy as it seems to be kicking off the Highland Games – the track evokes a sense of grandness and playfulness all at the same time.
- I Am Merida (2:23) – I got chills the moment this track came on. The music hits you right off the bat with a strong presence and feeling of a rebel character that is almost intimidating others just by being around them. This is a wonderful track.
- Remember To Smile (2:17) – This track is clearly following the emotion on the screen as it loops from deeper sounds to the grandness of The Games again.
- Merida Rides Away (4:07) – The emotion in this track is evident as it starts out quite tense and then picks up to a full-blown race. At :40 into the track, your heart really gets racing as this part of the song sounds like it could be an introduction to its own movie (it’s that full of emotion).
- The Witch’s Cottage (4:26) – A sense of curiosity, laced with a touch of fear is evident in this track as the potion is no doubt being brewed at this point – you just get a sense of wonder and magic permeating in this track.
- Song of Mor’du (2:17) – The vocal talents of the main characters sings a traditional-sounding jig about the tale of the hated, Mor’du.
- Through The Castle (4:34) – The traditional sounds of tiptoeing around are evident in this track (cello and violin string plucking) accented by moments of suspense as mischief is no doubt happening. My favorite moment in this track is at 3:54.
- Legends Are Lessons (4:06) – This track is probably the most consistent on the soundtrack (having the least number of highs and lows) and has a soft and subtle movement that is nothing short of amazing – this is what you want a score to sound like.
- Show Us The Way (3:46) – The sounds of doom and intensity are abundant in this track. The background also contains an ethereal sound that really adds to the darkness of this track – there are moments during this track that sounds like a Hans Zimmer score. Don’t listen to this one alone with the lights out – it’s a heart pounder for sure!
- Mum Goes Wild (3:25) – Although this track most likely aligns itself with the images on the screen beautifully, as a stand-alone track, I wasn’t sold on this one. I think this one needs the visual element to ring true. One moment that is truly original in this track starts at 2:30 – I strongly suggest listening to this moment through the remainder of the track, it is creative and unique.
- In Her Heart (2:36) – The beautiful violin solo at the beginning of the track leads itself into a more playful romp of orchestration in this track.
- Noble Maiden Fair (A Mhaighdean Bhan Uasal) (2:36) – Emma Thompson displays her vocals on this track that screams of yearning.
- Not Now! (3:34) – This is another action-packed song that takes you on a journey from action to suspense with a lot more brass than some of the other tracks – which usually means more intense moments are happening.
- Get The Key (3:15) – Moments of intensity are briefly lightened by moments of levity throughout this track. As a side note – at moments I got hints of Fantasia (Mickey broom scene) during this song.
- We’ve Both Changed (5:30) – This is one of those big tracks that bring the entire orchestra into play – it’s loud, booming, intense, and peaceful all at the same time. If they put a behind-the-scenes look at the recording of the score on the Blu-ray, I hope this is a track they show.
- Merida’s Home (1:32) – Such a grand song of redemption to end the soundtrack – I could have only hoped to hear more.
There are only two areas that I wasn’t quite so keen on during the soundtrack. One of those moments was during the tracks, Song of Mor’Du and Nobel Maiden Fair in which the characters themselves are physically singing. I’m a fan of Pixar films because the characters don’t typically burst into song at a moment’s notice like some of the more traditional Disney films.
I’m not suggesting that I don’t like Disney’s animation in any way, but it caught me off guard because it isn’t something I’m used to in Pixar movies. The second area that I wasn’t as much of a fan of was that I didn’t get the sense of a character theme throughout the score. I would have preferred (like in other character-driven movies) if Merida had a strong musical signature when she was present on the screen – at times I had to rely on the titles of the songs to get clues as to who was on the screen rather than being able to sense it from the music.
That being said, my favorite tracks, without a doubt, are I Am Merida, Legends Are Lessons and We’ve Both Changed. As you could imagine, for any Pixar fans that want to immerse themselves in the movie, the score is an essential piece of that puzzle – along with The Art of Brave book.
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If you are looking for a more casual listen, I think this soundtrack can also satisfy your curiosity as well with its mix of vocal tracks (featuring Julie Fowlis, Mumford & Sons, and Birdy) and wonderful compositions.