Disney’s Soul, starring Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey, has been one of the best new movies that I’ve seen in a long time. Although not without its criticisms, the story, animation, and incredible musical score mark this film as an instant favorite. While each re-watch reignites my love for the movie, I find myself more and more impressed by the fantastic mashup of jazz and synth in its soundtrack. I’ve been playing piano since I was 7, and I watch in awe during the scenes where Joe, the main character, plays amazingly moving pieces that make me wish I had spent more time practicing.
One thing that strikes me is just how impressive improvisational jazz really is — the movie paints it as an effortless talent that nearly any pianist can master, but as a musician, I understand just how many moving parts are involved in making improvisational jazz actually good. In order to improvise that well, you have to have SUCH a deep understanding of so many things: the key, the rhythm, the band you’re playing with, etc, AND you have to be able to pull all those moving parts together in a split second, only to potentially have the song change completely just as fast. I envy Joe Goldberg’s talent and love for such a complex art and only wish of being able to play like that.
The soundtrack also features bright and structured techno-pop music to contrast the spontaneous and bluesy jazz. There are a few different dimensions of reality in Soul, and they are represented differently through musical genres. The real world is where all the jazz happens, but in the “Great Before” and “Great Beyond” dimensions beyond the physical world, there are more synth and electronic songs. I love how starkly different the two are. I think it’s such a clever way to establish a new atmosphere as the characters travel between dimensions.
In one scene in particular, (don’t worry, no spoilers) Joe improvises a beautiful song about something on his mind, and the music is so moving that I can physically feel it. I don’t know how to explain it, but the song just brings me to tears every time. I don’t think I could ever listen to it while driving because it would cause an accident. I implore anyone who hasn’t watched the movie yet to do so right now, and maybe now that you’ve read the musician’s take on it that you’ll have a deeper appreciation for the music that plays as the beautiful story unfolds.