He’s got a seven-foot frame, rats along his back – and the first breakout hit of 2022.
Yes, that’s right: We’re talking about Bruno, the Madrigal family’s estranged uncle in Disney’s “Encanto,” and the subject of the animated movie’s signature song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” which shot to No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart Monday nearly two months after its release in theaters.
“Bruno” is performed midway through the film, as heroine Mirabel (voiced by Stephanie Beatriz) learns from her family about their black sheep relative (John Leguizamo), who has the gift – and curse – of predicting the future. The song was not promoted as a single, nor was it submitted for best original song Oscar consideration by the studio (in favor of Spanish-language ballad “Dos Oruguitas”).
But that hasn’t stopped “Bruno” from becoming a “Frozen”-style phenomenon all its own: currently at No. 1 on Spotify’s U.S. Top 50 chart, as well as topping YouTube Music’s songs and music videos charts. According to TikTok, more than 146,000 fan videos have been created using the track, racking up over 469 million views (and counting) with videos highlighting its choreography and Latinx representation, and uncovering Bruno Easter eggs in the movie’s poster art.
“The organic nature of the audience landing on ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ really is the marketplace picking the single and that’s quite unusual, especially for an animated film,” says Chris Molanphy, Slate’s chart analyst and host of music history podcast Hit Parade.
“You’ve got this very bespoke situation where this left-field, almost patter song with multiple artists gets the big rise on the charts. But you have to throw several things into the blender to explain how this happened.”
‘Encanto’ wasn’t a hit – at first
“Encanto” got a soft start over Thanksgiving weekend on its way to a $92.6 million box-office haul – the latest in a string of movies aimed at young kids that have struggled to draw families back to theaters during the pandemic. The film’s soundtrack, featuring eight original songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Hamilton”), similarly disappointed with its debut at No. 197 on the Billboard 200 album chart.
But the movie, and its music, exploded when “Encanto” started streaming on Disney+ Christmas Eve. Since then, the soundtrack has jumped to No. 1 on Billboard’s album chart, unseating Adele’s latest juggernaut “30.” Multiple songs from the film are featured in the Hot 100 – led by “Bruno,” which entered the chart two weeks ago at No. 50 before vaulting to No. 5.
Jason Lipshutz, senior director of music at Billboard, compares the song’s meteoric rise to that of Olivia Rodrigo’s breakthrough “Driver’s License” last January. Like “Bruno,” the Grammy-nominated single was propelled by massive Spotify streams and trending TikTok videos, as people looked for the next big thing following the usual glut of Christmas music and fall releases from major artists.
“This is a new animated film that everybody started watching over the holidays – especially families with little kids, who are watching it over and over again,” says Lipshutz. “So I’m not shocked it’s risen so quickly because everybody can stream it. And I think people are just ready to experience something new.”
What is it about ‘Bruno’?
Latin music revenues grew for a fifth consecutive year in the U.S. in 2020, according to the Recording Industry Association Of America (RIAA). And with Colombian hitmakers including Maluma and Sebastián Yatra featured on the soundtrack, it’s no wonder that “Encanto” has enjoyed crossover appeal.
But that still doesn’t entirely explain why “Bruno” has been singled out by listeners. After all, the song isn’t a power ballad like Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go” from the animated “Frozen,” which over the course of roughly five months, rose to No. 5 on the Hot 100. Nor was it given a radio-friendly makeover by Elton John (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight”) or Vanessa Williams (“Colors of the Wind”), whose respective recordings of the Disney favorites both reached No. 4 in the mid-’90s.
“The major Disney breakout songs don’t really function like ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno,’ which is so much more about plot continuation and is less a kind of ballad as ‘Colors of the Wind’ or ‘Let It Go,’ ” Lipshutz says. “It doesn’t really make a ton of sense without seeing ‘Encanto,’ but I think because it’s such a compelling song within the movie, it doesn’t really matter if it’s more plot-driven. It’s the catchiest song.”
Marisa LaScala, a parenting and relationships editor at Good Housekeeping, believes “Let It Go” still has the edge over “Bruno,” which is faster and more complicated for kids to sing, and has less of an emotional connection. But “Bruno” – with its danceable blend of cha cha and hip hop, and mischievous lyrics about a potential villain – has a chance of becoming just as ubiquitous.
“Some of the most enduring Disney songs are the villain songs – think ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls,’ ‘Be Prepared,’ ‘Gaston,’ ” LaScala says. ” ‘Bruno’ gets to weave together this myth that gets more and more exaggerated. I think kids like that. … Plus, the melody switches up for each of the characters, and then the song layers all the parts together, which keeps it interesting.
“Then again, I asked my 6-year-old daughter why she likes it. She just lowered her voice and said, ‘It’s mysterious.’ ”