Is the Soundtrack Better Than The Movie?
Sorry, “Frozen”: “Encanto” Tops the List of Most Popular Disney Soundtracks
A movie’s soundtrack is often the beating heart of the entire film. Sounds directly impact the way neurotransmitters fire in the brain, which can affect how we react to and appreciate what we’re watching. Sometimes, the soundtrack of the movie even takes on a life of its own and becomes streamed more than the movie itself is ever watched.
In this latest piece of research, the team at Voices.com compiled data from Spotify, Metacritic, the box office, and more than 1,000 audience members across the country to determine standout examples of the soundtrack truly being better than the movie. Our exhaustive data even yielded a metadata-based list of the absolute best movie soundtracks—album popularity, box office revenue, and audience opinions all considered. Keep reading to see what our soundtrack-versus-movie research ultimately revealed.
- Ten out of the 20 most popular soundtracks on Spotify belong to Disney.
- The soundtrack for “Sing 2” scores higher than Disney’s “Moana,” “Frozen,” “Frozen 2,” and “Turning Red.”
- “Aladdin” tops the list of soundtracks respondents have listened to without seeing the movie.
- Nearly 1 in 4 Americans are tired of listening to the “Frozen” and “Aladdin” soundtracks.
Definitely Better Than the Movie?
Our study kicks off with a bang, comparing Spotify’s current most popular movie soundtracks against each film’s rating on Metacritic. Metacritic utilizes a compilation of established movie critic ratings, while Spotify bases its soundtrack popularity off the total number of plays.
“Encanto” stole the show, sound-wise. This soundtrack is currently the most streamed of all movie soundtracks on Spotify, and it also received a fairly high score of 75 on Metacritic. Spotify users especially loved the hit “We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” which also happens to be YouTube’s second most popular music video at the moment.
Lin-Manuel Miranda may have been the real winner in this study: He was the genius behind the highly beloved “Encanto” soundtrack, as well as the playwright, composer, lyricist, and lead actor in “Hamilton.” “Hamilton” received a rating of 89 on Spotify and managed to please the people at Metacritic, receiving a score of 90 on the film overall.
The People Have Spoken
Audience preferences do not always correspond with processional critic ratings—in fact, they often don’t. The next section of research asked 1,056 Americans for their opinion on certain movies versus their soundtracks. Respondents had to have both seen the movie and listened to its soundtrack for this portion of the study.
“Encanto” may have stolen the hearts of Spotify listeners to a much greater extent than professional movie critics, but American audiences claimed to prefer the film over the soundtrack. Of those who had seen it, a third preferred the movie to the music.
The soundtrack that people loved most was for the movie “Dear Evan Hansen.” “Dear Evan Hansen” is a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, which certainly suggests a strong soundtrack. Other musicals (Broadway and not) appeared to be America’s favorite listens: “Mamma Mia,” “Aladdin,” “Hamilton,” which all have the characters singing (as opposed to a background soundtrack), each had audiences awarding some of their top scores to the soundtracks.
Platforms for Content vs. Music
Respondents were next asked to share which platforms they particularly enjoyed both for the movies and the soundtrack.
Netflix provided American audiences with both the best original content and the best soundtracks. In spite of Netflix’s popularity (the platform has more than 200 million paying global users), this as a favorite was somewhat surprising given that Disney+ owns both “Encanto” and “Hamilton.” Despite having fewer international subscribers than Netflix, however, Disney+ still managed to rank second for both original content and soundtrack music.
I’ll Add It to My Watchlist
Often soundtracks can be so popular that they end up taking on a life of their own outside of the movie. This piece of research asked respondents which soundtracks they’ve listened to without watching the movies they came from. Responses were further compared by whether listeners were parents.
The music from “Aladdin” was the most commonly listened to by respondents who had never seen the movie. The song “Prince Ali” (both the original version and the Will Smith remake) seems to be one of the most popular, followed by the classic romance song “A Whole New World.” Even having children didn’t seem to make too much of a difference here: Evidently, music from “Aladdin” was so pervasive on mainstream media that even those without children were likely to have heard it regardless if they had consciously chosen to watch the movie.
Certain soundtracks, while incredibly popular, become so overplayed that listeners are now sick of them. “Frozen,” for instance, was one of Spotify’s most streamed soundtracks, and yet 23% of respondents said they were tired of its songs. The same percentage felt similarly about the “Aladdin” soundtrack. With the exception of “Frozen” and “Encanto,” parents were more likely than nonparents to be sick of every soundtrack—presumably because they have had to listen to them more.
Looking for the Best
The last section of our study leaned on a little bit of data manipulation. By combining audience ratings, Spotify streaming data, Metacritic rankings, and box office financials, we were able to create a meta ranking of the very best movie soundtracks.
Box office revenue heavily influenced the meta ranking so that while audience members may have claimed to prefer other movies, the way they spent their dollars said otherwise. “The Lion King: The Gift” took first place and also scored bigger numbers at the box office than any other film: $1.65 billion to be exact. Nevertheless, the movie itself received a Metacritic rating of just 55. Perhaps its predecessor, the original “Lion King,” pulled enough weight for people to want to see it, regardless of its quality. Having Beyoncé play Nala also likely helped, although the soundtrack ultimately scored an underwhelming 72 on Spotify.
“Encanto”’s meta ranking put it all the way down in 23rd place. While the soundtrack may be pulling high numbers on Spotify and YouTube, the movie itself only took home $229.4 million—far less than movies like “Frozen,” “Aladdin,” or “La La Land.” Evidently, money talks, and it sings.
Singing Your Own Tunes
Spotify listeners, movie critics, and members of the public all ultimately had their own opinions on movies and their soundtracks. While “Encanto” stole the show on Spotify, it didn’t fare as well at the box office. And while “Aladdin” scored highest for the percentage of people who had heard its songs without seeing the movie, it also had one of the soundtracks listeners were most tired of.
Once all things were combined in a meta ranking, box office numbers pushed sequels and remakes like “The Lion King: The Gift,” “Frozen 2,” and “Beauty and the Beast” to the top. Evidently, box office numbers reached such high numbers for these films (upwards of a billion dollars) that their disappointing Metacritic ratings didn’t matter as much. Ultimately, a person’s personal inclinations toward a film’s story or its soundtrack will determine what makes the experience most enjoyable for them.
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Methodology and Limitations
For this campaign, we scraped Spotify to determine the most popular movie soundtracks in America. We also used data from Metacritic and The Numbers. We surveyed 1,056 Americans who often watch movies, of which 51% were men and 49% were women. For short, open-ended questions, outliers were removed. Survey data has certain limitations related to self-reporting. The margin of error was +/-3% with a 95% confidence interval.
Fair Use Statement
Audiences apparently disagree as to what makes the best movie and the best soundtrack. If you think your particular audience would be interested in this research, you are welcome to share it. Just be sure your purposes are noncommercial and that you link back to this page.