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Colors of the Wind

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Colors of the Wind" is a song written by lyricist Stephen Schwartz and composer Alan Menken for Walt Disney Pictures' 33rd animated feature film Pocahontas (1995). The film's theme song, "Colors of the Wind" was originally recorded by American singer and actress Judy Kuhn in her role as the singing voice of Pocahontas. American actress and recording artist Vanessa Williams's cover of the song was released as the lead single from the film's soundtrack on May 23, 1995. A pop and R&B ballad, produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Keith Thomas, the song's lyrics speak of respecting nature and living in harmony with the Earth's creatures. The song is also featured on her third studio album The Sweetest Days.

"Colors of the Wind" won the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 68th Academy Awards in 1995, becoming composer Alan Menken's fourth win in the category. It also won the Golden Globe in the same category as well as the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for a Movie. The song poetically presents the Native American viewpoint that the earth is a living entity where humankind is connected to everything in nature.

Background

 The song was inspired by the words of Chief Seattle.
The song was inspired by the words of Chief Seattle.

Following the death of Howard Ashman, the Walt Disney Company wanted to find another musician to collaborate with Alan Menken on his scores for animated films. Stephen Schwartz, the composer behind the Broadway theater hits Godspell, Pippin, and The Magic Show, received a call from the company asking if he would like to collaborate with Menken. Schwartz had never considered working in the film industry, but agreed to do so nonetheless.[1] Schwartz did not feel he was well-suited to the job.[2]

Schwartz wanted to write a song for the film wherein Pocahontas confronts the Eurocentrism of John Smith.[3] "Colors of the Wind" was the first song written for Pocahontas. According to Schwartz, the song "influence[d] the development of the rest of the film." Schwartz said that "a story-board outline was in place before we wrote [the track]. This is often the process in animation, at least as I've experienced it, where everybody works from an outline and each succeeding piece of material, whether it is a song or drawings, influences the next."[3] The track was inspired by Native American poetry, music and folklore, as well as a famous letter sent to the United States Congress by Chief Seattle regarding humanity's relationship with nature.[4][3][5] Part of the letter reads: "The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh.The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers." This portion of the letter inspired the song's title, which Schwartz liked because he saw it as paradoxical and thought-provoking.[6]

Schwartz also drew inspiration for "Colors of the Wind" from the music of Oscar Hammerstein II and Sheldon Harnick, as it deals with issues of prejudice.[2] Menken said that while "Colors of the Wind" was "born out of the modality of Native American music...it quickly moved to its own place, which is hard to define." Menken has noted that the song lacks humor, which he and Schwartz attempted to inject into Pocahontas and failed.[4] Initially, the final lines of the song were "For your life's an empty hull/till you get it through your skull/you can paint with all the colors of the wind." Menken disapproved of these lyrics and asked Schwartz to rewrite them; Schwartz changed the lines to "You can own the Earth, and still/all you'll own is earth until/you can paint with all the colors of the wind." Schwartz preferred the altered lyrics. Schwartz said that this incident taught him the lesson: "If your collaborator is unhappy, it's probably because [the song] needs to be better," adding that he may not have won an Academy Award if he did not change the lyrics.[7] Menken views "Colors of the Wind" as one of the most important songs he has written.[4] Schwartz believed that the Walt Disney Company would reject "Colors of the Wind" for being philosophical and different from previous Disney songs.[8] Judy Kuhn sang the song to help "pitch" Schwartz's score to Disney, and the studio embraced the track.[8] Schwartz and Menken became friends, and later wrote music for the Disney films The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) and Enchanted (2007) together.[7]

Composition

"Colors of the Wind" has been compared to the writings of transcendentalists Henry David Thoreau (left) and Ralph Waldo Emerson (right).
A thirty-second sample of "Colors of the Wind", a pop ballad.

"Colors of the Wind" is a pop ballad[9][10] written by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz and performed by Judy Kuhn.[11] It has a length of three minutes and thirty-four seconds.[11] According to the Orlando Sentinel, the song does not resemble Native American music.[12] The song is about animism[13] and having respect for nature.[14] It features lyrics about "painting with all the colors of the wind" and listening to "the voices of the mountains sing."[9]

Madhurya Gajula of The Odyssey Online opined that the song's lyrics about nature's interconnectivity bears similarity to transcendentalism, specifically the philosophy of Henry David Thoreau;[9] similarly, Justyna Fruzińska wrote in Emerson Goes to the Movies: Individualism in Walt Disney Company's Post-1989 Animated Films that the lyrics of "Colors of the Wind" are reminiscent of the writings of transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson and New Age spirituality.[15] The staff of Billboard likened the lyrics of "Colors of the Wind" to a public service announcement about embracing diversity.[14] Sonically, Rita Kempley of The Washington Post found "Colors of the Wind" akin to music from Busby Berkeley films and The Little Mermaid (1989).[13]

The song also features a mention of a "blue corn moon"; there is no such thing in Native American culture. Responding to a fan inquiry, Schwartz admitted that he coined the phrase after reading a Native American love poem which read: "I will come to you in the moon of green corn"; Native American referred to months as "moons" and named them after events that happened seasonally, such as the sprouting of green corn. Schwartz disliked the phrase "green corn moon" due to the sound of the word "green" and because he felt it might evoke the urban legend that the Moon is made of green cheese. Instead, Schwartz used the phrase "blue corn moon" as it reminded him of both blue moons and blue corn tortillas. Schwartz thought that the phrase might evoke the Indigenous peoples of the Southeastern Woodlands rather than the Algonquin people depicted in Pocahontas, but was satisfied with it anyway.[3]

Reception

Photograph of composer Alan Menken attending a guild event.
Alan Menken's songwriting received mixed reviews.

Dominick Suzanne-Mayer of Consequence of Sound praised the track for featuring "surprisingly cutting" lyrics, "pointed commentary on racism, and a dynamic, soulful performance from Judy Kuhn all in one place."[16] Time's Raisa Bruner deemed "Colors of the Wind" one of the "powerful, uplifting theme songs" from the Disney Renaissance and a "classic".[17] Jordan Appugliesi of Mic ranked it the sixth best song from a Disney soundtrack, saying that it is "a poignant, memorable ballad" in the vein of "Reflection" from Mulan (1998).[10] Rita Kempler of The Washington Post felt that the "stirring anthem" is the song from Pocahontas which "comes closest to a show-stopper."[13] The staff of Billboard called the song "artistic" and "wistful" and ranked it the ninth best song of the Disney Renaissance.[14] Writing for The Austin Chronicle, Hollis Chacona opined "Unlike so many film composers of late, Menken knows when to keep quiet and when to let loose his powerful score. That power soars through its centerpiece (and no doubt Oscar-bound) song, 'Colors of the Wind,' performed by Judy Kuhn."[18]

Dorkys Ramos of Time Out said that the song and "When You Wish Upon a Star" from Pinocchio (1940) are "at the top of our list when it comes to songs we don't tire of hearing again and again."[19] Spin's Andrew Unterberger criticized the track's "patronizing" portrayal of Native American beliefs, but said that "man...Judy Kuhn’s voice soars, with those little trills and sweeping highs. It makes it much easier to get behind what’s ultimately an agreeable message of environmental awareness and acceptance."[20] Aylin Zafar of BuzzFeed ranked "Colors of the Wind" the ninth best Disney song, commending it for "encourag[ing] people to appreciate the world around them and to seek to understand others before judging them."[21] Gregory E. Miller of the New York Post deemed it one of Disney's best songs and an "iconic hit" which is "flashier" than another song from Pocahontas, "Just Around the Riverbend".[22] Screen Rant's Turner Minton viewed "Colors of the Wind" as the tenth best Disney song and "an anthem about the harmonious nature of the shared world which embraces all races of people."[23]

Charles Solomon of the Los Angeles Times viewed "Colors of the Wind" and "When She Loved Me" from Toy Story 2 (1999) as the only Disney songs released since Howard Ashman's death which "approached the standards" of the music from Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Aladdin (1992).[24] The staff of People said that the track is "performed effectively within the body of the film by Kuhn".[25] CollegeHumor's Willie Muse wrote that "even though Pocahontas as a whole is completely forgettable, I guarantee everyone reading this knows every single lyric of ["Colors of the Wind"]. Beautiful to listen to and epic in its scope, 'Colors of the Wind' transcends the movie that birthed it to earn its place as an undeniable classic."[26] Janet Maslin of The New York Times deemed the song "heartfelt" but less catchy than previous Disney songs.[27] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly stated that Pocahontas' "Alan Menken-Stephen Schwartz songs have all the flavor of uncooked dough".[28] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone criticized the song for its political correctness and for "sermoniz[ing] about ecology by using pedestrian conceits".[29]

Cover versions and usage in media

Vanessa Williams version

"Colors of the Wind"
Colors of the Wind.jpg
Single by Vanessa Williams
from the album Pocahontas: An Original Walt Disney Records Soundtrack and The Sweetest Days
Released May 23, 1995
Format CD single
Recorded 1995
Genre
Length 4:17
Label Walt Disney, Mercury
Songwriter(s) Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz
Producer(s) Keith Thomas
Vanessa Williams singles chronology
"The Way That You Love"
(1995)
"Colors of the Wind"
(1995)
"You Can't Run"
(1995)
"The Way That You Love"
(1995)
"Colors of the Wind"
(1995)
"You Can't Run"
(1995)

Background and composition

Vanessa Williams was chosen to perform "Colors of the Wind" due to the success of her Grammy Award-nominated single "Save the Best for Last".[30] Williams' cover is an adult contemporary pop song[31] which omits the opening lyrics of the original version of the track.[3] The cover features Bill Miller playing the Native American flute.[32] Scott Mendelson of Forbes wrote "The practice of having what amounts to a radio-friendly pop version of a given Disney song for a new Disney movie is of course an old tradition going back at least to" Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson's cover of the title track of Beauty and the Beast (1991); Mendelson noted that this practice was continued with Williams' version of "Colors of the Wind" and Demi Lovato's rendition of "Let It Go" from Frozen (2013). According to Mendelson, Williams' cover "was considered an 'all is forgiven' note" following the removal of Williams' Miss America title.[31]

Critical reception

Raisa Bruner of Time said that Williams' rendition was "performed flawlessly", adding that "The powerful Pocahontas song finds the crystal-clear voice of Vanessa Williams painting a vision of 17th-century Native American life—and the importance of the environment—that still resonates with audiences today." Bruner said that the cover stood alongside Elton John's version of "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" from The Lion King (1994) as one of "the best radio-ready versions of Disney's finest melodies".[17] MTV's Jessica Norton felt that the cover is "even more magical" than the original and "fitting...for free-spirited 'Nessa to cover."[33] The staff of People opined that the song is "not well served by the former Miss America’s pop diva turn. Indeed, her overblown interpretation seems directly at odds with the song’s message. Stay tuned to Kuhn."[5]

Other covers

Due to the popularity of the song, many versions of it exist by different artists and in several languages. The album Disneymania (2002) includes Ashanti's version of "Colors of the Wind".[34] Actress Vanessa Hudgens covered the song for Disneymania 5 (2007).[35] Brian Wilson released a funk-influenced version of "Colors of the Wind" on his album In the Key of Disney (2011).[36] American singer Tori Kelly's rendition of the song was included on the album We Love Disney (2015). Kelly decided to cover the song because she was obsessed with Pocahontas as a child.[37] Australian soprano Mirusia Louwerse covered "Colors of the Wind" for This Time Tomorrow (2016),[38] her debut solo album.[39] The singer's arrangement has been described as featuring "a simple and unobtrusive accompaniment on acoustic guitar."[39] Postmodern Jukebox, a musical collective that creates vintage-style covers of popular songs, released a cover of the song in the style of 1970s soul music.[40]

Usage in media

Actress Melissa McCarthy lip synced the song during an episode of Lip Sync Battle. Before lip syncing the track, McCarthy donned protective goggles. Then a high-powered wind machine blew water, stuffed animals, water, confetti, streamers and fake leaves at her as the song played. The performance received a standing ovation, and Jimmy Fallon deemed her the winner of the battle.[41]

Charts and certifications

References

  1. ^ Shenton, Mark (October 27, 2016). "Stephen Schwartz: I had no idea how cut-throat and mean theatre was'". The Stage. Retrieved February 12, 2018. 
  2. ^ a b Laird 2014, pp. 232–233.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Stephen Schwartz Comments on Disney's Pocahontas" (PDF). stephenschwartz.com. 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 24, 2015. Retrieved May 24, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c Snetiker, Marc (July 22, 2015). "Alan Menken tells stories behind 7 classic Disney songs". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 12, 2018. 
  5. ^ a b Mackie, Drew (December 9, 1992). "Disney's Pocahontas Has Been Painting with All the Colors of the Wind for 20 Years". People. 
  6. ^ Laird 2014, pp. 234.
  7. ^ a b Palm, Matthew J. (November 7, 2016). "Inside the mind of legendary Broadway, Disney composer Stephen Schwartz". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved February 12, 2018. 
  8. ^ a b Strauss, Bob (June 23, 1996). "Courting Controversy? Disney's Newest Animated Feature, 'Hunchback Of Notre Dame,' Takes On Sensitive Adult Issues". The Spokesman-Review. Archived from the original on May 16, 2017. Retrieved February 13, 2018. 
  9. ^ a b c Gajula, Madhurya (November 14, 2017). "10 Transcendentalist Pop Songs Thoreau Would Jam Out To In The Woods By Walden Pond". The Odyssey Online. Retrieved February 10, 2018. 
  10. ^ a b Appugliesi, Jordan (April 25, 2017). "The 11 best Disney soundtrack songs of all-time: From 'Pinocchio' to 'Frozen'". Mic. Retrieved February 10, 2018. 
  11. ^ a b "Colors of the Wind Composed by Alan Menken / Stephen Schwartz". AllMusic. Retrieved February 10, 2018. 
  12. ^ Boyd, Bentley (December 9, 1992). "Disney Animators Poised To Portray Pocahontas". Orlando Sentinel. 
  13. ^ a b c Kempley, Rita. "‘Pocahontas’: A Hit or Myth Proposition" The Washington Post. June 23, 1995
  14. ^ a b c Billboard Staff (March 15, 2017). "Every Song From the Disney Renaissance (1989-'99), Ranked: Critics' Take". Billboard. Retrieved February 12, 2018. 
  15. ^ Fruzińska 2014, pp. 80-81.
  16. ^ Shoemaker, Allison; Dominick, Suzanne-Mayer (March 15, 2017). "Ranking: Every Disney Song From Worst to Best". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved February 13, 2018. 
  17. ^ a b Bruner, Raisa (July 7, 2018). "11 Classic Disney Songs Performed Flawlessly by Famous Pop Stars". Time. Retrieved February 12, 2017. 
  18. ^ Chacona, Hollis (June 23, 1995). "Pocahontas". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved February 13, 2018. 
  19. ^ Ramos, Dorkys (September 26, 2017). "The best Disney songs of all time". Time Out. Retrieved February 14, 2018. 
  20. ^ Unterberger, Andrew (February 19, 2015). "Every Oscar Winner for Best Original Song, Ranked". Spin. SpinMedia. Retrieved May 27, 2015. 
  21. ^ Zafar, Aylin (April 21, 2014). "The Definitive Ranking Of The 102 Best Animated Disney Songs". BuzzFeed. Retrieved February 14, 2018. 
  22. ^ Miller, Gregory E. (March 18, 2014). "The best (and the most underrated) Disney songs". New York Post. Retrieved February 14, 2018. 
  23. ^ Turner, Minton (March 16, 2017). "The Best Disney Songs Of All Time, Ranked". Scree Rant. Retrieved February 14, 2018. 
  24. ^ Solomon, Charles (December 31, 2001). "But It Was Big Enough Already". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 13, 2018. 
  25. ^ People Staff (July 24, 1995). "Picks and Pans Review: Pocahontas Soundtrack". People. Retrieved February 13, 2018. 
  26. ^ Muse, Willie (November 6, 2017). "The 10 Best Disney Songs of All Time, Objectively". CollegeHumor. Retrieved February 13, 2018. 
  27. ^ Maslin, Jane (June 11, 1995). "History as Buckskin-Clad Fairy Tale". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 29, 2017. Retrieved July 29, 2017. 
  28. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (June 16, 1995). "Pocahontas". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on July 29, 2017. Retrieved July 29, 2017. 
  29. ^ Travers, Peter (June 23, 1995). "Pocahontas". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on July 29, 2017. Retrieved July 29, 2017. 
  30. ^ "Vanessa Williams comes to Fallsview Casino in August". Niagara Falls Review. May 10, 2017. Retrieved February 13, 2018. 
  31. ^ a b Mendelson, Scott (January 26, 2014). "Lana Del Rey Covers 'Once Upon A Dream' For Angelina Jolie's 'Maleficent'". Forbes. Retrieved February 13, 2018. 
  32. ^ Nerl, Daryl (January 26, 2014). "Native American singer Bill Miller tells why Bethlehem's Godfrey Daniels is a favorite club". The Morning Call. Retrieved February 13, 2018. 
  33. ^ Norton, Jessica (October 21, 2015). "17 Times Your Fave Stars Made Disney Songs Even More Magical". MTV. Retrieved February 13, 2018. 
  34. ^ "'N Sync, Usher, Ashanti Dip Into 'Disneymania'". Billboard. August 22, 2002. Retrieved April 26, 2018. 
  35. ^ "Disney – Disneymania 5". AllMusic. March 27, 2007. Retrieved March 14, 2018. 
  36. ^ Murray, Noel (November 1, 2011). "Brian Wilson: In The Key Of Disney". The A.V. Club. Retrieved April 25, 2018. 
  37. ^ "Tori Kelly Covers Pocahontas Colors of the Wind: We Love Disney". People. March 27, 2007. Retrieved April 25, 2018. 
  38. ^ "Mirusia - This Time Tomorrow". ABC Shop. Retrieved March 14, 2018. 
  39. ^ a b Arkinstall, Meldi (July 14, 2016). "Mirusia: This Time Tomorrow - Meldi Arkinstall CD Review". The Culture Concept Circle. Retrieved March 14, 2018. 
  40. ^ Freeman, Paul (February 3, 2017). "Making modern music with Postmodern Jukebox". Mercury News. Retrieved April 28, 2018. 
  41. ^ Kile, Meredith B. (April 4, 2016). "Melissa McCarthy Pulls Out All the Stops for Epic, Confetti-Covered Lip Sync Battle". Entertainment Tonight. Retrieved April 28, 2018. 
  42. ^ "australian-charts.com". Retrieved December 6, 2008. 
  43. ^ "irishcharts.ie search results for Vanessa Williams". Archived from the original on February 1, 2010. Retrieved December 6, 2008. 
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  45. ^ "everyhit.com search results for Vanessa Williams". Archived from the original on July 18, 2007. Retrieved December 6, 2008. 
  46. ^ a b c d "Allmusic - Vanessa Williams - Billboard Singles". Retrieved December 6, 2008. 
  47. ^ "Zoeken naar: Artiest: Vanessa Williams (in Dutch)". DutchCharts.nl. Retrieved 2011-12-27. 
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  50. ^ "Billboard Top 100 - 1995". Archived from the original on 2009-08-15. Retrieved 2010-08-27. 
  51. ^ "American single certifications – Williams, Vanessa – Colors of the Wind". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  52. ^ "Best-Selling Records of 1995". Billboard. BPI Communications. 108 (3): 56. January 20, 1996. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved May 5, 2015. 

Further reading

External links

This page was last edited on 13 May 2018, at 16:11.
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