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'We Don't Talk About Bruno,' the surprise hit from Disney's 'Encanto'

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now we want to talk about something we don't talk about - Bruno.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE DON'T TALK ABOUT BRUNO")

MAURO CASTILLO AND CAROLINA GAITAN: (As Felix Madrigal and Pepa Madrigal) We don't talk about Bruno, no, no, no. We don't talk about Bruno.

MARTIN: You know you've heard "We Don't Talk About Bruno." It is the breakout number from the new Disney animated film "Encanto." Since the film was released last month, the song has risen to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making it the second-highest-charting song ever from a Disney feature, behind only "A Whole New World" from "Aladdin" in 1992. And the film's entire soundtrack is now No. 1 on the Billboard album chart. Yes, we love it, but why do we love it so, and why has this song been flying up the charts? We've called NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour co-host, Glen Weldon, to tell us more. Glen Weldon, welcome. Thank you for joining us.

GLEN WELDON, BYLINE: Hey, great to be here.

MARTIN: OK, so we've listened to the song, and it's great. And please don't think we only are doing this story as an excuse to keep playing it...

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: ...But it's breaking so many records. What exactly do you think is driving so much of this song's success?

WELDON: Well, we don't have to overthink this, Michel. It's insanely catchy. It slaps in a way that a lot of Lin-Manuel Miranda's stuff does. It's an earworm, pure and simple, bigger than the ones they got on planet Dune, but it's also about something - something very real, very recognizable, because every family has that thing that we all agree not to gossip about until you get one of your aunts alone...

MARTIN: (Laughter).

WELDON: ...Away from the rest of the family, and then it all comes spilling out. People recognize that. I mean, the song starts with, we don't talk about Bruno, no, no, no, and then immediately, very first verse, you get - but it was my wedding day, which, you know, that but is doing a lot of very familiar work.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE DON'T TALK ABOUT BRUNO")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #1: (As character, singing) He told me my fish would die. The next day, dead.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (As characters, singing) No, no.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #2: (As character, singing) He told me I'd grow a gut, and just like he said.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (As characters, singing) No, no.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER #3: (As character, singing) He said that my hair...

WELDON: What's going on here in terms of the numbers is TikTok. Billboard's been factoring TikTok into the charts for a little while now, which is why last year you saw songs by Dua Lipa and Doja Cat climbing back up the charts long after they had dropped off. TikTok did that. And this song has all the usual stuff that TikTok creators love. They can lip sync to it, they can do the dance moves, but they also can engage with it on different levels. I mean, they can single out individual characters in the song for praise or, in the case of the family matriarch, Abuela, for scorn. A lot of people got their claws out for Abuela on TikTok, Michel.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

WELDON: The song is also about family, so you've got birth order specialists and trauma therapists and family counselors weighing in, too. It's a whole thing.

MARTIN: It is a whole thing. It's a bigger thing than I knew of.

WELDON: Mmm hmm.

MARTIN: OK. So I understand another song from the film just hit the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 list this week, too. Can you tell us about it?

WELDON: Yeah. "We Don't Talk About Bruno" is having its moment now. I'm aware of its work, but keep your eye on "Surface Pressure," which is the song sung by Luisa, the eldest sibling in the movie. It's - Jessica Darrow is the performer there.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SURFACE PRESSURE")

JESSICA DARROW: (As Luisa Madrigal, singing) If I fold to pressure like a grip, grip, grip, and it won't let go. Whoa. Pressure like a tick, tick, tick, till it's ready to blow. Woah.

WELDON: Not for nothing - I just think it's a better song. It's more conventional, maybe - one voice. It's got - it's a more straightforward blend of pop and musical theater, but Darrow's performance is - it's so expressive. It's so emotional. She's got this enormous vocal range, too. And also, the song just keeps throwing you all of these sudden musical left turns. That keeps it interesting. And, speaking personally, it resonates with me as a queer anthem in the same way that a lot of folks read "Let It Go" as a queer anthem, but it's opposite. Where "Let It Go" is about leaving everybody else's expectations behind, "Surface Pressure" is about taking on everybody's expectations. So it's the same subject, just much less healthy.

MARTIN: That was NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour's Glen Weldon. Glen, thank you.

WELDON: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SURFACE PRESSURE")

DARROW: (As Luisa Madrigal, singing) Under the surface, I had my nerves and it worsens. I worry something is going to hurt us. Under the surface, the ship doesn't swerve as it heard how big the iceberg is. Under the surface, I think about my purpose. Can I somehow preserve this? Line up the dominoes, a light wind blows... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.