Disney’s “Bruno” Streams to #1

MEET BRUNO -- “Encanto” tells the tale of an extraordinary family blessed with magical gifts from super strength to the power to heal. Voiced by John Leguizamo, Bruno has been estranged from the Madrigal family for as long as Mirabel (voice of Stephanie Beatriz) can remember. Gifted with the ability to see the future, Bruno’s honest, but often doomsaying predictions proved problematic for Abuela and the rest of the family, so he disappeared, becoming the uncle no one talks about —unless, of course, they do. Opening in the U.S. on Nov. 24, 2021, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Encanto” features songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda. © 2021 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

“We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” from Disney’s latest animated feature Encanto, hit #1 this week and has everyone talking about “Bruno.” Written by Lin Manuel Miranda, the song exploded in popularity shortly after the film’s streaming release on Christmas Eve. It currently tops the Billboard Hot 100, ending Adele’s 10-week run with “Easy on Me.” Even more impressive, another song from the film, “Surface Pressure,” has spent time in the top 10 and “Dos Orugitas” (#2 on the Latin chart) is nominated for an Academy Award. The Encanto soundtrack currently sits atop the Billboard Hot 200 album chart.

Surprisingly, this is new for the House of Mouse; Disney hasn’t traditionally done well in the pop charts. Songs featured in their films have been beloved by families and fans for generations, but have rarely enjoyed the radio airplay that’s been necessary for sustained chart success. Even “Let It Go,” the massively-downloaded hit from Frozen in 2014, was unable to reach the top spot for a similar reason, peaking at #5.

The rise of streaming appears to be a key ingredient in the “Bruno” success story. In the old days, radio airplay and sales were overwhelmingly the factors determining a track’s chart performance. But now Spotify has been in the U.S. for over ten years and Apple Music has been streaming since 2015 – streaming is the king-maker. Radio airplay is less significant, with social media platforms like TikTok providing much more viral juice. “Bruno” TikToks have been raging.

Disney did debut Encanto in theaters for thirty days prior to rolling it out on Disney+ at Christmas. The film made a respectable $228 million in theaters during that brief run, more than offsetting its $150 million budget. In its first week on Disney+ (27 December – 2 January), Encanto was streamed for 2.2 billion minutes. While streams of a film don’t count toward Billboard chart performance for the soundtrack, the film in this case acts like an elaborate promotional video for the soundtrack.

Repetition and familiarity have always been critical factors in hit-making. Streaming in the digital era now gives media companies a clearer view of how viral heat builds. With the decline of commercial terrestrial radio, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” would appear to be giving us a look at how streaming and social media will continue to reshape pop music charts.

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