How ‘We Don’t Talk About Bruno’ Is All About Family
If the first quarter of 2022 had a soundtrack, "We Don't Talk About Bruno" would be it. The hit song has been on repeat for months in seemingly every single house in the world, and people are still excited about it and "Encanto," the Disney animated film that features it.
At the risk of getting the song stuck in your head just when you got it out, we want to talk about Bruno and the song in which he's a protagonist without even appearing in it (except, perhaps, as a shadow in the background).
While the music is fantastic, we think the song's success also has to do with the fact that it embodies the universal experience of family — different tunes and beats finding a way to harmonize and work with each other.
Let's take a look at how Lin-Manuel Miranda created the song and why it's not really about Bruno, but about family.
A Record-Breaking Disney Song
Before getting into what makes "We Don't Talk About Bruno" (WDTAB) so good and how it's all about family, let's talk about the song's surprisingly massive success.
It's extremely rare for a song from a movie to become a hit, especially one from an animated film. But the unofficial theme song of "Encanto" broke records by being the first song from a Disney film in history to top the U.K. Singles Chart. In the U.S., it was the first Disney song in 30 years to make it to No. 1 on the Billboard 100 and earned the longest time at that position for any of its musical productions.
To put things into perspective, not even "Let It Go" from "Frozen" got near this!
But "WDTAB" isn't the only "Encanto" song that made it big. Each of the eight songs on the soundtrack was simultaneously on the Billboard 100, something maybe no other soundtrack has ever achieved. The entire soundtrack was nominated for Best Original Score at the 94th Academy Awards.
"Dos Oruguitas" — a melancholic ballad that will tug at your heartstrings and have you crying each time you hear it — was also nominated for Best Original Song. And while neither the soundtrack nor the song won in their respective categories, "Encanto" did bring home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film.
The Musical Genius of "We Don't Talk About Bruno"
So what makes "WDTAB" so easy to listen to on repeat? It's all on the shoulders of Lin-Manuel Miranda, one of the greatest composers of our generation. Miranda has claimed that he never expected the song's success, saying that he would've guessed that if any song made it to the Billboard 100, it would have been the very danceable "Colombia Mi Encanto."
He did, however, know it was a good song when his kids started humming it randomly in the house after overhearing him composing it. (He was working from home, as this was in the middle of the pandemic.)
Now, he thinks that the song's success has to do with the fact that each character gets their own part, which has a different rhythm, even though the chord progression is the same. Miranda used different Latin styles for the characters, featuring salsa, Latin pop, cha-cha-cha and other beats. This has made it easy for the song to be shared on social media, with posts highlighting character parts rather than the entire song — this is also what has made it the ultimate group karaoke song.
Another thing that makes the song exciting is that we get more screen time with lovable secondary characters like Pepa's entire side of the family. Felix shines as hilarious and lively, Camilo proves he is the most mischievous of the family, and Dolores shows off her dance skills as well as the burden it is to be able to hear everything.
Through the song, we also learn important plot points like Dolores' true feelings about Mariano and that Bruno's prophecy was about Mirabel. If we think of the movie as a musical, the medley sets up the end of Act I and the beginning of Act II. Pretty genius, huh?
The Song That Changed the Story of "Encanto"
If you need more proof of how amazing "We Don't Talk About Bruno" is, here's an interesting "Encanto" detail: Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote it to convince Disney not to cut secondary characters.
The composer claims the powers that be told him several times to cut secondary characters that they deemed "unnecessary." But because the idea of "Encanto" was all about family, the team behind the movie did not want to give up Pepa's branch.
His solution was to write the song we now all know and love as a way to show that these characters could be valuable to the plot and shine on their own. The number won over skeptical execs who let us keep the characters that are now fan favorites.
Can you imagine "Encanto" without Felix, Camilo or Dolores? We can, and it looks much less interesting.
We Are All the Madrigales
What drives the success of "We Don't Talk about Bruno," in our humble opinion, is that it portrays the universal experience of family — both the good and the bad.
We see just how fun and playful family can be. The spousal riff-raff between Feliz and Pepa is hilarious, and Camilo's teasing is reminiscent of older children scaring younger ones for laughs. The scene where they're setting the table as an important guest comes over is familiar to most of us and may even bring up fond memories.
But besides the fun, fuzzy elements of family life, there are also the more uncomfortable ones. The song addresses through a comic lens the absurdity of family secrets, those things everyone in the family knows about but refuses to acknowledge. And how, in the end, those are the things that weigh the most on the relationships between family members.
There is also commentary about expectations and outcasts since many families have that one misunderstood member that doesn't seem to fit. Though everyone loves Bruno, they blame him for things that are objectively not his fault, like a fish dying or someone growing a belly. They don't do this out of malice but because they don't understand him or his powers.
Crushing expectations come up in the form of Isabela, who feels the need to act as if her life is entirely perfect, even while everyone in town is sharing negative experiences. Luisa, too, has a small moment that shows her suffering over losing her strength, which she thinks is the source of her value.
And the movie doesn't leave these issues after discussing them in "WDTAB." Instead, it keeps exploring them throughout the film until the characters — and, by proxy, the viewers — are forced to face them. "Encanto" may be about a magical Colombian family, but by addressing these common dynamics, it becomes a perfect universal family movie.
Just don't be surprised if you start singing about a guy named Bruno at all hours of the day.