‘Moana’ Enters Billboard Chart at No. 2

Propelled by the pop appeal of Justin Timberlake, Trolls tops the Billboard Soundtrack Chart for the second week, but Moana made a strong opening appearance at No. 2 the week of Dec. 10, and seems poised for the challenge of a further upward climb.

The three-years-in-the-making musical opus teamed Hamilton songwriter Lin-Manuel Miranda with Grammy-winning composer Mark Mancina and Somoan artist Opetaia Foa’i of New Zealand band Te Vaka.

Moana, which led the Thanksgiving week domestic box office, with more than $81 million, according to comScore, features  Disney’s newest princess, voiced by Auli’i Cravalho, now 16, a Hawaii native of Chinese, Irish, Native Hawaiian , Portuguese and Puerto Rican descent.

Among other tunes, Cravalho sings the in-story version of the Miranda-penned “How Far I’ll Go,” performed over the end credits by Canadian singer/songwriter and Def Jam recording artist Alessia Cara (who is also featured in the film’s official music video).

Duane “the Rock” Johnson, who plays the vain demigod Maui, has a solo turn at the mic on the tune “You’re Welcome.” The actor recounts in hilarious details to USA Today how nervous he was about making his cinematic song debut in a Disney musical. His approach: lots of prep!

“We wanted to tell the world this beautiful culture of the South Pacific and to tell stories of our ancestors and how they lived,” composer Foa’i said. “They were fantastic navigators and voyagers. Even the way they lived–I found it absolutely amazing. I was very inspired.” Foa’i’s wife Julie, manager of Te Vaka, explained that in addition to songs her husband contributed musical segments throughout the film (including the opening title sequence, which features vocals by their daughter).  The inherent musicality of the Polynesian language added rich texture.

Mancina composed the underscore in addition to collaborating with the others on songs. Moana is the story of a Polynesian princess who is chosen by the ocean to reunite a special relic with a goddess.  It is directed by Ron Clements and John Musker and co-directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams.

One of the most unusually sourced tunes has to be “Shiny,” which Miranda describes as a tribute to David Bowie — “a glam-rock tune for a jewel-encrusted crab” — with a nod to The Little Mermaid’s “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” The song is performed by Flight of the Conchords’ Jermaine Clement, who plays the evil crab Tamotoa.

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