On March 18, 2022, Disney again made history. Not with another unnecessary sequel or a box office record, but with a lo-fi album. Ten tracks of Disney’s greatest hits are smushed down into a short-lived 24 minute “study session”.
They’ve remastered and re-released each of these songs an innumerable number of times, so now Disney has defaulted to remixing them. Although quick, each track really does stand out (as they were designed to do). A good balance is divided between classic songs and more modern ones.
Six 90’s era hits: “Hakuna Matata,” “Go the Distance,” “A Whole New World,” “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” and “Under the Sea” are combined with three from the late 2010s: “How Far I’ll Go,” “Into the Unknown,” and “Un Poco Loco.” “Almost There” from 2009’s “The Princess and the Frog” strangely and solely bridges the two eras together.
The original versions of these songs are extremely popular and well-known, mainly for their emotional lyrics and the powerful voices of those who carry them. As songs from movies, they also carry the burden of driving plot and character development.
Whether Disney wants it or not, the listener is constantly reminded of this during each track. A lot is going on with each original song — that’s what makes them so impressive both musically and lyrically; that is missing here. These songs and their accompanying lyrics are simply too well-known to be separated from each other, leaving the whole album feeling off.
With only the shaved-down melodies remaining, these bright and bubbly tracks feel hollow and vacant, a feeling which permeates the intent behind the album. In short, Disney got a little too confident here.
The classic songs are too upbeat and hopeful, with far too much imagery, emotion, pixie-dust and whatever it is that makes a Disney-adult tick, to work either as remixes or as study music. This album actually works as the opposite of study music, constantly butting in to remind you of the better originals while not letting you forget how absent the lyrics are.
The new versions are not bad songs at all. They work well on their own. The songs I was less familiar with I found to function much like regular, non-remix lo-fi (as Disney intended the whole album to). It’s unfortunate that enjoying one of the biggest moments for lo-fi as a genre is conditional. You must be unfamiliar with the current Disney pantheon to listen to this album, at least as intended — in this case, for study music.
Disney did this to fit in with the genre, no doubt a nod to the popular “lofi hip hop radio – beats to relax/study to” 24/7 livestream with its featured “Lofi Girl.” Caution was justly raised that they were trying to steal or copyright a well-loved, notably free internet sensation. It doesn’t seem or feel like this though, because Disney hired separate independent lo-fi artists to produce each track.
Working with the industry itself rather that emulating it is a surprising move, especially for one of the biggest media conglomerates in the world. However, because of that role, the whole spirit and fundamental nature of lo-fi as low-fidelity music is inaccessible to Disney. The production value is just too high. Violins and string orchestras don’t really fit into lo-fi, but Disney still pushes it anyway.
Despite being solid in concept, the album fails in reality. Even the best track, Kupla’s break-beat approach to “Under the Sea,” is out of place and feels removed. “Lofi Minnie: Focus” is far too reminiscent of Disney’s production over the past few years; it's just another final attempt to milk a bit more profit out of their larger past successes.