The DNA of a strong song for an animated film—in Western terms, anyway—can be traced to (1) lyrics about perseverance, following one’s dreams, building self-confidence, or any likeness thereof; (2) a (usually optional) musical peak to evoke elation, often resulting in spontaneous sing-alongs; and finally, (3) juvenile one-liners and puns.
Recent examples from animated film scores fitting one or more of these criteria include “Try Everything” from Zootopia—“I won’t give up, no I won’t give in” as a token lyric—and “Way Back When” from Mr. Peabody & Sherman—although its acoustic, drum-heavy production is not within the norm. The “na-na-nana-na-nana-na-na” choral chanting and the lyrical depiction of friendship are, however.
We can also add “Can’t Stop the Feeling” to the list, the Justin Timberlake-penned theme to DreamWorks’ upcoming film Trolls.
No attempts are made to disguise it as anything but an innocent, lively dance song with a familiar air of spunk.
Unlike its more familiar, incessantly jovial counterpart “Happy,” the song’s longevity is not resting squarely on a repetitive chorus. In fact, the “dance, dance, dance” chorus may be its weakest component, given Timberlake’s pedigree. What surrounds it, however, is a catchy flow. The way Timberlake breaks up the lyric “moving so phe-no-mi-nal-ly;” the teasing transition of “just imagine, just imagine, just imagine;” as well as the rallying closer “got this feeling in my body, c’mon/ wanna see you move your body” are areas where the song thrives, tossing in a pun for good measure (“good soul in my feet”).
It’s not an anthem of determination as some of Disney’s output, and as a Justin Timberlake song, it’s a tad underwhelming. But viewed independent of those factors, “Can’t Stop the Feeling” fits nicely into the standard mold, while not itself being a larger accomplishment.