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explainer

Mirabel, voiced by Stephanie Beatriz, and Bruno, voiced by John Leguizamo, in a scene from the animated film Encanto.Disney/The Associated Press

Everybody’s talking about We Don’t Talk About Bruno. The smash-hit single from the Disney film Encanto was surprisingly not among the five 2022 Academy Award nominees for best original song announced Tuesday morning.

How did that happen? The answer is simple: The Latin pop song’s chart-topping success came after Disney had already submitted another song from the soundtrack, Dos Oruguitas, for Oscar consideration.

“No one could have predicted the success of the soundtrack, much less that it was going to be the one that popped off,” Lin-Manuel Miranda, the song’s creator, said recently of We Don’t Talk About Bruno on the Elvis Duran and the Morning Show.

The Oscar is presented to the writers of the best original song written specifically for a film. There is no limit to the number of songs that can be submitted for consideration from any one movie, but only a max of two can be nominated. Still, We Don’t Talk About Bruno, the first song from an animated Disney feature to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 since A Whole New World (Aladdin’s Theme) in 1993, has no chance for an Oscar.

Instead, contenders include Billie Eilish’s theme to No Time to Die (co-written by Eilish and Finneas O’Connell for the Bond film) Reba McEntire’s Somehow You Do (written by Diane Warren for Four Good Days), Beyoncé’s Be Alive (co-written by Beyoncé and Dixson for King Richard), Van Morrison’s Down to Joy (from Belfast) and the Encanto track Dos Oruguitas, written by Miranda and performed by Colombian singer Sebastian Yatra.

Released late last year, Disney’s animated musical Encanto is about a magical family who live in a mystical house in the Colombian mountains. Six songs from the film’s soundtrack are currently on Billboard’s top 100 list. In a recent interview with People, Miranda recently expressed surprise that We Don’t Talk About Bruno became the breakout song from Encanto, which was also nominated for best animated feature and best original score.

“I’m surprised it’s Bruno,” said Miranda, the actor-composer behind the Broadway musicals Hamilton and In the Heights. “I feel like this is my Send in the Clowns, which was the late Stephen Sondheim’s biggest hit and probably the most random of an incredible career and life making music. But I’ll take it.”

Steeped in the syncopated Cuban music style guajeo, We Don’t Talk About Bruno is a charismatic ensemble number in which an eccentric middle-aged man, the uncle Bruno, is speculated upon. With its infectious cha-cha-cha rhythm, gossipy drama and playful lyricism, the song has become the darling of the TikTok set. It has been translated into more than 40 languages.

Latin music in general has enjoyed considerable crossover success in recent years. Reggaeton artists J Balvin and Bad Bunny have taken the reggae-influenced Puerto Rican pop music international, with superstars the stature of Beyoncé, Katy Perry and Madonna embracing the genre.

The Latin wave was kicked off by the 2017 single Despacito from Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi and Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee. It was the first Spanish-language song to top the Billboard Hot 100 since Los del Rio’s Macarena in 1996. After hearing Despacito in a Colombian nightclub, Justin Bieber recorded a remix version that also reached No. 1.

Last year’s original song Oscar went to Fight for You by H.E.R., written for the 2021 film Judas and the Black Messiah. The 94th Academy Awards ceremony is scheduled to take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles on March 27.

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