Disney's latest summer reading list adaptation A Wrinkle in Time is being hailed and expected to set the box office aflurry. A big-screen (and big-budget) adaptation of the 1962 novel by Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time follows a young girl through inter-dimensional time and space to find her missing father. It's a coming-of-age story bundled in a sci-fi odyssey, tied up with a $100 million bow.
To measure up the level of whimsy, earnest self-discovery, adventure and star power associated with the film (Oprah, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling play the young girl's astral guides), director Ava DuVernay, composer Ramin Djawadi and Walt Disney Records have enlisted kid-friendly pop talents to lend their voices to the saccharine soundtrack. (DuVernay made a special request to R&B unicorn Sade, asking her to contribute to album — that was released earlier this week and remains the album's standout.)
Now that film — which is getting decidedly middling reviews — and soundtrack are both out today, here are the tracks that caught the ears of NPR Music.
"Let Me Live" by Kehlani
Kehlani's become somewhat of a commodity for big-budget soundtracks since her breakthrough project, 2015's You Should Be Here -- the Oakland R&B singer has appeared on three of them in the past two years (Fate of the Furious, Everything, Everything and Suicide Squad). For Ava DuVernay's ambitious, defiantly heartfelt A Wrinkle In Time, Kehlani is tapped yet again, this time for "Let Me Live." It's a trop-pop R&B ballad with steel drums, reverb'd toms and a simple, insistent guitar chord all swaying at once to Kehlani's singular beat. The lyrics are stadium-anthem poetics, universal and vague enough to be felt by everyone... and believed by no one.
"Afraid to be strong, and too strong to be afraid / Caught up in the days between staying and running away," she sings.
But there's something in the strain of Kehlani's voice — anguish, triumph or both — that feels resolute, carrying the weight of the song with so much conviction her reality ends up bleeding into the lyrics, for which she served as the lead writer. The singer's life as a young, gifted ingenue, flaws and all, have been put on display for so long and told by so many voices, that there's power to be reclaimed in singing about overcoming a hardship that isn't necessarily hers. -- Joshua Bote
"I Believe" DJ Khaled feat. Demi Lovato
Tenacious-to-a-fault powerhouse singer Demi Lovato and Snapchat dynamo/positive lifestyle guru DJ Khaled are a no-brainer pairing to deliver an inspirational mid-tempo power ballad. In "I Believe," Demi preaches clear-eyed optimism with her jagged-edged voice on simplistic chorus: "Today I saw a rainbow in the rain / It told me I can do anything / If I believe in me."
"I Believe" is four minutes of condensed ambition spoken into existence. Demi's pre-chorus mantra of "I can, I can, I will, I will / I am, I am, no fear, no fear" is a bedroom mirror pep talk to accompany DJ Khaled's self-assured platitudes. The tune is the kind of reaching emotional pop that every spring brings us, so it's likely this song will be spinning on Top 40 across the country as the weather warms up. — Cyrena Touros
"Warrior" by Chloe x Halle
As Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia Records darlings, sister act Chloe x Halle serve as the youngest featured artists on the film's curated soundtrack. Their honey-hued harmonies melt into one another on "Warrior," an ode to bright-eyed independence, produced by Chloe Bailey.
"I could be a warrior, yes I am a warrior / There's no need to worry, love / Look around it's glorious / Close your eyes and taste the sun," they melodically preen on the song' chorus.
The film's lead, 14-year-old Storm Reid, and 16-year-old actress Rowan Blanchard make cameos in the song's music video, presenting a united, post-millennial front and an innocent-yet-assured attitude toward the world laid out before them. In addition to appearing on A Wrinkle in Time's official soundtrack, "Warrior" will be on the duo's upcoming debut album The Kids Are Alright, due out March 23. -- Sidney Madden
"Magic" by Sia
DuVernay teased Sia's "Magic" on Twitter last week, writing that the song was "written just for Meg as [she] uses her inner light to search for her father on faraway planets."
Like Sia's 2016 album This Is Acting, "Magic" builds on her signature smiling-through-the-tears brand of hopeful pop [Ed. note: Are you noticing a theme?] about recovery, with a decidedly even-happier attitude. The song's piano intro floats in on minor chords, as the lyrics express a childlike fear: "Now I don't wanna float to light / On a cloud of man-made ice," she sings with a magical realism that recalls A Wrinkle In Time author Madeline L'Engle's surreal prose. "Saddle up now for the ride / Waiting for the moon to rise / Don't want life to pass me by."
In a story about finding your strength, "Magic" is a reminder that growing up doesn't mean abandoning your sense of wonder, and there's not a pop artist more qualified than Sia to make this point. — Stefanie Fernández
A Wrinkle in Time (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) is out now via Walt Disney Records