Soul– Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Walt Disney Records)

Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross & Jon Batiste

Released December 2020

Grammy Nominee for Best Jazz Instrumental Album

Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media




Soul is a 2020 computer-animated fantasy comedy-drama film produced by Pixar Animation Studios for Walt Disney Pictures and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. The film was directed by Pete Docter, co-directed by Kemp Powers, and produced by Dana Murray as Pixar’s 23rd feature film. Originally intended to be shown in theaters, the film’s release has been delayed multiple times as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and instead was released on December 25, 2020 on Disney+.

During the 2019 D23 Expo, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross were revealed to be composing the film’s score with Jon Batiste writing jazz songs for the film. Soul is the first Pixar film directed by Docter since Monsters, Inc. (2001) not to be scored by Michael Giacchino (Monsters, Inc. was composed by Randy Newman). Batiste composed jazz music for the film’s New York City sequences, while Reznor and Ross wrote an instrumental score for the scenes taking place in “The Great Before”. Batiste said that he wanted to create jazz music that felt “authentic”, but also “accessible to all ages” and make the themes tie into the “ethereal nature” of “The Great Before” while still being on Earth. Batiste also sometimes worked with Reznor and Ross to “blend the two worlds, musically”. Cody Chesnutt also wrote, produced, and performed an original song for the film, titled “Parting Ways”. Batiste also arranged a new version of the song “It’s All Right”, originally performed by the Impressions, for the film. Featured in the end credits, the song is performed as a duet between Batiste and British soul singer Celeste. On December 18, the entire soundtrack and score was made available through three separate albums, two of which are exclusively on vinyl. Released as the first single, “It’s All Right” was featured on both the Soul Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and Music From and Inspired by Soul vinyl album.

Track Listing:

1. Born to Play (Jon Batiste) 02:00

2. Born to Play (Reprise) (Jon Batiste) 00:50

3. Bigger Than Us (Jon Batiste) 01:51

Grammy Nominee for Best Improvised Jazz Solo (Jon Batiste, soloist)

4. Collard Greens and Cornbread Strut (Jon Batiste) 00:36

5. The Great Beyond (Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross) 02:45

6. Falling (Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross) 00:41

7. The Great Before/U Seminar (Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross) 03:19

8. Jump to Earth (Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross) 00:52

9. Rappin Ced (Daveed Diggs) 00:37

10. Joe’s Lowdown Blues (Jon Batiste) 00:36

11. Terry Time (Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross) 01:14

12. Joe’s Life (Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross) 00:40

13. Portal/The Hall of Everything (Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross) 02:18

14. Run/Astral Plane (Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross) 01:44

15. Lost Soul (Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross) 00:29

16. Meditation/Return to Earth (Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross) 01:40

17. 22’s Getaway (Jon Batiste) 00:58

18. Apex Wedge (Jon Batiste) 00:49

19. Let Your Soul Glow (Jon Batiste) 00:20

20. Terry Time Too (Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross) 03:00

21. Feel Soul Good (Jon Batiste) 00:27

22. Parting Ways (Cody Chesnutt) 02:20

23. Looking at Life (Jon Batiste) 01:31

24. Fruit of the Vine (Jon Batiste) 00:42

25. 22 Is Ready (Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross) 01:25

26. Pursuit/Terry’s World (Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross) 01:42

27. Betrayal (Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross) 02:28

28. Space Maker (Walter Norris) 01:17

29. Cristo Redentor (Duke Pearson) 02:21

30. The Epic Conversationalist/Born to Play (Jon Batiste) 01:26

31. Celestial Spaces in Blue (Jon Batiste) 00:52

32. Spiritual Connection (Jon Batiste) 01:12

33. Lost (Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross) 01:09

34. Epiphany (Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross) 03:48

35. Ship Chase (Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross) 01:40

36. Escape/Inside 22 (Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross) 02:32

37. Flashback (Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross) 01:33

38. Earthbound (Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross) 01:27

39. Thank You (Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross) 00:42

40. Enjoy Every Minute (Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross) 00:48

41. It’s All Right (Curtis Mayfield) 02:51

42. Just Us (Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross) 02:42


Bass: Dave Stone, Nathan East, Linda May Han Oh, Phil Kuehn

Brass: Alan Kaplan, Alex Iles, Andy Martin, Bill Reichenbach, Chris Gray, Dan Fornero, Dylan Hart, Jon Lampley, Rob Schaer, Steve Holtman, Wayne Bergeron

Edna Brewer Middle School Jazz Band Conductor: Zack Pitt-Smith

Drums: Bernie Dresel, Harvey Mason, Louis Cato, Joe Saylor, Marcus Gilmore, Roy Haynes

Guitar: Dean Parks, George Doering

Percussion: Alex Neciosup-Acuña

Piano: Jon Batiste

Saxophone: Bob Sheppard, Brian Scanlon, Dan Higgins, Eric Marienthal, Jay Mason, John Mitchell, John Yoakum, Sal Lozano, Eddie Barbash, Tia Fuller

Digital Recordist Engineer: Kevin Harp

Assistant Recording Engineers: Angie Venegas, Anthony Russo, Chandler Harrod, Dann Thompson, Geoff Neal, James Yost, Judy Kirschner, Luke Klingensmith, Nate Haessly, Thom Beemer, Tommy Hessenius

Score Engineers: Atticus Ross, Brendan Dekora, Kyle Hoffmann, Nick Chuba, Tommy Simpson

Executive-Producer: Tom MacDougall

Mastered by Tom Baker

Mixed by Atticus Ross

Orchestrated by David Giuli

Jazz Compositions Producer and Arrangements: Jon Batiste

Soundtrack Album Producer: Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste, Tom MacDougall, Trent Reznor

Recorded and Mixed by David Boucher

Design: Tim Hankins

Editor: Sally Boldt


In about 100 jaunty, poignant minutes, “Soul,” the new Pixar Animation feature, tackles some of the questions that many of us have been losing sleep over since childhood. Why do I exist? What’s the point of being alive? What comes after?

It’s rare for any movie, let alone an all-ages cartoon, to venture into such deep and potentially scary metaphysical territory, but this is hardly the first time that the studio has directed its visual and storytelling resources toward mighty philosophical themes. “Soul” follows “Coco” in conjuring a detailed vision of the afterlife — and also, in this case, the before-life — and joins “Inside Out” in turning abstract concepts into funny characters and vivid landscapes. The world that human souls pass through on our way into and out of life is a glowing, minimalist realm of embodied metaphors and galaxy-brain jokes, populated by blobby, ectoplasmic souls and squiggly bureaucratic “counselors” named Jerry.

But at the same time, “Soul,” directed by Pete Docter and Kemp Powers from a screenplay they wrote with Mike Jones, represents a new chapter in Pixar’s expansion of realism. (Slated to open in theaters earlier this year, it is streaming on Disney+.) Having conquered fish scales in “Finding Nemo,” beastly fur in “Monsters Inc.,” metal in “Cars” and vermin in “Ratatouille,” the animators have set themselves more subtle challenges.

Though other Pixar projects have visited actual places (Paris, San Francisco, the Great Barrier Reef), this is the first to dive fully into the multisensory moods of a living city, chasing after its rhythms, its folkways, its architectural details. “Soul” is a movie about death, about jazz, about longing and limitation. It’s also a New York movie.

As such, it traffics in a brusque urbanist sentimentality that isn’t immune to or afraid of cliché. The sensory riot of the city includes squalling car horns, clattering trains, bagels, slices of pizza, barbershops, subway platforms and the perpetual-motion bustle of pedestrians, strollers, yellow cabs and more. Everything we used to complain about and miss desperately now.

All of this is rendered — “drawn” isn’t the right word; some combination of “sculpted” and “orchestrated” is what’s needed — with graceful, kinetic precision. Like other great New York movies, it invites you to identify particular intersections and storefronts, to compare its imagined geography with the city of your own experience.

Joe, a jazzman like his late father, is at a crossroads. No longer young — though we don’t know exactly how old — he makes a living teaching music to middle-schoolers while chasing after gigs. His mother (Phylicia Rashad) worries about his prospects. A full-time job offer and a chance to sit in with a band led by an A-list saxophonist (Angela Bassett) arrive on the same day, which also turns out to be the last day of Joe’s life.

Sort of. The sheer inventiveness of “Soul” makes it impossible to spoil, but because it’s dedicated to surprise, to the improvisational qualities of existence, I want to tread lightly. Suffice it to say that Joe finds himself suddenly transported from Manhattan to a limbo where he meets a rebellious soul known as 22, who speaks in the voice of Tina Fey.

Not yet assigned to a definite human form, 22 has chosen that voice for its annoying qualities, and she has spent much of eternity driving everyone crazy — except for the Jerrys, who possess infinite patience (and speak in the soothing tones of Wes Studi, Alice Braga and Richard Ayoade). There’s also someone called Terry (Rachel House), the resident bean counter, who is a pricklier character, and as much of a villain as this gentle, melancholy fantasy needs.

Anyway, 22 doesn’t see the point of going down to Earth to take up residence in a body. Joe is desperate to get back into his, and their conflicting, complementary desires send them back to Earth in a switched-identity caper. Each one is the other’s wacky sidekick, and each teaches the other some valuable lessons.

The didacticism of the movie is sincere, not unwelcome, and inseparable from its artistry. Jazz, far from being incidental to “Soul,” is integral to its argument about how beauty is created, sustained and appreciated — and to its grounding of a specifically Black experience in New York.

Joe’s playing is energetic and serene, and it carries him into a zone that is wittily literalized as an area between Earth and the spirit world. (Other visitors to this liminal region include a street-corner mystic named Moonwind, voiced by Graham Norton.) Jon Batiste’s lovely jazz compositions take turns with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s subtle, cerebral score, building a sonic bridge between the sensual and the abstract, the physical and the metaphysical.

Like other Pixar films, “Soul” is aware of its own paradoxes. The “Toy Story” cycle is a humanist epic about inanimate objects. “Inside Out” is an exuberant fable about the importance of sadness. This is a mightily ambitious warning against taking ambition too seriously. Every soul, the Jerrys explain, has a spark that sends it into the world. Joe and 22 take this to mean that everyone has a unique purpose, a mistake that reflects a competitive, careerist ideology that the movie can’t entirely disown.

But it is nonetheless open to other possibilities, which may be all that any work of art can be. “Soul” tries, within the imperatives of branded commercial entertainment, to carve out an identity for itself as something other than a blockbuster or a technologically revolutionary masterpiece. It’s a small, delicate movie that doesn’t hit every note perfectly, but its combination of skill, feeling and inspiration is summed up in the title.

A.O. Scott (New York Times)