3 qualities of Beyoncé’s “SPIRIT” that make it perfect for The Lion King | Hits Decoded

The Lion King’s re-imagination has brought back a lot of the classic hits from the original movie.

That said, there’s one very notable new addition: Beyoncé’s “SPIRIT.” The record was produced by Beyoncé, Ilya Salmanzadeh, and Labrinth. In this entry of Hits Decoded, let’s take a look at three qualities that allow the track to blend perfectly among the original movie’s hit songs.

1. Call and response

One popular characteristic heard across many types of African music is a call and response, often found at the beginning of a piece. Music at its earliest stages was used for communication – a leader would call out a phrase (or play it on a drum) and the rest of the group would respond appropriately. The Swahili chant in the intro of “SPIRIT” uses call and response heavily, which makes it match the feeling of the original’s “Circle of Life.” The lyrics are as follows:

Uishi kwa muda mrefu mfalme
(Uishi kwa, uishi kwa)
Uishi kwa muda mrefu mfalme
(Uishi kwa, uishi kwa)

Long live king
(Live for, live by)
Long live king
(Live for, live by)

The initial “call” vocals have some auto-tune added to them, which adds a modern touch to the song.

2. Lush background vocals

Another key characteristic that makes “SPIRIT” fit with the original soundtrack is the abundance of vocal harmonies, especially when the chorus hits around 1:10. The background choir shares the same lyrics as Beyoncé’s lead line, and mostly the same rhythms. However, there’s a nice break during the second half of the phrase, where the two lines play off of each other. The background choir is also an authentic representation of many types of African music, as vocals and drums dominate a lot of the folk music throughout Africa.

3. An uplifting key change

There’s a key change at 3:31 where the song transposes up by a half step; this characteristic is found in a lot of musicals, and in many entries on the original soundtrack. By modulating the key from F major to F# major at the end of the song, Beyoncé is able to get more energy out of the same chorus on its third go-around.

Were there any characteristics that we missed that made “SPIRIT” fit so well with the original soundtrack? Let us know in the comments below.

July 22, 2019

Nick Chen CX Lead @ Splice. Nick Chen is a producer / performer and educator known under the aliases “Enix” and “nickthechen.”