Why Minnie Mouse's chill-out album actually makes sense

By Mark Savage
BBC Music Correspondent

Image source, Disney
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The album is being promoted with stylised sketches of Minnie Mouse in relaxation mode

"Hi Mark, what if I was to tell you that Minnie Mouse is releasing a lo-fi hip-hop album?"

This was not the phone call I was expecting on Thursday morning. Or any morning.

But here we are: At the age of 94, the polka-dotted mouse has fallen for the eccentric, faded beats of a genre that's been dubbed "chillhop", or "beats to study to".

Before now, Minnie's major musical forays were all plinky plonky pre-school songs with titles like "Wiggle, Wiggle Wiggle" and "So Many Pets".

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She achieved some cult success in 1983 when LA duo Sparks recorded a quirky new wave pop track in her honour - containing the immortal lyric: "You can say she's just a mouse / The Taj Mahal is just a house."

But although this new album marks a major new direction for the animated rodent, there's a cunning logic behind Disney's decision.

Low-fidelity music, or lo-fi, is recorded with intentional imperfections like vinyl crackle, misplayed notes or environmental noises like turning pages or raindrops.

Dreamlike and largely instrumental, it supposedly triggers the parts of the brain that help with focus.

Although it's been around for years, the genre spiralled in popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly with younger listeners who used it to aid concentration and relaxation.

Given the music's emphasis on nostalgia and peacefulness, lo-fi producers have frequently co-opted Disney's most iconic songs.

One collection of Disney piano covers by the Japanese composer Kno has been streamed on YouTube 50 million times.

Followers of his account say the music has helped to calm anxiety attacks, while dozens of parents thank him for helping their babies get to sleep.

"Our entire family uses this after dinner to chat, unwind, and spend time together," says another grateful parent, while one student comments: "My dog ​​heard this and he is now doing my nuclear physics thesis."

With that in mind, it makes sense that Disney would commission an official album of lo-fi remixes.

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Out on Friday, the album takes songs like Aladdin's A Whole New World and The Lion King's Hakuna Matata and repurposes them as glitchy lullabies.

The new versions have been "curated" by Minnie Mouse, who "commissioned" some of the biggest names in lo-fi, including US artist Purrple Cat, Dutch producer Eevee and the magnificently-monikered harpist Hippo Dreams.

Minnie wasn't available to comment (I checked) but here's what Disney had to say in a totally not chill press release.

"Disney and Minnie Mouse are a natural fit with lo-fi, especially with Minnie's interests in creativity, music, and wellness leaning into lo-fi's penchant for self-expression and its calming meditative properties.

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"What attracted us to lo-fi is the ability to reimagine our songs in a completely new way that combines the soothing benefits of lo-fi with the wonder and nostalgia that Disney has to offer. Lo-fi and Disney are both a great source of comfort, so the two make for a perfect match."

The album is part of a long-established trend for the House Of Mouse to exploit their incredible music catalogue by tweaking it for modern listeners.

1979's Mickey Mouse Disco turned tracks like Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah and Chim Chim Cher-ee and set them to watered-down funk beats; while 2014's Dconstructed capitalised on the EDM trend with the trance remix of Frozen's Let It Go that no-one asked for and no-one wanted.

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Lo-fi Minnie: Focus works a little better than that - not least because Disney's soaring, inspirational ballads are a perfect fit for the genre.

The album comes hot on the heels of the animation studio's first ever UK number one single - the witty salsa number We Don't Talk About Bruno, from the hit movie Encanto.

Could these songs follow it up the charts? Probably not. We'll all have fallen asleep before we hit the repeat button.

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