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Rio by John Powell


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Rio (Soundtrack) by John Powell
Rio (Soundtrack) by John Powell
Rio (Poster and Memorabilia)


Rio (Poster and Memorabilia)








Rio (Soundtrack) by John Powell

Composed by John Powell
Promotional Release (2010)

Rating: 8/10

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For the majority of modern composers, RIO would be a certain triumph. For the likes of JOHN POWELL, it is merely regular.

Is Powell's Score the Rio Dio?
Review by Tracksounds Gang Tackle

After the overwhelming success of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, expectations on the prolific composer could hardly be any higher.  Somewhat stealthily, composer JOHN POWELL slid in an early 2011 project, MARS NEEDS MOMS and the effort was met with a general coolness.  Perhaps it was because the marketing budget for the film was comparatively meager and people simply didn't have much advanced notice in which to let expectations build to an unfairly feverish pitch, or perhaps it was because Powell-fans were still stinging over the Oscar let-down.  Whatever the case, by April most had moved on and were well into the music and movies of the new year.  Unlike MARS NEEDS MOMS, Blue Sky's RIO has seen its share of publicity and so expectations on both the film and score are notabley higher.

In RIO, POWELL puts his talents behind the story of Blu (Jesse Eisenberg), a rare blue macaw, who ends up being snatched from his colorful world of the Brazlian jungle and tumbles into the slightly less colorful world of Minnesota. Domesticated and flightless, Blu is paired with a female blue macaw (Anne Hathaway) with the goal of propagating the species.  Snatched yet again and chained together, the two end up back in Brazil, but they must survive the dangers of the streets over the dangers of the jungle...

Richard says...

Richard BuxtonAfter reaching such heights with HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, it was always going to be difficult for JOHN POWELL live up to the now astronomical expectations placed on anything he composes. RIO does not, for even one instant, threaten to dethrone HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON as POWELL’s best, but it does provide numerous enjoyable moments in the 47 minutes of music presented on the soundtrack.

The undoubted highlight is the sickeningly sweet, gliding main theme. This theme is heard numerous times throughout the score: as a sweet tip-toeing introduction in “Morning Routine” (1), a fleetingly beautiful middle section in “Great Big Momma Bird (3), and in full orchestral force in “Flying” (18). Such is the simplistic beauty of the theme, it is all the more agonizing when it becomes abundantly clear that POWELL never quite reaches the climactic point listeners will yearn for. “Flying” provides the fullest and most explosive rendition of the theme, but still never quite evolves into the all-encompassing track you might well have been waiting for.

For the rest of the score, JOHN POWELL demonstrates the ease at which he can switch between orchestral majesty and playful ethnically rhythmic-based anthems as heard in the likes of “Motorbike” (12) and “Bird of Flight” (13).

For the majority of modern composers, RIO would be a certain triumph. For the likes of JOHN POWELL, it is merely regular.

Richard's Rating: 7/10



Helen says...

Helen SanRIO is a classic Powell animation score in the fine tradition of ICE AGE 2 and 3, BOLT, and HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON. With a Brazilian Samba flair, it dances playfully in comedic cues such as Paradise Concern (4) or Idiot Glider (9). As usual, Powell has a recognizable main theme, introduced in Morning Routine (1), that ties the score together and is often reprised in soaring inspiration, such as in Bird Fight (13). But where he really shines are the five action tracks (14-18) towards the end of the album. His propulsive energy and adrenaline rush are both exhilarating and intoxicating. Flying (18) is to die for.

If you are a Powell fan, as I am, get this score. In recent years, he has been consistently delivering textured, engaging scores that provide a well-rounded listening experience. RIO falls nicely in with the excellence we have come to expect from him. This latest work has propelled him firmly into my action/animation A-list, right next to James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer.

The album wraps up with a Samba song co-written with renown Brazilian percussionist Carlinhos Brown and Samba/Jazz musician Mikael Mutti.

Helen's Rating: 8/10


Christopher says...

Christopher ColemanOnly on the rarest of occasions can one say that JOHN POWELL doesn't bring a ton of life and energy to his projects. With his score for Blue Sky's RIO, this is most certaily the case. Establishing his mildly surprising Americana main theme right at the onset of the score, Powell goes on to quote it in virtually every track thereafter. The RIO score as released by Varese Sarabande, is a never-ending parade of variations and adaptations thereof. What surprised me was that this theme actually wears a bit thin by the end. Of course, POWELL introduces a couple of other secondary ideas, but none of them are employed half as often. Given that there is another full soundtrack release of the songs used in the film, it's little wonder why there wasn't a bit more thematic diversity in POWELL's work here. There was definitely room for greater integration between score and songs. POWELL, himself, set the bar for such blending in HAPPY FEET.

RIO contains that tempo shifting, technique bending, style that POWELL is famous for. Many of tracks contain segments which are filled with personality, but are then sadly chained to other segments of much less interest. The end result makes the rating of these particular tracks more difficult than usual. RIO flies to its optimum cruising altitude when POWELL incorporates the famous instrumentation of Brazil such as the pandeiro in "Chained Chase" (7), the cuica in "Bedtime Flyers" (8) or the cavaquinho in "Juicy Little Mango" (10). Of course, POWELL has used the instruments in several scores before, but it's nice to hear them in their indigenous setting. This time out, to my own surprise, the most appealing track were those that were slightly less schitzophrenic and slightly more focused such as "Motorbike" (12). Of course, within the film JOHN POWELL's propensity for musical zaniness remains a near perfect match scene-for-scene. What detracts is that the story of RIO and characters really don't offer much in the way of surprises from which Powell could do even more.

Christopher's Rating: 7/10


Marius says...

Marius MasalarSometimes the toughest acts to follow are your own, as I'm sure JOHN POWELL is now acutely aware. Having blown our socks off with HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, all ears are eagerly tuned to his channel to see what other gems emerge. While MARS NEEDS MOMS was, I would argue, little beyond serviceable, some of the characteristic energy — that uniquely Powell flavour of effervescent animation music — is recaptured in Rio.

From the almost Shrek-like lullaby in the first half of "Morning Routine" (1), we are greeted by a strongly familiar sound. Extensive use of woodwinds is a foundation of this score, evoking the notion of birdsong with great success. Beyond that main theme, which is strongly memorable but somewhat under-valued on the album, there's a magnificent theme for Carnavale (most boisterously presented in "Bird Fight" (13) and the charming "Market Forro" (19) with Carlinhos Brown and Mikael Mutti), a lounge theme found in "Locked Up" (6), and a sneaky theme for the antagonists, introduced in "Bagged and Missing" (5).

Shawn Murphy's pristine mix brings the orchestra and spectacular Brazilian percussion sections together magnificently, and while it lacks the cohesive and consistently amazing quality of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, RIO is nevertheless a wholly entertaining listen, with some standout cues that can get even the most stoic listeners up and dancing. Not me, of course.

Marius' Rating: 8/10


RIO, in the end, is another energetic POWELL feast.  While it may not quite reach the heights of his Oscar nominated HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, it does surpass his earlier 2011 release of MARS NEEDS MOMS. If you have an affinity for the feverishly fun music of South America, then you'll likely find RIO a delight.   Our gang-tackle-reviewers are evenly split on RIO.  Garnering an average rating of 7.5, as done with all Tracksounds soundtrack ratings, we round up to give RIO an 8/10.  If you want a more precise look at how each reviewer saw the individual tracks, don't miss the track-rating break down below.

Rating: 8/10


Track Title Track Time Helen Marius Richard Chris  Ave Rating
1 Morning Routine 2:23  ****  *****  *****  ****  *****
2 Meet Tulio 2:55  ***  ***  ***  ***  ***
3 Great Big Momma Bird 2:46  ***  ****  ***  ***  ***
4 Paradise Concern 1:58  ***  ****  ***  ***  ***
5 Bagged and Missing 2:09  ****  ***  ****  ***  ****
6 Locked Up 2:09  ****  ***  ***  ***  ***
7 Chained Chase 2:35  ****  *****  ***  ****  ****
8 Bedtime Flyers 2:58  ***  ***  ***  ****  ***
9 Idiot Glider 1:55  ****  ****  ****  ***  ****
10 Juicy Little Mango 2:27  ***  ***  ****  ****  ****
11 Umbrellas of Rio 2:26  ***  ****  ***  ***  ***
12 Motorbike 1:23  ***  ****  ***  *****  ****
13 Bird Fight 1:02  ****  *****  ****  ****  ****
14 Birds Moved 2:33  *****  ****  ****  *****  *****
15 Heimlich 2:31  *****  ***  ***  ***  ****
16 Bird Napped 3:37  *****  ****  ***  ***  ****
17 Rio Airport 4:24  *****  *****  *****  ****  *****
18 Flying 2:42  *****  *****  *****  ***  *****
19 Market Forro 2:11  ****  *****  ***  ***  ****
  Total Running Time (approx) 47 minutes          


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