Raya and the Last Dragon is one of those rare Disney animated films that is not a musical, but that doesn’t prevent it from debuting a brand new original song that might get the studio another slot in the Oscars’ Best Original Song category (for next year). The song, performed by R&B artist and six-time Grammy nominee Jhené Aiko, is called “Lead the Way,” and can be heard in the new Raya and the Last Dragon sneak peek released by Disney. Get a listen below.
Raya and the Last Dragon Sneak Peek: “Lead the Way” by Jhené Aiko
Written and performed by Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Jhené Aiko, “Lead the Way” is an electronic R&B song, of which we can only hear a few vocalizations before the sneak peek returns to the sweeping score composed by James Newton-Howard (News of the World, A Hidden Life). But the rest of the song can be heard in the music video for the track directed by one of the Raya and the Last Dragon directors, Carlos López Estrada, when it’s released next month. The song will also be featured in the end credits and included on the official soundtrack, available digitally on February 26, 2021.
But here’s where I direct some criticism that Disney might have heard a few times in the weeks leading up to the Raya and the Last Dragon release. For a film proudly touting its first Southeast Asian princess, and which draws inspiration from the cultures of the region, it’s curious that Raya and the Last Dragon‘s big original song isn’t by a Southeast Asian artist. Aiko is a talented musical artist whose mixed ethnicity includes Japanese, Native-American, and Black, but other Southeast Asian artists might have been given the platform by Disney. Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna, who has collaborated with Usher in the past, has been suggested by fans. Or there’s the wide variety of Filipino artists, or even artists of Filipino descent like Bruno Mars. It seems like a missed opportunity on Disney’s part, especially after criticisms that the studio received for its mixed East Asian and Southeast Asian voice cast.
Kelly Marie Tran leads the cast as the titular warrior Raya; Awkwafina is the legendary dragon, Sisu; Gemma Chan voices Raya’s nemesis, Namaari; Daniel Dae Kim is Raya’s visionary father, Benja; Sandra Oh plays Namaari’s powerful mother, Virana; Benedict Wong is Tong, a formidable giant; Izaac Wang is Boun, a 10-year-old entrepreneur; Thalia Tran is the mischievous toddler Little Noi; Alan Tudyk plays Tuk Tuk, Raya’s best friend and trusty steed; Lucille Soong is Dang Hu, the leader of the land of Talon; Patti Harrison plays the chief of the Tail land; and Ross Butler is chief of the Spine land.
Here is the film’s official synopsis:
Raya and the Last Dragon takes us on an exciting, epic journey to the fantasy world of Kumandra, where humans and dragons lived together long ago in harmony. But when an evil force threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, that same evil has returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the legendary last dragon to restore the fractured land and its divided people. However, along her journey, she’ll learn that it’ll take more than a dragon to save the world—it’s going to take trust and teamwork as well.
Raya and the Last Dragon arrives in some theaters and will be available for Premier Access through Disney+ on March 5, 2021.