"People are going to be walking out of the theater feeling good, uplifted. It's a bit of a roller coaster; some parts somber and introspective. It's an animated film with a powerful story and depth. And music plays a strong hand in all of it."
That's the takeaway that Grammy Award-winning producer Harvey Mason Jr. hopes audiences will have after watching Sing. The animated feature from Illumination Entertainment/Universal Pictures opens nationally on Dec. 21 and stars Academy Award winners Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon, along with Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson and Grammy-nominated Tori Kelly, among others. Set in a world inhabited by animals, Sing revolves around Buster Moon (McConaughey), a koala bear who decides to produce the world's greatest singing competition in his bid to save a grand theater that has fallen on hard times.
Sing features more than 65 songs encompassing everything from rock, big band and jazz to classical, pop, R&B and dance/EDM. And that's where Mason comes in: he's the executive music producer for both the film and its soundtrack. Prefacing its arrival is recently released lead single "Faith" by Stevie Wonder featuring Ariana Grande. The song, produced by Grammy-winning songwriter/producers Ryan Tedder and Benny Blanco, signals the first time Wonder has recorded music for a film in more than 25 years.
Mason is no stranger to such a daunting task. The producer's film and TV music credits include Pitch Perfect 2 (and soon Pitch Perfect 3), Straight Outta Compton, The Wiz Live!, The Help and Dreamgirls. He began working on Sing - which also features covers of standards ("Pennies from Heaven") as well as songs by artists like Wonder, the Beatles and others - 18 months ago.
"The coolest part of the project is the variety and diversity of the music we bring to the table. I loved the opportunity to spread my wings further," says Mason, who has worked with Beyoncé, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Hudson and Hailee Steinfeld, among others. "People will already know a lot of songs in the film. And with that you always run the risk of failing when covers are compared to the originals. However, we've done some unique things here so that people hopefully will walk away thinking of these as new songs."
As for coaxing performances out of actors who aren't normally vocalists," Mason adds that it's not "just about singing the right notes. It's also about feeling it."
Republic Records' Sing soundtrack is available for pre-order as of today (Nov. 18), which includes instant downloads of "Faith" and Tori Kelly's cover of the Wonder classic, "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing." The soundtrack arrives at all digital and physical retailers on Dec. 9.