"Reflection" is a song featured on the soundtrack of the 1998 animated film Mulan, and debut single by American recording artist Christina Aguilera. In the months before the recording of the track, Aguilera approached RCA, which gave her the chance to record the theme song to the film Mulan. Disney at this time was looking for a performer who could perform a musical note, generally difficult for most performers, required for the track. In response, Aguilera recorded herself performing the Whitney Houston track, "Run to You" which featured this note. After Disney representatives were impressed by her performance, they contacted Aguilera, who immediately agreed to fly to Los Angeles to spend a week recording the album.
Critical response for "Reflection" was mixed, with reviewers considering it a nice song, however, entirely unmemorable. Aside from critical commentary, the song succeeded in funding her debut album from RCA, in addition to gaining her credibility amongst established writers and producers. The physical and radio releases of the single were limited, which resulted in the track charting only on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, at number nineteen. An accompanying music video for the song was included on the DVD release of Mulan. Aguilera has performed the track on four televised performances, including at the CBS This Morning show, which saw her gain the attention of songwriter Diane Warren.
Background and composition
Aguilera approached record label RCA, then having financial difficulties, and was told to contact Disney. After being given the opportunity to record the theme to the 1998 film Mulan named "Reflection" it was reported she had gained a record deal with RCA Records with Aguilera saying "I landed a record deal simultaneously as I landed the Mulan soundtrack. I had just turned seventeen years old, and during the same week, I just landed both. I recorded the Mulan soundtrack first and then a few months later I was out in L.A. recording the record for about six months". When asked about the song and Aguilera, RCA executive Ron Fair commented,
"She is a badass genius of singing. She was put on this earth to sing, and I've worked with a lot of singers.... When Aguilera met with us, she didn't care that she was auditioning for a record deal; she got into a performance zone that you see in artist much more mature than she is."
After she was asked to hit a musical note required for "Reflection", she thought that the song could be the gateway into an album deal. Aguilera spent hours recording a cover of Whitney Houston's "Run to You", which included the note she was asked to hit. After successfully hitting the note, which she called "the note that changed my life", she was given the opportunity to record the song. To record the song, she flew to Los Angeles for roughly a week. Despite growing increasingly exhausted during the recording sessions, when she heard that a 90-piece orchestra would be arriving to record the instrumental she begged to stay and witness the event. She later called the experience "amazing". Due to the success around the recording of "Reflection", RCA wished for Aguilera to record and release an album by September 1998 to maintain the "hype" surrounding her at that time. The label laid the foundation for the album immediately and started presenting Aguilera with tracks for her debut album, which they later decided would have a January 1999 release. "Reflection" was written and produced by Matthew Wilder and David Zippel, in the key of G major. The track begins with the lyrics "Look at me, you may think you see who I really am, but you'll never know me", with Aguilera's vocal range spanning from G3-Eb5 in a moderately slow tempo of 92 beats per minute. A Spanish version of "Reflection" was included on Aguilera's 2000 Mi Reflejo, which was her first Spanish-language album and second studio album overall.
Aguilera saw the song not as a way to gain critical acclaim, but as a promotional tool to gain notice in the music industry before the release of her debut album. The attention was gained after the track was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Song in a Motion Picture, which gathered the attention of notable producers and writers. Critically though, the song did not receive immediate success, with critics calling it "predictable" and criticizing the lyrics. Beth Johnson of Entertainment Weekly noted Aguilera has a "who-am-I musings" persona in the song, while Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic commented that the "Matthew Wilder and David Zippel's full-fledged songs [on Mulan] are flat and unmemorable." While reviewing Aguilera's debut studio album, Ricky Wright of Amazon.com said that, aside from "Genie in a Bottle", "most of this music is straight from the cookie cutter", including "the Mulan ballad showpiece 'Reflection'." Nikki Tranter of PopMatters considered "Reflection" a "nice song" without the "icky-pop beat" used on other songs recorded by Aguilera.
After premiering in June 1998, "Reflection" was Aguilera's first song to chart in the United States, and peaking at 19 on the Adult Contemporary chart despite only gaining a limited radio release. After the success of the track, Aguilera's record label RCA decided to fund her debut album (costing over one million dollars), and eventually funded more than they had predicted initially.
An accompanying music video for "Reflection" was included as a bonus to the Disney Gold Classic Collection DVD release of Mulan in 1998.
Aguilera has performed the song on television four times, first on the CBS This Morning, and then on the Donny & Marie show; neither of these performances were directed at her demographic of teen viewers. Whilst watching the show on This Morning, Aguilera gained the attention of songwriter Diane Warren, who was astonished by such a young performer being as "polished" as she was. Warren later stated that she had seen the potential in Aguilera. The singer also performed "Reflection" on MuchMusic's Intimate and Interactive on May 17, 2000. An American Broadcasting Company special in 2000, featuring a performance of the song, was recorded and released in a DVD titled My Reflection.
2020 live action version
Although the live action remake was announced not to be a musical, on February 27, 2020, Aguilera announced that she had recorded a new version of the song for the upcoming movie, which was going to be featured in the movie soundtrack. Film composer Harry Gregson-Williams provided the orchestra for Aguilera's re-recorded version, and film director Niki Caro directed the music video.
In December 2020, PopSugar UK's Kelsie Gibson named the release of "Reflection" as one of the top 15 nostalgic moments of the year. It was nominated for the Best Adapted Song at the 2021 Online Film & Television Association Awards.
Later that year, Coco Lee also announced that she was going to re-record the Mandarin end-credits version of the song, as she had already done in 1998. On March 8, 2020, Coco's Mandarin version was also covered by actress Liu Yifei for the soundtrack of the live-action, while a brand-new Japanese and Korean versions were recorded by singers Minami Kizuki and Lee Su-hyun respectively. On September 4, 2020, a Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu versions were released on the Indian Vevo channel, with Indian singer Nithayashree Venkataramanan performing the song both in Tamil and Telugu, even though no such versions of the animated movie were ever released. On November 20, 2020, another English version of the song was recorded by Indonesian singers Yura Yunita, Template:Interlanguage link, Template:Interlanguage link, and Template:Interlanguage link, with the music video released on the DisneyMusicAsiaVEVO channel. The song was released to accompany the Indonesian-dubbed version of the movie on Disney+ Hotstar.
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