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.
The song is performed after Mulan returns home following a failed attempt to impress her matchmaker. The lyrical content expresses the way Mulan feels about wanting to show the world who she really is instead of pretending to be who she is not, but is afraid to disappoint her family by doing so. This scene takes place at Mulan's home in its surrounding gardens and ends in her family temple, where she removes her makeup to reveal her true appearance.
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 bada** 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. An alternate 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 Award for Best Original Song, 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. Spanish version "Mi Reflejo" was picked as a highlight on same titled album by senior editor of Allmusic Stephen Thomas Erlewine.
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.
Recordings and live performances
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. Jackie Evancho included the song on her 2012 album Songs from the Silver Screen.
Singer and American Idol winner Jordin Sparks performed the song on the Dedication Week of the sixth season of the show, with the performance she move forward to the next round. Actor and singer Darren Criss has performed the song several times informally, videos can be found all over YouTube. One of this performances was held in Manila, Philippines. Jackie Evancho also covered the song on her fourth studio album, Songs from the Silver Screen.
In La Voz... Argentina (the Argentinian version of The Voice), the Spanish version of the song was covered by Sofia Rangone. In Mexican reality show Reyes de la Canción, contestant Sheyla Osiris did a very acclaimed performance of this version too, in a medley with "Contigo en la Distancia" and "Pero Me Acuerdo de Ti".
- CD single
- "Reflection" – 3:34
|US Billboard Adult Contemporary||19|
- This song was meant to be much longer, but the filmmakers wanted to save time in the movie. In the deleted version, Mulan not only takes off her bun, makeup, and jewelery, she also takes off her sashes. Also, the deleted version shows Mulan riding Khan through mountains and a swamp.
- When Mulan sings "Reflection" in her father's shrine, the writing on the temple stones is the names of the Disney animators who worked on the film, written in ancient Chinese.
- Tony/Olivier Award-Winning actress Lea Salonga originally auditioned for Mulan's voice, but it was deemed "not deep enough" for when Mulan is impersonating a male soldier. Although Ming-Na Wen plays Mulan, Salonga was retained for Mulan's singing voice.
- Lea Salonga sang Reflection on the Disney Expo right after she received the Disney Legend Award for being the singing voice of Jasmine and Mulan.
- In the episode of Lizzie McGuire where Miranda has a failed stunt as an actress in the school talent show, she decides to become a singer instead, and sings "Reflection."
- The movie credits' version of the song is the first to stay the same on any Disneymania volume.
- The film is credited with launching the career of Christina Aguilera, whose first song to be released in the US was the film's song "Reflection". The song was so well received that it landed her a recording contract with RCA Records.
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