I’ve been on a Disney kick lately. Not sure why…but Disney music has been getting a lot of action on my Pandora app as of late. I’ve always loved Disney music – it’s sort of inevitable when I was practically raised on Disney movies – and I’m lucky that I have a daughter who shares the same enthusiasm, even if she’s not as familiar with much of the music as I am.
So I decided to see if I could narrow down the extensive Disney music library into a list of 13 songs, aka 13 AWESOME DISNEY SONGS as determined by yours truly. And here is the result.*
*These songs are from animated movies only. Disney live action is a whole other topic to be visited at another time, and would probably only consist of songs from Newsies anyway.
13. “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” – Mulan
For some reason it seems that people aren’t as aware of this movie as they should be. Granted it came out towards the end of Disney’s golden 90s decade of awesomeness, but it’s still a great movie with beautiful animated and good songs. Like this song in particular. Sung by the war hero Shang (well, technically it’s sung by Donnie Osmond, which just adds to its awesomeness), Mulan’s sort-of crush who still thinks she’s a boy, it’s a fun song with a fun montage of boys becoming soldiers. And every good Disney song deserves a good Disney montage.
12. “Belle” – Beauty and the Beast
This movie already has one of the best prologues of all the Disney movies (gaah…all the stained glass windows!), so why not let it have the best opening song of all the movies! Beautifully sung by Paige O’Hara, who is also one of the few during the 90s who was able to do both the speaking and singing parts, it gives us a great introduction to who I think is the best Disney heroine EVER. I mean, come on…she sings about BOOKS. Not much can compete with that.
11. “Poor, Unfortunate Souls” – The Little Mermaid
Ah, yes. The One That Started It All. For many of us in my generation (late 70s to early 80s), this was indeed the movie that got us hooked on Disney animation. This movie is filled with what are probably my favorite Disney songs (and many of my favorite Disney EVERYTHINGS), but it’s Ursula’s song/lament/proposal for Ariel that always stands out. Every Disney villain deserves a good song, but this one still gives me the chills because “it’s she who holds her tongue who gets a man”. Damn, Ursula.
10. “Some Day My Prince Will Come” – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
What I consider to be Disney’s first hit song, it’s hard to believe that this song is over 75 years old. And yet it still speaks to millions of girls (and boys, I’m sure) all over the world. I’m sure there are some women out there who hate this song, who think that women should want more than just some man to save them, but come on, peeps. That’s not what this song is about. Snow White is just a young girl wishing for a better life, and that life just happens to include a great guy to share it with. After 75 years it’s still a beautiful song of hope that also happens to be pretty awesome, too.
9. “All in the Golden Afternoon” – Alice in Wonderland
Poor Alice. It always seems that just because she’s not a princess, she always gets forgotten. It’s true that the songs in the movie aren’t that memorable. To most people, that is. But I’ve personally always loved the song sung by all the flowers after Alice has been shrunk down to the size of a caterpillar. Yeah, so the flowers aren’t exactly the nicest plants in the world. A lot of them are actually kind of, well, evil. But no matter. I just think the song is fun and a great way to learn about bread-and-butterflies.
8. “Sing, Sweet Nightingale” – Cinderella
Ilene Woods, the voice of Cinderella, had a beautiful voice. It wasn’t the high soprano of Adriana Caselotti’s Snow White – in fact, it seem almost the opposite. It was lower and richer in tone, but still sounded completely relatable, like Cinderella was a real person. She sings more than one song in the movie, but her voice sounds best while singing this short melody while cleaning the floor. There aren’t many words in the song, but she had the kind of voice that didn’t need words to sound great. Her sound was enough.
7. “Be Prepared” – The Lion King
The Lion King’s soundtrack was definitely Disney’s biggest endeavor and most popular, thanks to Elton John and all his skillz. His two songs “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “Circle of Life” were huge pop radio hits, but my favorite once again goes to the villain. Scar, the evil Uncle of Simba and voiced by Jeremy Irons, sings a song that’s so haunting and terrifying that it still kind of scares the crap out of me. It’s filled with evil lyrics and evil chanting, and with allusions of Hitler weaving themselves throughout, you end up with one hell of a song.
6. “I Won’t Say (I’m in Love)” – Hercules
Hercules is another one of those Disney movies that gets forgotten because it’s not about a princess. It’s strong point is its comedy and stylized animation, but it does have one song that I think is brilliant, and it’s the only song that the character Megara (“my friends call me Meg – that is, they would if I had any friends”, another one of my faves) gets to sing. Meg tries to deny that she has any kinds of feelings for Hercules, but duh, she totally does. But she tries to sing her way out of it, and the outcome is a song so freaking catchy and groovy that you’ll find yourself hitting repeat on your car stereo more than once. Or maybe that’s just me.
5. “Reflection” – Mulan
Behind every Disney heroine solo lies a cry for help and a secret wish, and “Reflection” is a perfect example of that. Mulan pretty much sings what every girl – animated or not – feels at least once in her life. Who am I? Why am I pretending to be someone I’m not? Will I ever be able to see my reflection? Oh wait, that’s what vampires sing about (haha, sorry). But seriously, this is a beautiful song about confusion and hope that’s beautifully sung by Lea Salonga, but that should come as no surprise because, duh, Lea Salonga. She’s kind of the unofficial singing voice of everything in my head.
4. “Once Upon a Dream” – Sleeping Beauty
I’ve already admitted that Sleeping Beauty is my favorite Disney animated movie of all time in this post, and one of the contributing factors to that is the music. The smartest thing Disney did with this movie was take the original ballet music that Tchaikovsky wrote and turn it into their film score. And when they added lyrics to one of its main theme, you get Aurora’s own song of hope, that her dreams are all she has to go by. Which, if you think about it, sounds an awful lot like what Cinderella was singing about in this next song…
3. “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” – Cinderella
As I said, dreams and wishes and hope are big amongst all the Disney girls. And it’s no surprise that Cinderella probably had it worse of all of them. At least the other girls had, you know, actual people that loved them. Cinderella? Not so much. So the fact that she can be so positive while singing about her dreams is not only the sign of a great person, but a great song as well. Even if you live with evil people who make you clean the curtains and do the laundry four times a day, it’ll be okay as long as you hold on to your dreams. And hey, look where Cinderella ended up. It worked for her, it may work for you, too.
2. “A Whole New World” – Aladdin
I just freaking love this song, I really do. Seriously, I love every single thing about it. I love Lea Salonga’s and Brad Kane’s voices. I love the melody. I love the lyrics. I love the magic carpet ride they take us all on. I just…honesty, I don’t know if words can really describe my feelings for this song. It also brings back wonderful memories of being 13 years old in the midst of my Disney phase and thinking that Aladdin was the greatest movie ever. But really, this song is a great example of Disney songwriting at its best. Also, MAGIC CARPET.
1. “Part of Your World” – The Little Mermaid
Okay, here we are. Numero uno. And no surprise, really. This song proved just how important songs are to Disney films, and how one song can be the best part of a whole movie. And back in 1989, this song was the most important thing Disney could have done to restart their dominance in film animation. But all business aside, this song is absolutely perfect. And it’s still the only Disney song that can bring tears to my eyes. How many times have I seen this movie? How many times have I heard this song? No matter. When Ariel bravely sings that she’s sick of swimming and ready to stand, I don’t even bother trying to stop the tears. You don’t have to be a mermaid to want to be part of a human world. You just have to be a person who wants to be a part of something to understand how Ariel feels, and I think that’s something that we’ve all felt. Oh, and Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel? Ah, man. It’s just…the feels. The feels.
Runners-Up Who Didn’t Make It Into the Top 13 But Still Undeniably Awesome:
- “Just Around the Riverbend” – Pocahontas
- “Just Can’t Wait to be King” – The Lion King
- “Kiss the Girl” – The Little Mermaid
- “When Will My Life Begin” – Tangled
- “Something There” – Beauty and the Beast
- “You’ll Be in My Heart” – Tarzan
- “So This is Love” – Cinderella
- “My Own Home” – The Jungle Book
- “You Can Fly, You Can Fly, You Can Fly” – Peter Pan
I should just stop before I end up listing every single Disney song ever written.