My Top 10 Disney Songs
Whenever you think of Disney it’s almost impossible not to launch into a playlist of the superb songs that have accompanied so many of their films over the years.
Whether they take you on a magic carpet ride, let you paint with all the colours of the wind or remind you that everybody wants to be a cat, these tracks will transport you immediately back to your childhood and days spent cross legged in front of the TV with a stack of Disney films on VHS.
Everybody has their favourite Disney songs and their favourite genre, be it the love ballads, the princess songs or the villain numbers.
These are my personal favourites, some make the list because the film means something to me, some purely because of the song itself, but for whatever reason they’re on here, they’re all great songs.
I’ve not limited myself to any specific type of Disney film so the list contains songs from live action movies, pixar films and both canon and non-canon Disney animations. The only limit I’ve set myself is that I’ve only allowed myself one song per film otherwise the list might look a little different.
Like I said, these are my personal favourites, don’t get too upset if your choices don’t make the list. If you want to weigh in with your opinions be sure to leave a little comment, I’d love to here from you.
So let’s get going….
10 – Sugar Rush – Wreck-It Ralph
I originally wasn’t going to put this one on my list. It’s too modern to have had the chance to be certain that it’ll last the test of time and, well frankly I don’t really think it will. But looking at my list without it, something was just missing. It’s just so damn catchy.
Sugar Rush, performed by J-pop group AKB48 is the theme song for the candy land racing game of the same name from Wreck-It Ralph. The song doesn’t actually feature too much in the movie itself, showing up as background music when Ralph first enters the game, but when it played over the end credits I left the theatre singing it out loud and it stuck in my head for days.
It’s a perfect match for both the video game and candy land themes and you can genuinely picture it making it into a game like this.
9 – Not in Nottingham – Robin hood
(sorry for the cover version, blogger won't let me post the original for some reason, here's a link to it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2dImprgiB8)
…and now for something completely different. Most Disney songs have that distinctive Disney feel, you know they belong in a movie and can picture the happy Disney animals singing along. Not in Nottingham isn’t like that, it feels like a genuine country number that has snuck in under cover of darkness.
It’s one of those rare Disney songs that are completely without hope. The lyrics are so depressing, especially the opening line “Every town has it’s ups and downs/ sometimes ups outnumber the downs/ but not in Nottingham”. It’s just so pessimistic that it’s hard not to take it seriously. This shouldn’t be in a Disney movie, these characters really must have it rough…
Even setting its origins aside, it’s a genuinely good song that you could happily listen to on its own merits.
8 – City of Light – The Brave little toaster
This one’s just so jolly. It’s an often forgotten little song from a too often forgotten movie and it has a lot of heart.
It manages to convey both the excitement and reluctance of going on an adventure with all of the gang happy to sing along but with Kirby the vacuum cleaner making clear his desire to stay home.
It’s light, bouncy, hopeful and catchy and manages all these things without being too cheesy.
7 – At last I see the light – Tangled
The only princess song on my list and the most recent one at that, At last I see the light is a great song, managing to feel fresh and modern but maintaining that great timeless feel of the best Disney songs.
It also manages to feel huge in scope with its impressive orchestration but with very intimate lyrics between the films two protagonists.
It’s a song that’s definitely made to be part of a film but that’s no bad thing, it matches with the visuals perfectly. Watching the film in HD with this playing is such a treat, the stunning scene of the thousands of lanterns that illuminate the water as they sing is beautiful and you can’t imagine a better accompaniment.
6 – Come little children – Hocus Pocus
This song is just creepy as hell. Whether you’re a kid or an adult it’s hard not to let this song send a shiver up your spine.
It’s just so eerie, both the lamenting lyrics and of course the intention behind the song. This is the call of a witch coming to kidnap children and lead them to their death. It’s by no means a rare thing to have a dark theme invade a Disney song but this one goes that little bit further by being so upfront and aiming the danger clearly at children.
It’s a greatly haunting song and one that deserves a little bit more screen time than it gets in the movie (I mean come on, if they were allowed to butcher I put a spell on you like they did, surely this song can get more time).
It’s been covered by a dozen goth bands and some of the covers are well worth a listen, check them out.
5 – He lives in you – The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride
Love or hate the Lion King 2 you have to admit that the music is just brilliant.
He lives in you is the alternative to the Circle of Life from the first film. It is the opening track and our first glance of the world of the film, but this song is a whole different beast.
He lives in you is epic, truly epic. It’s a massive song, with the African choir singers, superb orchestration and tone it just sounds huge.
While Circle of Life is a great song, listening to it now, it feels like a song of two halves. The brilliant opening yell and chanting is quickly replaced with what is a very “Disney” set of lyrics. He lives on you ditches the Disney aspect and gives a much more fitting song.
It’s a song that not only fits perfectly with the film but also pays tribute to the original, the lyrics clearly referring to Rafiki’s claims that Mufasa lives on within Simba.
Just put it on, sit back and let the hairs on your arm raise, it’s a great one.
4 – I Will Go sailing no more – Toy Story
Most people, when asked about the music in Toy Story will go straight to friend in me. Nothing wrong with that, it’s a great song, no question about it. But I will go sailing no more is by far the true masterpiece of the film.
This song just breaks my heart. It so perfectly captures that feeling of having a dream that’s just permanently out of reach. When no matter how far you stretch your fingers, it will never be quite enough.
This message is conveyed not just through the lyrics but also the music itself, the grand fanfare at the beginning leading into a much smaller, more melancholic sound, the climbing verse near the end, that one last chance, leading to yet another downfall.
It brings a tear to my eye every time I hear it. It’s powerful, heartbreaking, beautiful and about as perfect a song as you could ever hope for.
3 – Be prepared – The Lion King
I love a villain song, they’re often the most interesting song in any musical, Disney or otherwise. There’s just something great about hearing a great baddie ranting in verse about their evil schemes and how deliciously evil they are.
Be prepared is great song because it stands out so much. The rest of the songs in the lion king are all so upbeat. Circle of life, Just can’t wait to be king and Hakuna Matata are all so jolly while Can you feel the love tonight is a straight forward, soppy ballad. Be prepared is totally different, it’s moody, gloomy. The ominous moans, the skeletal xylophone. It fits Scar perfectly, his sly, conniving personality and his ability to snap and turn vicious.
The visuals are great too, the muted greens give the whole scene an eerie feel and the image of Scar stood in front of his marching army of hyenas is perfect.
Parts of the song are actually sung by Jim Cummings, a regular voice actor at Disney, after Jeremy Irons threw his voice during recording. It’s not certain how much of either actors performance remains in the song but Cummings matches Irons voice perfectly.
And yeah yeah, I know. I said only one song per movie…but the Lion king and the Lion King 2 aren’t the same movie are they?
2 – Hellfire – The Hunchback of Notre Damme
As great Be prepared is, when it comes to Villain songs, nothing can touch Hellfire.
This. Song. Is. Amazing. It’s so dark. It’s appropriate that it begins with religious chanting as it sees Frollo caught in a battle between his pious lifestyle and his lust for Esmeralda.
It’s really unsettling. It’s probably the only Disney song that’s undeniably about sex. Frollo doesn’t love Esmeralda, he lusts after her. There are constant references to her dancing, her “raven hair” and her leading Frollo “to sin”. He lusts after her and is willing to use his power to either have her body or have her burned alive if she denies him. That’s about as dark as it gets.
The visuals are terrifying, Frollo alone in his chambers, suffering visions, not only of Esmeralda dancing seductively in the fireplace but also of sinister hooded figures that surround him, watching him. Judging.
He seems to genuinely be suffering from these contradicting feelings of desire and religious duty, the stress driving him mad.
Tony Jay does a brilliant job of giving us a sense of righteousness, lust and terror in his performance. It’s truly something to behold.
It’s not only the best Disney villain song by a clear mile, but very possibly the best Disney song of all time…it’s astonishing.
1 – Bahia – Three Caballeros
So if Hellfire is my favourite Disney song why isn’t it at number one? Well, perhaps it should be, when I started this list I was pretty certain it would get the number one spot but it just wasn’t right. Looking at the list with Hellfire at number one was just wrong, it had to be Bahia.
Bahia isn’t your usual Disney song, it’s from the Three Caballeros which, as I’ve mentioned before was one of my absolute favourite films growing up. The blend of beautiful animation with brilliant songs just hit the perfect chord with me and I’ve loved it ever since.
Bahia is one of the more sombre songs in the film but that’s what I love about it. It’s so laid back, you just sink into the melody and the vocals wash warmly over you. The accompanying visuals reinforce this with a great palette of purples and reds that transport you immediately to the humid twilight airs of Bahia.
While this slow mellow scene put off a lot of children that watched the Three Caballeros, I’ve always loved it and it’s entirely down to the song. It’s been almost twenty years since I first saw the film and it’s no exaggeration to say that I still find myself singing it out loud on an almost daily basis. For a song to still have such an impact after so long a time, it has to take my number one spot.
No matter what I’m doing, whether I’m happy or sad, morning, noon or night, I’m always ready to hear it one more time.