30 Disney songs ranked

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So, the Grauniad has an irregular feature where they rank the greatest somethings extremely incorrectly, so as to irritate people and start arguments. Today’s was a ranking of The 30 greatest Disney songs, and they don’t include “Cruela De Vil” in those thirty, so that’s all we need to say about their list. But it did spark a good deal of conversation, so here’s an attempt on the part of Your Humble Blogger to rank 30 great Disney Movie songs.

To begin with, I’m restricting the list to songs written for feature-length Walt Disney Pictures, and I’m further restricting to a single song from each such film. This makes the list a good deal easier, and also in many ways less accurate, as it would be perfectly reasonable to have five of the Top Ten Songs be from Mary Poppins. Still, it seems worth doing this way.

The List:

30-26: The Also Rans

30: “Topsy Turvy” (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)—Not really a great song, although a great start to a second-rate movie.

29: “The Age of Not Believing” (Bedknobs and Broomsticks)—An excellent song, but how much of it can you sing off the top of your head?

28: “Eating the Peach” (James and the Giant Peach)—It’s Roald Dahl’s words set to music, and it’s a great, great movie. But not really a great song.

27: “Zero to Hero” (Hercules)—I’m not even sure this is the right song from this movie, but I am not watching the movie again to find out.

26: “He Mele No Lilo” (Lilo & Stitch)—The thing about this movie is that the running joke is that it’s all Elvis Presley songs, which don’t count.

25-21: Good Songs

25: “Friends on the Other Side” (The Princess and the Frog)—The first appearance of Randy Newman on my list, I think.

24: “Let's Get Together” (The Parent Trap)—I’m completely serious about this. Tempted to rate it even higher.

23: “Mother Knows Best” (Tangled)—This is… um… the thing here is that I want it to be the witch’s song from Into the Woods, and it isn’t. But that’s not really this song’s fault, is it?

22: “Friend Like Me” (Aladdin)—This is not the correct song from this movie, but it’s a much, much better song than “A Whole New World”, which I hate.

21: “Oo-De-Lally” (Robin Hood)—This is downgraded a bit because it doesn’t lift out of the movie well, but within the movie it really works.

20-16: Ranked Too Low

20: “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” (Mary Poppins Returns)—I have no idea whether this is ranked too low, or too high, or what, and won’t know for another ten years. Right?

19: “How Far I'll Go” (Moana)—This is ranked too low because I’m too old; Young Persons can write their own damn’ list.

18: “Remember Me” (Coco)—Also maybe ranked too low, but there’s no way to tell yet.

17: “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” (Cinderella)—This might actually be ranked too high, taking it as a song in itself, but it’s one of the real Disney songs from one of the real Disney movies and might deserve to be in the Top Ten on that account alone.

16: “The UnBirthday Song” (Alice in Wonderland)—We’re getting in to songs that are steeped in my cultural consciousness, songs that I can not only sing off the top of my head but would find difficult not to sing on the appropriate occasions.

15-11: Nearly Great

15: “Seize the Day” (Newsies)—I didn’t actually like the movie, and have no great feelings about the show, but c’mon.

14: “Ugly Bug Ball” (Summer Magic)—Burl Ives, y’all! An unjustly forgotten great.

13: “Let it Go” (Frozen)—There is only so far down the list I can justify pushing this song.

12: “I'll Make a Man Out of You” (Mulan)—It has been proposed to me that this song is the reason that Gen Zed has busted off the gender manacles. While that’s not so much true, it is a generationally iconic song, and that counts.

11: “Bella Notte” (Lady and the Tramp)—If I didn’t hate dogs, this might be in the Top Ten. I mean, this is both a great song in itself and a great moment in a great movie. And it’s not on the Top Ten.

10-6: Outstanding Classics

10: “Hakuna Matata” (The Lion King)—Someday, Nathan Lane will die, and for all his amazing career, the obituary will start with his role as the rat-thing from this movie.

9: “Under the Sea” (The Little Mermaid)—I could have picked three or four other songs from this movie, but this is the one that really is stuck in everyone’s heads.

8: “Just Like You” (The Jungle Book)—This gets extra points for Louis Prima and for having so many great cover versions, but loses some for the undeniable racism. Ah, well.

7: “Heigh-Ho” (Snow White)—Yes, “Someday My Prince Will Come” is in some ways a higher achievement in songwriting, but someone in your office has sung “Heigh-Ho” to themselves on their way to work this week.

6: “Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat” (The Aristocats)—I could have dropped this one further for being from a second-rate movie, but the song really is utterly wonderful.

5-1: Indelible Greatness

5: “Be Our Guest” (Beauty and the Beast)—and now it’s stuck in your head. Sorry.

4: “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” (Mary Poppins)—This is greatness. This is just greatness.

3: “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” (Song of the South)—Yes, the movie is racist, and everyone knew it at the time. It’s a disgrace, and it contains one of the best songs ever written.

2: “Cruella De Vil” (One Hundred and One Dalmations)—The single greatest villain song from any of these movies.

1: “When You Wish Upon a Star” (Pinocchio)—There is a reason why the moment it came out, all the great singers took a whack at it. And they should.

And that’s the list.

My somewhat arbitrary restrictions meant that “The Tiki Room” and “A Pirate’s Life for Me” and “It’s a Small World (After All)” and the other great songs written for Disneyland parks did not get considered, which frankly made it easier on me. I would probably have preferred to include “Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” and “The Wonderful Thing about Tiggers”, both of which were written for short films, but rules is rules. Those rules also took out songs written for Disney television shows and later put into movie versions of those shows, such as Hannah Montana’s “The Best of Both Worlds” and “The Ballad of Davy Crockett”. I also ruled out songs that were only played over titles rather than in the movie proper, or were not sung by characters, such as “You've Got a Friend in Me” or “The Apple Dumpling Gang” or “Immortals” (from Big Hero 6). And I did not include a song from The Nightmare Before Christmas, which was released as a Touchstone film and only re-released as a Walt Disney Picture when it was clearly successful, so that’s why “What’s This” isn’t on the list. Similarly, The Muppet Movie was not originally released by Disney, so I didn’t have to rank “The Rainbow Connection”; there weren’t any songs written for the Disney Muppets that made it into my 30.

That’s a pretty impressive list, by the way. And what’s even more impressive is that you could probably make up a playlist of thirty songs from Walt Disney Pictures that didn’t make my list that I could also happily listen to.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.

3 thoughts on “30 Disney songs ranked

  1. irilyth

    I don’t know if it’s the best, but Do You Wanna Build A Snowman is my favorite song from Frozen.

    Reply
  2. Chris Cobb

    This is a much better list than the one from the Guardian!

    I haven’t seen any of the films since Hercules(?!?), so I can’t comment on any of the picks from the last two decades, but there are a few songs from earlier films that I would squeeze into the 11-20 bracket at the expense of some of the lower-ranked songs.

    In reverse chronological order, these are “The Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas (and I’d say “Up Around the River Bend” would be a worthy alternate from that film); “Every Little Piece” from Pete’s Dragon, and “When I See an Elephant Fly” from Dumbo (obviously). “Colors of the Wind” rates for melody, imagery, and message; it won the Academy Award for best song for good reason. “Every Little Piece” is a great comic-villain turn by Jim Dale and Red Buttons, and I note that your list does not contain (unless I have missed one from the recent films) a single song sung by the villain. The Guardian reviewer is obviously overfond of such pieces (“Be Prepared” is a terrible pick for a Disney top 30), but if we are limiting ourselves to one song per film, thereby eliminating from consideration “Poor Unfortunate Souls” (my choice for #1 song sung by a villain), “Gaston,” and “An Actor’s Life for Me,” then “Every Little Piece” can represent both the villain song and Pete’s Dragon. (The other songs from that film work dramatically, but they’re a bit insipid, especially with respect to lyrics.) Although there are racist elements in the depiction of the crows in Dumbo, “When I See an Elephant Fly” is still a great song and a great performance, memorable both lyrically and musically.

    For myself, I’d put in “Beauty and the Beast” as sung by Angela Lansbury over “Be Our Guest.” It’s simultaneously at the core of what makes the film compelling and capable of transcending its context, and it’s such a great vocal performance (it also has the side advantage of making it OK for the “Age of Not Believing” to drop out of the top 30).

    Reply
    1. Vardibidian Post author

      I didn’t re-listen to any of the Pete’s Dragon music, because I didn’t remember any of it being good, but clearly I’ve forgotten that song. I haven’t seen the movie or heard the music since it was in the theaters (and didn’t watch the remake). I did consider “When I See an Elephant Fly” and decided it didn’t make the cut, but that’s likely unfair, since I’ve included both “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” and “Just Like You”. I think “When I See an Elephant Fly” would probably come in somewhere around 22 or 23. As for “The Colors of the Wind”, I just don’t happen to like the song—I was somewhat surprised that it didn’t make the Grauniad’s list so that I could be grouchy about it.

      As for “Beauty and the Beast”, it really is a good song, and Angela Lansbury does a very good job with it. I have a fondness for patter songs, though and the scene of “By Our Guest” is an outstanding example of what made that era of Disney Pictures distinctive and successful.

      Thanks,
      -V.

      Reply

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