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Ranking: Every Disney Song From Worst to Best

on March 15, 2017, 12:15am
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40. “Kiss the Girl”

The Little Mermaid (1989)

Good guy Sebastian, trying to help get his friend some action with the aid of various swamp wildlife. “Kiss the Girl” makes for the kind of sweeping romance that the film does so well, and it’s one of the gentlest, most understated songs in the whole production. At least if you look past the whole light peer pressure aspect of it all. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


39. “Out There”

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

One of the more unsung films of Disney’s golden era of animation, The Hunchback of Notre Dame has a hell of an opener, one that might even have had some influence on South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut’s remarkably similar ballad “Up There” three years later. It’s quintessential Disney, with Quasimodo’s desperate need to experience the world soaring high above the streets of Paris. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


38. “You Can Fly!”

Peter Pan (1953)

Exhilaration isn’t an easy thing to capture, but that’s exactly what “You Can Fly!” does. Like “I’m Flying”, the corresponding song from the 1954 Broadway musical released on the heels of Disney’s take, it uses a cartwheeling melody to nail down the feeling of soaring off the ground, but where “You Can Fly!” has an edge on that other excellent tune is in showing the effort it takes these kids to get airborne. The only thing better than effortlessly flying is when you had to work really hard to get off the ground. –Allison Shoemaker


37. “Heigh-Ho”

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Never has slaving away in a diamond mine been so fun and whimsical. Snow White’s ode to the cathartic feeling of heading home from work after a long, busy day is also probably one of the most commonly misquoted Disney songs; if only we had a dollar for every time “It’s off to work we go” was substituted. But no, “Heigh-Ho” is a celebration of finally punching off the clock and a gently bouncing one at that. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


36. “Dig a Little Deeper”

The Princess and the Frog (2009)

Randy Newman’s first score for Disney and not Pixar has plenty of highs, but “Dig a Little Deeper” is the highest. The fairy godmother for Disney’s first African-American princess, Mama Odie (voiced by the great Jenifer Lewis) throws a much better party than Cinderella’s ever did, complete with dancing flamingos, a gospel choir, and (gasp) a moral. It’s a blast, topped by a joyous final few notes from Anika Noni Rose’s Tiana. The whole thing is goosebump-inducing, but more importantly, it’s a hell of a good time. –Allison Shoemaker


35. “Colors of the Wind”

Pocahontas (1995)

For those who clearly remember when Pocahontas was released in 1995, the film’s first trailer was the sequence in which “Colors of the Wind” is performed in the film as Pocahontas’ reprisal of John Smith’s ignorance. It’s a surprisingly cutting bit of songwriting (“You think the only people who are people/ Are people who look and think like you”), a pointed commentary on racism, and a dynamic, soulful performance from Judy Kuhn all in one place. And surrounded by some stunning animation to boot. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


34. “You’re Welcome”

Moana (2016)

At its best, the Disney song is a medium that allows for even the most churlish behavior to be excused with a spot-on pop melody and a heaping dose of charm. “You’re Welcome”, the standout track from Moana, has both of those in abundance, delivered by just the performer to execute both of those things with an audible grin: Dwayne Johnson.

Less a Disney ballad than an egomaniacal rant delivered by Maui when he and Moana first cross paths in the film, “You’re Welcome” exists well within the part of the Disney canon that hosts songs like “Gaston”, braggadocio-fueled declarations of absolute manhood delivered by foolish types. It’s playful in every sense, from the horn-flecked arrangement to the infectiously catchy hook (seriously, try to get Johnson’s delivery of the titular hook out of your head after even one listen) to the obnoxiously self-congratulatory lyrics. But it’s Johnson who impresses most; the wrestler-turned-actor-turned-generally beloved public figure gives a fine (if within register) vocal turn and manages to establish everything an audience needs to know about Maui in less than three minutes by trading on his star persona while remaining completely true to character. It’s the kind of deftly effective Disney song that takes a while to digest before you realize just how well-executed it really is. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


33. “Prince Ali”/Reprise

Aladdin (1992)

While the Genie’s other big song (we’ll get to that one) wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without the voice of Robin Williams, “Prince Ali” is a great production number, plain and simple. Yes, Williams’ ability to turn on a dime makes it that much better, but Howard Ashman’s lyrics are among his cleverest, the march gets the blood pumping, and that perfect key change, timed right when the procession bursts through the doors of the palace, makes the whole thing soar. Jafar’s reprise, with lyrics by Tim Rice (who joined Alan Menken after Ashman’s death), ain’t half bad, either. –Allison Shoemaker


32. “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”

Frozen (2013)

Frozen’s opener takes an interesting turn, cutting away for the sake of some devastating storytelling, and then returns to the song to finish with a deeper resonance. Kristen Bell’s delivery fits perfectly with the song’s inner tale of Anna getting older and older without her sister, until Elsa finally becomes the only family she has left. It’s an eminently theatrical tune, even by the film’s to-the-back-of-the-house tendencies, and a perfectly pitched one at that. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


31. “Under the Sea”

The Little Mermaid (1989)

It doesn’t take most people of a certain age more than a small handful of those opening calypso notes to pick “Under the Sea” out from a mile away. And in a film as uncommonly dark (by Disney standards) as The Little Mermaid, the song offers a welcome dose of bounce and levity, particularly in its endlessly clever rundown of the underwater orchestra. Even if the entire point of it is Sebastian attempting to squash Ariel’s curiosity about the world before it can bloom. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


30. “Go the Distance”

Hercules (1997)

There are actually two versions of “Go the Distance” in Hercules: the version during the film performed by Roger Bart and the Michael Bolton performance that plays during the end credits. Bart’s rendition is moving, the strings soaring as Herc yearns “to find where I belong.” Don’t we all. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


29. “Why Should I Worry?”

Oliver & Company (1988)

Perhaps the most surprising thing about “Why Should I Worry?” Is that it wasn’t written by Billy Joel. A pop confection so perfectly suited to the Piano Man that it’s almost impossible to imagine anyone else singing it, the song works in no small part thanks to the singer’s ability to belt it out with reckless abandon. It’s a total earworm and works as well in context (as Joel’s streetwise Dodger roams the streets like a flea-ridden king) as out. Be right back, gotta listen to it again. –Allison Shoemaker


28. “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King”

The Lion King (1994)

So Simba, the cocky little shit he is when The Lion King begins, stages an entire elaborate dance number with a massive amount of savannah residents just to get some alone time with Nala. It’s a great number, the flute melody providing an able counterpoint to the song’s swaggering rhythmic stomp. He’s being a dick to Zazu, though, with all that talk like “Everywhere you look I’m/ Standin’ spotlight.” And it’s kind of weird that so many animals are already convinced of his ruler qualities, but that’s oligarchy for you. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


27. “Not in Nottingham”

Robin Hood (1973)

Roger Miller’s knack for saying a lot with a little was perhaps never more apparent than in this stirring country ballad, which clocks in at 56 words total. Sung, like all of Miller’s tunes for the film, by the man himself (as narrator Alan-a-Dale), “Not in Nottingham” is made that much more affecting when it’s revealed that the rooster’s singing the mournful tune from the window of a prison, surrounded by weeping, trembling animals. It’s almost unbearably sad, but not a bit self-indulgent. That’s what comes from hiring a great songwriter and then getting the hell out of his way. –Allison Shoemaker


26. “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo”

Cinderella (1950)

Talent is when you can write a memorable song. True skill is when you can accomplish the same while writing complete and utter nonsense. Written by three people, for some reason, “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” sets the tone for the more whimsical side of Cinderella by illustrating the creative process of a kind, old woman who can conjure pretty much anything a handmaiden would need from nothingness. Like a witch, right? No, not a witch. Totally a fairy godmother. Just tossing this out there: She’s technically offering Cinderella a chance to live deliciously. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


25. “Ev’rybody Wants to Be a Cat”

The Aristocats (1970)

The best song from The Aristocats is an absolute blast and also stands as one of the more musically complex Disney works. Moving from smooth swing to a delicate, harp-driven melody to the kind of raucous jazz that, in this case, quite literally tears the house down, “Everybody Wants To Be a Cat” has a wild quality that not even the best Disney offerings tend to chase. And you know it’s from the early ‘70s between the presence of Scatman Crothers and the phrase “out of sight” being deployed with zero irony. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


24. “Whistle While You Work”

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Frank Churchill snagged the job of composing for Walt Disney’s first-ever animated feature when “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”, written for the Disney short Three Little Pigs, became an unlikely hit. Depression-era audiences adopted it as an anthem of sorts, a tune of resilient cheerfulness in the face of fear. That’s exactly the formula behind “Whistle While You Work”, which, lest we forget, is a song that Snow White sings while cleaning a stranger’s house so she won’t be homeless. What a merry tune. –Allison Shoemaker


23. “Gaston”/Reprise

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

“Gaston” and its reprise is a rarity among Disney villain songs, in that instead of making grandiose threats, it’s just one long, delightfully obnoxious brag about the endless strength and total virility of the titular man. It’s hard to say which is the best among them, but “No one’s neck’s as incredibly thick as Gaston” is a strong candidate for the gold medal for both braggadocio and innuendo alike. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


22. “Once Upon a Dream”

Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Tchaikovsky is due much of the credit for the beauty of “Once Upon a Dream”, one of the most sweepingly romantic songs in the Disney catalog. It is, after all, Tchaikovsky’s melody. But the film’s directors wisely connected the music known as “The Garland Waltz” with a literal dance, albeit one performed barefoot, outdoors, and with an owl dressed up like a man. The prince shows up after a bit, but the dance continues, creating a timeless, peaceful sequence that’s even more potent than that bit where she’s asleep and gets a smooch. –Allison Shoemaker


21. “I Wan’na Be Like You”

The Jungle Book (1967)

Lyrically, “I Wan’na Be Like You” is pretty simple compared to some of The Jungle Book’s other offerings, but Louis Prima’s throaty delivery and the big band-style bounce of the song’s earworm melody goes a long way. Plus, the entire scat portion of the song comes from out of left field in the best possible way. Can’t wait to hear Christopher Walken deliver this as the new-millennium King Louie. –Dominick Suzanne-Mayer


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