John, of course, wrote the classic soundtrack to the original animated Lion King alongside his lyricist collaborator Tim Rice. They even took home a Best Original Song Oscar for “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”. While the pair were brought in to work on Jon Favreau’s photorealistic remake — even writing a new song for the end credits — John still feels the the soundtrack missed the mark.
“The new version of The Lion King was a huge disappointment to me, because I believe they messed the music up,” he told GQ. “Music was so much a part of the original and the music in the current film didn’t have the same impact. The magic and joy were lost.”
“The soundtrack hasn’t had nearly the same impact in the charts that it had 25 years ago, when it was the bestselling album of the year. The new soundtrack fell out of the charts so quickly, despite the massive box-office success. I wish I’d been invited to the party more, but the creative vision for the film and its music was different this time around and I wasn’t really welcomed or treated with the same level of respect. That makes me extremely sad. I’m so happy that the right spirit for the music lives on with the Lion King stage musical.”
The new Lion King soundtrack featured songs from the original, performed by the film’s cast, including Beyoncé and Glover, as well as JD McCrary, John Oliver, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Shahadi Wright Joseph. Additionally, the soundtrack included a new song from Beyoncé called “Never Too Late”. Beyoncé also produced a companion album called The Lion King: The Gift, which features new songs performed by hip-hop heavyweights including Jay-Z, Childish Gambino, Pharrell Williams, Kendrick Lamar, Tierra Whack, and more. The soundtrack peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, while the Beyoncé companion LP hit No. 2 (No. 1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums list). John’s 1994 original OST, meanwhile, reigned supreme at No. 1.
While The Lion King’s musical legacy lives on onstage, so too does John’s own work — at least for a little while. The iconic performer is in the midst of his massive farewell tour, which was recently expanded into 2020. Find tickets here.