So recently The Ringer made a list of the top 40 Disney songs* and naturally we were completely incensed by it. Both Keets and I immediately responded, about five minutes apart, by saying, “I Won’t Say (I’m In Love) is #36? I’m mad already,” almost word-for-word.
Naturally, we needed to rectify this and provide the internet with a better list. And by “better,” we mean that we here at Adversion agree with it. Whatever else, you can rest assured that Megara’s fabulous song about not wanting to be in love is way higher than #36.
To complete our extremely scientific ranking, we each ranked the songs on this list from 1 to 60 and then sorted the total scores, lowest to highest. Whoever liked the song the most got to write about it.
* (OK, it was a few months ago… we’re behind on posting, OK?)
1. Beauty and the Beast
“Beauty and the Beast” is a love song that actually tells a story–a story about not understanding each other, until you do, and then you discover that you belong together. Plus, it’s gorgeous, whether it’s Celine Dion or Ariana Grande singing it.
BTW, this was the song Keets and I used for our first dance at our wedding, so he is clearly in the doghouse for ranking it #3.
2. Something There
So much of what we value about cultural production is connected with volume, majesty, magnificence… now that the new millennium has serialized movies into Serious Television Drama to follow the nineteenth century’s serialization of stories into Serious Novels, the correspondence of length with quality is almost inescapable. Some things, though, are perfected in smallness, in achieving exactly what they meant to, and exactly what they should. Something There isn’t even two minutes long; not a second is wasted; it justifies the crucial turn in the plot of the best movie Disney ever made. It’s perfect.
3. A Whole New World
A perfect duet. The most purely romantic song in all the Disney oeuvre, “A Whole New World” breathlessly captures the feeling of falling in love for the first time. From the first instantly recognizable chords, you know you’re listening to a stone-cold classic.
4. Part of Your World
If “A Whole New World” is the ultimate duet, this is the ultimate “I Want” song. In addition to the lovely melody, “Part of Your World” boasts lyrics that single-handedly establish the motivations of the main character. Someone could listen to this with almost no context (like, maybe they would want to know that she’s a mermaid) and understand the emotional stakes of the entire movie.
5. Circle of Life
I don’t think we’re wrong to put Circle of Life this high, but it also didn’t feel like something we had much of a choice in. “Circle of Life” is more a cultural moment than just a song. There isn’t a lot of popular music that anyone over 25 can sing instantly, on demand, at the top of their lungs… with absolutely no understanding of what syllables are coming out of their mouths.
6. I Won’t Say I’m In Love
This song is literally the reason we wrote this post, because the Ringer article ranked it FREAKING 36. Like the song I ranked #1, “Beauty and the Beast,” this song tells a story–about a woman trying to convince herself not to fall in love, but actually falling more in love the more she tries to deny it.
Megara’s bravado (and her tendency to call Hercules “Wonderboy”) can be annoying, but in this song… she’s all of us.
7. Be Prepared
There were a lot of things to hate about the 2019 Lion King remake, but the film’s utterly blasphemous treatment of this masterpiece might be at the top.
Jeremy Irons could make almost anything sound sinister, alluring, and terrifying, but the lyrics here are truly brilliant—walking that peak-Disney line where every third phrase lands a joke that the 6-year-olds can catch, but every single line is winking at someone or something. Honestly I’d rate it this high just for that last magnificent zeugma: our teeth and ambitions are bared…
8. Can You Feel The Love Tonight
I MEAN. How did we rank this #8? Democracy is truly the worst form of government, except for all other forms of government.
For the record, this is my third favorite Disney song, though if I had to guess, the Elton John version of it might have the highest play count on my Google account.
Anyway, this song is lovely. It’s a sweet ballad, it uses interesting vocabulary (“vagabonds”?), it’s moving–and it’s kind of sexy, you know, for a song about lions. I just love it so much.
9. Let It Go
The liberation anthem that inspired everyone from four-year-old girls to frat boys, this song is a classic. After growing up on the “classic” Disney movies where female power was treated as frightening and dangerous more often than it was respected, how could I not be excited about this song, where Ella sings about how she’s not going to keep her superpowers to herself anymore. “It’s time to see what I can do,” she sings. AMAZING.
10. I’ll Make a Man Out of You
(but also: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SLJJc8siyU)
Everything about this song is wrong. Donny Osmond is supposed to be a Chinese warrior, the gendered call to action pretends that it’s ironic but is delivered with way too much conviction, the backing basso chorus just keeps shouting “BE A MAN!”, and Donny Osmond is supposed to be a fucking Chinese warrior. Turns out, though, none of that matters when you have a perfect chorus, driving snares, a backing basso chorus somehow making “BE A MAN” work as a bass line, and you replace the final chorus with an a cappella breakdown.
P.S. I bet you didn’t know about Jackie Chan singing the Cantonese version of the song. I bet you didn’t know he starred in the live-action music video. You’re welcome.
A classic anthem for small-town, bookish girls who once thought they were better than everyone else. Belle is not the most feminist heroine overall, but her belted protest, “I want much more than this provincial life,” is rightfully immortal.
12. Under the Sea
I talked about magisterial peak-Disney lyrics in “Be Prepared,” and this song is the other cardinal example. If you’re 5, all you need to need to know about this song is that “oh that blowfish BLOW!”
If you’re 33 and listening for the 1,200th time, that final build is so amazing… “Each little snail here \ Know how to wail here \ That’s why it’s hotter \ Under the water \ Yeah we get luckier \ Down in the muck here…”
(Yes, I know that the lyrics they print for this song say that he says “Yeah we in luck here”, but we all know that’s a lie. Sebastian was nasty.)
13. For the First Time In Forever
This is the first song we’re ranking that The Ringer completely left off their list. This whole list is a list of reasons they should feel bad about themselves, but this omission is particularly appalling. The first verses are hilarious, the expansion towards the end is wonderful, and the final duet-verse makes the entire arc of the plot happen. So good.
14. Once Upon a Dream
I mean, it’s kind of cheating, since Tchaikovsky wrote this melody, and he’s… you know, pretty talented, although in my opinion he’s no Elton John. But it’s a really lovely song, a classic from the Disney repertoire, and the fact that Prince Charming creepily sneaks his way in to dancing with Aurora is… something I can overlook.
15 (tied). Reflection
There’s a reason that Christina Aguilera’s version of “Reflection” lives on as a classic pop song, aside from Disney affiliations. It’s a gorgeous, universally relatable ballad about the difficulty of discovering one’s identity when you’re struggling with societal and familial expectations, with just the right amount of teen angst.
15 (tied). Gaston
I feel like it’s easiest to appreciate how great this song is by contrast with the (otherwise-mostly-not-terrible-don’t-@-me) live action remake’s try-hard version, which adds subplots of LeFou paying off townspeople for no reason and also being illiterate for no reason. It’s great – he’s especially good at expectorating! Let it be what it is.
17. Poor Unfortunate Souls
We’ve known since Milton that the villains get the best songs, right? That’s proven by this song, where Ursula persuades Ariel to sign away her voice in exchange for the sea witch’s magic turning her human–and coaches her on how to catch a man without being able to talk to him. I’ve got two words for you: BODY LANGUAGE! With her lipstick, and her deep voice, and her seriously bodacious torso, Ursula takes classic American femininity and exposes it for the campy, sinister thing it is.
18. Kiss the Girl (tied)
Ok yes fine, the lyrics don’t tell a great story about enthusiastic and affirmative consent. In this case, though, appealing to the text [celluloid], Ariel obviously enthusiastically consents. As feminist icon Ursula says, don’t underestimate the importance of body language. All that being said, wow the chorus of this one is amazing. Sha-la-la-la-la-la float along, and listen to the song.
18 (tied). Sister Suffragette
True story, I listened to this song all the time during the 2016 elections, you know, back when it seemed like women were about to have our moment. I wrote “womankind arise!” on the whiteboard on my fridge.
The fact remains that this song is awesome. I especially love the part where the two longtime (long-suffering?) household servants also join in and sing about suffragism. The whole thing is great. We should all spend more time marching around our own households in a teeny tiny conga line, singing about being Soldiers in Petticoats. I don’t even care if the rest of the movie heavily implies that the kids need to be saved from a dysfunctional household because feminism destroys homes. I really don’t.
20. Be Our Guest
I admit, my high ranking of this song (#19) was heavily influenced by how fucking great it was in the live-action remake. But the fact is it’s also a really fun song, with the Busby Berkeley references, the elaborate choreography, Lumiere’s absurd French accent… I just like this song so much.
And I have to admit that the entire Beauty and the Beast soundtrack just has a soft spot in my heart. How often does a four-year-old girl get to go to the movie theater and discover her perfect role model? Belle is easily bored and loves books. That’s all I needed to worship her.
21. Hakuna Matata
This one, in my opinion, is fine, not that amazing relative to the rest of the 90’s Disney canon, but all that you need to say about it is that something like 4 of the 5 non-terrible moments in the horrible 2019 Lion King were jokes, in this song, about how this song was the only reason anyone was watching the movie.
22 (tied). Colors of the Wind
I feel conflicted about having highly ranked this song for the obvious reasons: it’s, while well-intentioned, sort of awkward and reductive and noble-savage-trope-y about the cultural differences between European colonial culture and Native American culture; and it’s from a movie that takes an inexcusably romantic attitude towards a historical event that eventually led to genocide. Nevertheless, Judy Kuhn’s voice is great, the music is really good, the song is a classic, and… there you go. I still really like this one.
22 (tied). I Just Can’t Wait to be King
This is the kind of Disney tune that’s made for a singalong. So catchy! So many good jokes! I might still go see the uncanny valley version of The Lion King just to hear John Oliver, a human hornbill, deliver the line, “This child is getting wildly out of wing…”
24. Go the Distance
I think all of Hercules’ music is criminally underrated (as you will see throughout this post), and that starts with the should-be-a-classic power ballad, “Go the Distance,” which beautifully articulates Hercules’ motivation and foreshadows his entire emotional journey. Only “Part of Your World” did it better.
25. I See the Light
The sweet, romantic song from Tangl’d, where Rapunzel and Flynn Rider watch the floating lights ceremony and fall in love. Clearly, everyone here at Adversion is a sucker for a romantic duet (this one would have been higher except that Janes hasn’t seen Tangl’d) and this one is very pretty and conveys the feeling of magic and wonder of two characters seeing the world differently just because they’ve met each other.
26 (tied). Prince Ali
“Prince Ali” gets overshadowed by “A Whole New World,” and, you know, rightfully so, but it’s super fun! Robin Williams does a great job with it in the movie, and the Broadway version, with the entire ensemble singing the harmonies for the whole song, is even better.
26 (tied). Friend Like Me
This song is incredibly entertaining, but I think we deservedly keep it out of the top 25 Disney songs. It’s ultimately just Robin Williams being Robin Williams for an appropriate interval—although it’s sometimes hard to remember them, there are other things that go into making a song truly delightful. About the best thing I can say about the live-action remake is that during this song, I felt like I could tell why the producers thought they might be able to get away with remaking this movie without Robin Williams.
28. Just Around the Riverbend
Similar to “Colors of the Wind,” this song is a little cliched and possibly racist, but the metaphor works, the music is lovely, and again, Judy Kuhn’s voice really does it for me.
29. When Will My Life Begin
This is my pick for single most underrated Disney song (highly related to thinking Tangled is the single most underrated Disney movie…). The song itself is just fun, but the triumphant reprise… so good. This one gets two YouTube links because the reprise deserves it. Click them both – you deserve it.
30. So This is Love
Another song that’s just a gem—small, contained, shimmering. “So this is love.” The pronoun is never expanded, and the song itself blossoms into its warm and welcoming referent. Apropos of nothing, The Ringer ranked “Heigh-Ho” above this.
31 (tied). A Star is Born
Disney has always flirted with different genres of music, often with exaggerated and offensive results (see: “Under the Sea,” “Honor to Us All,” “Arabian Nights,” etc). But Hercules is the first film in which they really committed to an experiment. Every song aside from “Go the Distance” is heavily influenced by Gospel music, because co-writer John Musker saw its potential as a “storytelling medium,” very much like a Greek chorus, and the gambit pays off in spades. It’s not ideal that the soundtrack was written by white guys (or that they originally wanted the Spice Girls to play the muses), but still, the songs are great. “A Star Is Born,” especially, has a killer hook and out-of-this-world vocals from amazing stage actresses like Lillias White, who understudied Effie in the original Dreamgirls, and LaChanze, who won a Tony for her role in The Color Purple.
31 (tied). Love is an Open Door
I love this song! I loved it even before Santino Fontana became one of my favorite TV romantic heroes ever (on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, for those not in the know). It’s so charming and peppy. It’s satirizing the Disney notions of love at first sight, while also kind of celebrating the giddiness of it. Plus… it’s catchy!
33. Mad Madame Mim
Once again, the villain gets the best song — in this case, the only song from The Sword in the Stone worth remembering. Mad Madame Mim’s bragging about how marvelous and magnificent she is always cracked me up as a child.
34 (tied). Zero to Hero
Another insanely catchy Gospel song, with lots of cute jokes about Hercules getting tacky merch. Plus, it successfully carries through a funny extended metaphor, where actual-mythological-figure Hercules is turned into the most mythologized figure in American culture: a professional sports player.
34 (tied). You’ll Be In My Heart
“You’ll Be In My Heart” isn’t Disney’s greatest ballad–it’s much more lyrically and sonically generic than any of its classics–but it’s a sweet ode to parental love with a near-irresistible chorus. Bonus points for the Phil Collins version, which is very pretty and the most Phil Collins thing that’s ever happened.
34 (tied). When You Wish Upon A Star
This song is a classic — according to the Youtube writeup (what? I don’t want to have to do my own research) the American Film Institute ranked it at #7 film songs of all time. Clearly none of us would go that far — I ranked it at #29, and I was the biggest fan of the three of us — but I do really like this. It’s a simple, memorable melody and it perfectly expresses the single overriding Disney ethos, that believing in something is the only thing you have to do. (I got that analysis from a book whose title eludes me now.)
37 (tied). Cruella De Vil
Cruella de Vil, with her killer fashion sense (see what I did there?) and experimental haircut, is obviously the most fabulous of the Disney villains. Roger’s revenge song describing how much he flat-out hates his wife’s mean best friend is as fun and slinky and jazzy as a woman like Cruella deserves.
37 (tied). God Help the Outcasts
This is an unusual song for a Disney movie, where Esmeralda prays to God to help the outcasts of society. But it’s a plea for social justice, as well as a beautiful song; I love the way Esmeralda’s voice soars when she sings, “I ask for nothing.”
39. He’s a Tramp
OK, this song is actually one of my favorites. My twelfth favorite Disney song of all time, to be precise. Objectively I realize it’s not that great a song but it is really sort of romantic: a woman (I mean, you know, a female dog) singing affectionately about a guy who’s kind of a player, knowing that she’ll never get him because she’s too streetwise and weathered, and affectionately resigned to that fact. Do I still secretly feel like Tramp should’ve picked the fun, streetwise Peg over demure doe-eyed Lady, though? Uh, yeah.
40 (tied). The Bare Necessities
As a whole, The Jungle Book isn’t really up there for me musically, and “The Bare Necessities” is no exception. Like many of the Disney songs of olde, it’s catchy, but in a sort sing-songy, annoying way. Plus, the entire song rests on a silly pun, and I don’t even like puns on their best days.
Side note: For most of the following songs, we made the person who least liked the song do its writeup, explaining why it doesn’t belong in the top 40.
40 (tied). Do You Want to Build a Snowman
Ok so I’m the person who rated this song lowest, but I now think we underrated it, and it’s all my fault. It does a workmanlike job of moving the plot fifteen (ish?) years forward from the intro of Frozen, but the title/hook is somehow the catchiest single phrase in a movie full of incredibly catchy songs. I’ve listened to enough country music that the “minor key final verse/reprise” doesn’t delight me as much as it might have, but it’s still well-done—the last shot of the sisters slumped against the door was really affecting. And I somewhat vaguely remember this song birthing some pretty hilarious Twitter memes a couple years ago, but I can’t find any of them now, so let’s just all pretend this sentence never happened, deal? Deal.
42. The Gospel Truth
I find most of the music from Hercules boring, and none more so than when the Muses are singing. (I ranked this 45th).
43. I Wanna Be Like You
I liked this catchy song about a monkey wanting to be human, back when I was a kid and I thought the monkeys were just monkeys; now it seems like it might secretly be super racist. Presumably it’s supposed to represent colonialism being the thing that turns the colonized people human. Gross.
44 (tied). Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo
A classic, to be sure, but a little talky and thin on re-listen.
44 (tied). A Girl Worth Fighting For
I guess this song is supposed to be poking fun at the male soldiers of Mulan as they sing about the women they’re fantasizing about on their way to war. And Mulan tries to stand up for a girl “who’s got a brain, who always speaks her mind.” But eh, I feel like this song is more making fun of the girls who aren’t worth fighting for, than it is truly satirizing the men.
46 (tied). Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
I mean. It’s fine. We all know the words. Or at least… the word. But it’s nothing special, IMO, especially compared to the other Mary Poppins contenders like “Jolly Holiday,” which unfortunately the Philistines who are my fellow Adversion writers ranked even lower!
46 (tied). One Jump Ahead
I actually like this song, where Aladdin sings about staying out of trouble! It’s cute and somewhat catchy, I just don’t find it super memorable. It definitely doesn’t stand out against, say, “A Whole New World.”
Ugh, can we make another list just for criminally underrated songs? “Hellfire” isn’t my top villain song (nothing can beat “Be Prepared” and Gaston’s five dozen eggs), but it is, to me, unquestionably the scariest. Listening to this song, in which Frollo violently blames Esmerelda for his desire to have sex with her, is weird and forgettable as a child, but genuinely frightening as an adult. Religious hypocrisy is a more insidious (and adult) villain than one would expect from a DIsney movie, and the terrifying refrain “She will be mine or she will burn,” should be iconic.
49. Heigh Ho
Very glad I’m getting this because I don’t actually like it, because I actually don’t like it. I don’t even believe that this is a different song from Whistle While You Work, and I defy anyone to prove otherwise. Instead, let’s talk about how Ringer ranked this 24th, and also even put it on the list of best songs at all, which means they ranked it ahead of all 20 songs we added, which is offensive except for the absurd direct-to-VHS movies we’re somehow including in our list*.
*I’m just trying to act cool, “Forget About Love” is actually great.
50. Jolly Holiday
I ranked this song, where Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews sing about how they love to hang out inside chalk drawings, at #23. Like I said, I love a romantic duet, and these two are flirting like mad. Plus, I can’t resist Julie Andrews’ voice.
51. Forget About Love
For this one, blame my partner, who kept insisting that Return of Jafar had a few genuinely great songs. I didn’t believe him, but this one, where Iago manipulates Jasmine into making up with Aladdin after their first marital spat, is actually super clever and cute.
52. My Lullaby
Unpopular opinion: Lion King II is actually a great Disney movie, with an unusually politically correct message and pretty fantastic music. (Actually, I’m not sure if that’s an unpopular opinion; these songs are only ranked so low because I’m the only one who ranked them.) [No, I’m pretty sure it’s an unpopular opinion. –Nerdy Spice] Like “Hellfire,” “My Lullaby” is a super sinister and underrated villain song that gets points for the sheer darkness of its lyrics: “The sound of Simba’s dying gasp / His daughter squealing in my grasp / His lionesses’ mournful cry / That’s my lullaby.” Yikes!
53. Whistle While You Work
This is another classic, and also the kind of song that someone tries to get in your head as a form of revenge.
54. Two Worlds
I forgot that I knew this song when we were making the rankings, and then I listened to it so I could rank it, and then I forgot I knew it again when I was asked to do the write-up. So you know, make of that what you will.
55. Love Will Find a Way
My last plug for weird Disney sequels, I promise. “Love Will Find a Way” is something like “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”’s generic stepsister, but it’s still completely lovely. The tune feels ready-made for a Phil Collins cover, and the lyrics sweetly reflect the main characters’ burgeoning love in an intolerant world, and their desire to build a better one.
56. Colonel Hathi’s March
I… do not understand why Nerdy Spice added this to our list. Maybe it was a completist impulse since there are so many other Jungle Book songs on here? It’s the lowest effort song in a movie full of filling-out-the-runtime low-effort songs, in a period when Disney was basically only making their animated pictures into musicals because they weren’t sure what else to do with themselves. The only positive thing is that we structured this list in a way that doesn’t allow her to defend herself.
57. A Guy Like You
I made my sisters watch this movie about 100 times when I was a kid, and I completely forgot this song existed.
58. That’s What Friends Are For
This song, in which some vultures form a barbershop quartet and try to trick Mowgli into thinking they’re his friends, has the dubious distinction of being 3rd from the bottom even though we all have actually seen this movie (unlike a lot of the other ones hovering near the bottom). I mean, it’s kind of funny? But it’s hella boring.
59. Out There
Despite all having seen Hunchback of Notre Dame, none of us have the faintest recollection of this song. Somehow, the Ringer article ranked it just one spot below “I Won’t Say (I’m In Love).” I mean, COME ON GUYS.
60. Love (from Robin Hood)
None of us have ever heard of this.