Disney Pop Songs; or How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (After Already Trying And Succeeding)

The release of Demi Lovato’s new single – a cover of Frozen’s Let It Go – inspired me to talk about this most wondrous of franchise offshoots. One that I, perhaps against my better judgement – absolutely love, despite their cheapening of the original film by turning contextual songs into sappy Adult Contemporary ballads. But that’s enough about me. Let’s get on with the show:

So essentially, one major factor in the Disneyfication of… well… Disney in the past 25 or so years has been in the advent of the pop single to the major anthem of each film. This trend started in 1991 with Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson’s smash hit version of Beauty & the Beast… and with studio executives literally swimming around in their piles of money, it is no big surprise that this became a fixture for the films to follow: a big name star taking a song from the soon-to-be-released film and turning it into a pop hit.

So I noticed that these songs – as well as becoming themes or anthems of their respective movies – seem to have some common elements which are rarely deviated from. First and foremost, the lyrics must be generic enough for them to be sung by anyone at any time, be it off key in their shower, or off key in a karaoke bar, or even off key at a primary school talent show! (so many choices…). This is, I think, the major reason why a relatively big chunk of Reflection from Mulan was cut out for the final version – so Xtina’s cover could relate to anyone. No idea why Disney couldn’t save its decontextualising for the pop single alone…

So in that case, another factor is making the song an ballad with little to no cultural touches added at all. You will notice in the Oscars clip from the last post about how Arabic their version of A Whole New World compared to how… not the single and even the movie version were. I actually really like the Broadway version (Aladdin the musical hits the stage next year guys! So excited!! 😀) because it is a perfect blend of those two. I personally find AWNW extremely bland/dull/boring/insert adjective so I was so grateful that they spiced it up).

But you know what? They don’t ever sound *that* bad. Not really. I love the Vanessa WIlliams version of Colours of the Wind. And Regina/Peabo’s R&B cover of A Whole New World. They are good singers and their songs make good singles. It could be worse. (who remembers this? Besides me?). Actually I must say I do like both singers but that is a little bit DisneyMania-level puke-enducing (who remembers this too?). Nevertheless this is a part of the Disneyfication process that always irks me. And now we have a heavily autotuned Demi Lovato to add to the collection.

You can usually tell which song it is by checking out the soundtrack to the film and looking for the last songs (in some cases the first) featured. That’s usually where they’re hiding. Plus they are practically always one of the end credit songs. In the case of singer-composed soundtracks like that of The Lion King or Tarzan, the pop versions may be many. But there is usually a favourite. I was surprised to find that Can You Feel the Long Tonight actually has the edge over Circle of Life when it comes to the most successful pop song from that soundtrack. A couple of other interesting facts: sometimes the song can be a deleted one, (such as Someday from The Hunchback of Notre Dame) or one never intended for the film, (such as Ne Yo’s Never Knew I Needed from The Princess & the Frog). In the case of Hunchback, a different was released in the UK than the US, sosorry if you are more familiar with the Eternal version but I went for All-4-One. (…oh screw it, here’s the other one just for you!) Also some great pop versions like If I Never Knew You by Jon Secada & Shanice just never really got off the ground. Or to the same degree anyways.

In my research I came across an interesting part of this whole thing that I didnt even think about before: the pop versions of Disney theme songs in other languages. Now this is something I’m not even going to touch on in this post, but please enjoy this clip featured multilingual versions of all those songs. It’s worth noting the different stylistic choices in regard to backings, the fact that most are from Asian countries, the different keys used, and the songs chosen (I Can Go The Distance was the runaway single of Hercules but I Won’t Say I’m In Love seems to be the favourite internationally).

I love the Polish rock n roll version of Part Of Your World. In fact, the fact that POYW was chosen for TLM is a fascinating glance into what the pop version would have sounded like if Disney had sold out in the way it has, back then. Who do you think should have sung the pop version?

(if it was released today, perhaps? *horrified face*)

This trend was recipricated with…hmmm lemme think… well the example that springs immediately to mind is the Whitney Houston/Mariah Carey version of If you Believe from Dreamworks’ The Prince of Egypt. I’m sure you can find your own examples of that. It’s tended to die as musicals have gone away.. but with Mumbai Musical and such I think musicals in other animation studios are on the rise, which is good. If Pixar can reinvigorate the animated short industry, who knows?

Well anyways, sit back, relax, and have a listen to all the pop versions of Disney theme songs over the past 25 years, and take a peak at these beautiful but unnecessary additions to their respective Disney franchises. I start to give comments in all the songs in post-Renaissance films because they are more interesting to me. The non-classics. Some underrated. Some deserving of being forgotten. Enjoy. 🙂

(not really successful or well-remembered but it’s one of the most amazing songs I’ve ever heard and one of the few remnants of the film-that-never-was Kingdom of the Sun that was left in the final film)

God… this is where they start to turn to shit. This was just before the era of Chicken Little and High School Musical…

*cough* butchering of an Elvis classic *cough*

I refuse to put No Way Out in despite it officially being the film’s theme song (according to the Wikipedia page on its soundtrack), because it played over the most amazing scene in the film shitting me to no end. Not to mention it also did worse in the charts. It’s a good song though.

Anyone remember this gem? When the ending came on with Walt Disney’s quote – “Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths” – I must admit I got a bit teary eyed. This was the moment I knew Disney… *my* Disney… had come back. I love you John Lasserter. ❤

*Yeah*, this counts!

Bleurghhh.. neither of them are that good of a singer. (have you *heard* John’s whiney voice in Grease recently?)

I like this song. A bit autotuned but ehh.

Ummm… so apparently this happened?

So here we are. The latest in the collection. Thoughts? 😀

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