Top 10 lists seem to be my thing to go to when I’m not quite sure what to write about over here. But hey, they can be fun, and sometimes it’s moderately enjoyable to sit down and think about an arbitrary list of items for no other reason than to express an opinion. We’re humans, we like opinions! Except when they don’t match our own opinions! Then they’re stupid and evil and need to be destroyed at all costs, but that’s a rant for another post (and spoiler alert, it’ll be an argument against that mindset).
So, I’m doing another top 10. This time, let’s talk about music from animated movies. Well, American animated movies, I suppose… I have no familiarity with musical animated films outside of American studios, but I’m thinking musicals are just bigger in America than elsewhere? We just like singing that much? Maybe?
Generally, when I see someone rank songs from animated films, they’re villain songs. I get that. I love villain songs. They’re awesome. They’re darker, edgier, and (usually) catchier. They’re more interesting than the hero songs, probably because they’re designed to reveal character depth and motivation rather than just say, “This is the part where I advance the plot! Onwards, friends!” There are certainly villain songs that do that, but for the most part, you could probably cut a villain song and not suffer any loss of plot. Would you want to? No. Definite no. <Insert curse word of choice here> NO.
Okay, so we know that villain songs are awesome. But what about hero songs?
I decided to set myself some rules on this one. To be on this list, the song has to be (a) from an animated movie, (b) sung by a character within that movie (c) who is not the villain of that movie, (d) and is about the actual protagonist of the film.
Before anyone asks, there is a distinct lack of Frozen on this list. I admit, I was caught in the “Let It Go” craze for a while, but it’s a song that loses too much of its impact when you take away the visuals. In my opinion, at least. It’s also not about the protagonist of the movie. Elsa isn’t a protagonist, just a background element. No, don’t argue with me. I’ve already talked about this and written about this and gotten totally sick of this, so let’s just leave it at that. No Frozen. Don’t bring it up. Please.
And now, without further ado, the list:
- Out There – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
- I Just Can’t Wait To Be King – The Lion King
- Almost There – The Princess and the Frog
- Through Heaven’s Eyes – The Prince of Egypt
- I’ll Make a Man Out of You – Mulan
- I Can Go the Distance – Hercules
- Just Around the River Bend – Pocahontas
- One Jump Ahead – Aladdin
- Part of Your World – The Little Mermaid
- Journey to the Past – Anastasia
I have to say, that was not an easy list to write. Setting the perimeters of the list definitely limited things, so there are a lot of songs out there that just didn’t make the cut simply because a character in the film did not sing them. Lookin’ at you, Tarzan. And you, Lilo & Stitch. And yes, you too, Road to El Dorado.
The thing is, though, animated villains sing their own songs, and even if their voice actors don’t have the best singing voices, the fact that they take on these songs and just totally own them makes the songs all the more powerful. We remember them, and we love them. Even the ones that never made it into the movies. (Go check out “Snuff Out the Light”, sung by Eartha Kitt, and originally meant to be Yzma’s villain song in The Emperor’s New Groove.)
So why don’t the hero songs resonate more?
Maybe they’re too goodie-goodie, but then again, when the voice is there and the melody is right, they have the power to stay with us. I play a few of the songs on my hero list when I need to get motivated for something. I don’t play villain songs.
And yet, the villain songs are still more fun. Maybe because they’re a way to indulge in the Dark Side and sing about things that we would never otherwise do. Maybe. Or maybe it’s because, in movies that are all about the triumph of the hero, we like to see a point of challenge, a moment where the villain truly and completely takes over.
Whatever the appeal of villain songs, though, hero songs can be equally great when they’re done right. So can a lot of soundtrack songs that don’t conform to the rules I set up, but I wanted to see what happened if I made the heroes play by the villains’ rules. The outcome was interesting. Difficult, but interesting.