Music really shapes who we are, and I had a minor revelation on this point a few weeks ago. Recently, Jared asked Twitter to name their five top Disney songs. I answered sarcastically and cited Gaston in all five slots, but after considering the question I realized that I had a more serious answer.
Of course, my response breaks Jared's initial rule of five songs, but hey, it's me, I never saw a rule I didn't like to stomp. Part of this is because I grew up on Disney. I didn't have siblings or a lot of friends, so I spent a lot of evenings watching television by myself. The Disney Channel was a staple in my media diet until I was 19. But I also found that a lot of my answers were nonstandard. A lot of my songs came, not from traditional animated Disney films, but from their short features, albums, live-action movies, and covers of songs. And while I was considering my extremely eclectic list, I realized that part of why I embrace so many different sorts of music as an adult is because I was introduced, by Disney, to so many different styles of music very, very young.
My list of favorite songs from (or provided by) Disney:
07. You Are The Music In Me — High School Musical
I really enjoy The High School Musical films, because they're so upbeat and happy and I still love imagining the world where no one is just one thing, but a vast collection of likes, dislikes, skills and hobbies, and free to explore them all. I will never not love that trope. But, in the end, I just really came to like the chemistry of these artists. The secret to my enjoyment of this song is definitely because of the quiet, piano beginning.
06. Let's Get Together — The Parent Trap
I watched this film several times before finally recording it from the channel just for this song. How many times did I rewind my poor VHS cassette to listen? It was a lot. I broke down again and just recorded the song itself for less rewind time, because I couldn't get anyone to buy me the album. Hayley Mills, ya'll, she's the best, and all by herself and movie magic birthed my love of cheesy duets.
05. I've Got No Strings — Gipsy Kings (Simply Mad About the Mouse)
After I was given this album as a gift when it first came on on cassette, I was obsessed with this song in the way only a child can be — oh gosh, the repetition. It also led me into raiding my mother's collection of English singers who had transitioned from Spanish, so they were releasing double-sided tapes with English on one side and Spanish on the other. I once made a mix tape of nothing but this song and Jon Secada's Otro dia mas sin verte. What really gets me is if my parents had signed me up for Spanish during this part of my life, I would probably be bilingual now. (How dare you, parents.) I still have all the music a Spanish friend gave me in college and listen to it pretty regularly. But it started with this song.
04. I'm Still Here — Johnny Rzeznik (Treasure Planet)
Okay, I'm a sucker for angsty music about the inner lives of men, and also daddy issues. I loved the film itself before the song; the song is just what stuck with me from the film after I moved on. I still have this is my rotation with my other Goo Goo Dolls music, and it still has more play counts than even Iris does even when iTunes has only be counting plays since 2010.
03. Can You Feel the Love Tonight — Elton John (The Lion King)
I like both versions of this song a lot, but this wins by a pretty wide margin because of the piano element (I'm a sucker for songs that give good piano). The Lion King was formative for me in a lot of ways. I mean, sure, Bambi was rough and it was sad, but the hunters were faceless and so much was implied to be "the way of nature" that The Lion King stabbed me in the soul with its viciousness. This song was the comfort to my hurt for a long, long time.
This is not a Disney song. However, I was introduced to it via a Disney film, where they put a spin on it (transformative works, heck yeah). When I joined the band in high school years and years later, I chose the clarinet. Guess what song I learned first?
01. Never Really Learned to Play (Mother Goose Rock 'n' Rhyme)
I've lectured myself throughout the years over my love for this song, but unfortunately my child self imprinted and my brain can't let it go. I like to jokingly call this Disney's bondage song for babies, because I really don't think the person who wrote this...really thought it through…? All the better for me, really. When the movie where this song came out, I was there on premiere night, and when this song came on it was like a revelation. I had never heard this type of music aimed at me in any way I would pick up on before this film. Gateway music! This song led me to Aerosmith, Guns 'N Roses, Warrant, and somewhat accidentally, INXS. If I have to look back and decide which song changed the course of my musical life - from someone what listened exclusively to country western (father) and/or jazz (mother) - this is where it began.
And because I'm a cheater, two bonus songs:
BONUS: Once Upon a Dream — Lana Del Rey (Maleficent)
Although this is a Disney song, it's very new and who knows if it has staying power. But it's everything I love in song covers, taking something from the original and twisting it just enough to make something entirely different. It's lovely and evocative, and Lana Del Rey's voice is perfect for this creepy take on the song.
BONUS: Forever Young (Care Bears)
Care Bears are not a Disney property, but without Disney I wouldn't have had any exposure to them until much later than the mid-80s. Because Disney constantly played the films, I didn't have to miss out. (Huzzah!) This poor song got me through some really tough times in high school when I was struggling with very few friends at all. It's surprising to me looking back how much I used children's media properties, with their upbeat and hopeful attitudes toward friendship, to convince myself that I only needed to wait and be patient and I would eventually find good friends. I especially did this during times when in theory I should have grown out of these franchises, but nope. I hung on, and this song is in my music collection to this day.
Renee has been writing SF and fantasy fan fiction, criticism, and commentary since the early 1990s. She serves as staff within the Organization for Transformative Works, co-edits a media criticism blog, Lady Business, and writes columns for speculative fiction magazine Strange Horizons.