“Song As Old As Rhyme” (#6)

beauty-and-the-beast-mrs-potts-chip-disney-songs-single-com-1649“Tale as old as time
True as it can be
Barely even friends
Then somebody bends
Unexpectedly.

Just a little change
Small to say the least
Both a little scared
Neither one prepared
Beauty and the Beast…”

The 1990s were an innocent time where cassettes ruled and Disney pop songs were a regular fixture on the Billboard charts. The singles released during this decade earned the Mouse House multi-millions in sales and, more often than not, scored some sweet Oscar glory.

But are any of these recordings — sung by actual humans, not their cartoon counterparts — something you’d still want to listen to today?

Brace yourselves, because When We Were Young has reviewed all 13 pop singles from Disney/Pixar’s 90s theatrical releases (from 1991’s Beauty And The Beast to 1999’s Toy Story 2), taking a gander at whether these songs stand the test of time — or if they’re just old as rhyme (whatever that means). Join us as we sing with all the voices of the mountain (including Vanessa L. Williams’) and catch up on what Peabo Bryson’s been up to the last few decades.

God help the podcast! Take a listen here.

As explained in the episode, I almost exclusively listened to Disney soundtracks until about 1997, not unlike my co-hosts. However, the pop singles were rarely the tracks I spent time with, preferring the versions from the films sung by characters rather than those that charted on the radio. Is this just a product of age? It’s possible that I find most in-movie versions superior to the singles merely because I was a child upon their release, but in most cases, these songs work better in the context of the stories they’re supporting, and are less effective on their own. (The Lion King is the standout; Elton John’s recordings are pretty iconic.)

I find Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson’s “Beauty and the Beast” particularly troubling — and, yes, a little “rapey.” Part of this is just the context of the movie, which might be problematic from a gender politics standpoint (I’d need to watch it again to be sure). In a charming animated film, a song about two individuals who are “barely even friends” finding a “bittersweet and strange” connection might work just fine, but outside of it? Is “both a little scared, neither one prepared” really an aspirational romance? Is this really a “tale as old as time”? I take issue.

The overall verdict? A few of these songs are still shining, shimmering, splendid, but most fail to go the distance. The biggest surprises for me were Vanessa L. Williams’ “Colors of the Wind,” which I found surprisingly beautiful, and “Go the Distance,” which has the misfortune of being performed by Michael Bolton, but is pretty good anyway. (Even though I prefer the Ricky Martin version.) The biggest disappointment was “God Help the Outcasts,” which I remembered as being so beautiful — and it is, as sung in the movie, but is hardly done justice by Bette Midler.

lion-king-nala-can-you-feel-the-love-tonightRevisiting this era through Disney music was fun, particularly since it’s been a while since I watched most of these films.

Special shout-out to “Vanity,” a necessary counterpoint to Xtina’s “Reflection.”

My rankings:

1. Can You Feel the Love Tonight
2. Colors of the Wind
3. Go the Distance
4. A Whole New World
5. When She Loved Me
6. Circle of Life
7. God Help the Outcasts
8. Reflection
9. Hakuna Matata
10. You’ve Got a Friend in Me
11. Beauty and the Beast
12. You’ll Be in My Heart
13. Someday

When We Were Young is a podcast devoted to the most beloved pop culture of our formative years (roughly 1980-2000). Join us for a look back to the past with a critical eye on how these movies, songs, shows, and more hold up now.

You can help us defray the costs of creating this show, which include purchasing movies/shows/etc to review, imbibing enough sedatives to take down an elephant, and producing & editing in-house at the MFP Studio Studio in Los Angeles CA, by donating to our Patreon account, and don’t forget to subscribe and leave a review on iTunes!

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