From another world without excuses, bursting with emotion and enlivened by lush, soaring soundtracks, there is something enchanting about the film’s musical. It’s a genre that remains a staple of modern cinema, even if it falls out of favor with mainstream crowds.
Besides their elaborate sets, costumes, choreography, beautifully crafted stories, and character designs, movie musicals are judged on the quality of their songs. Following this line of judgment, even longtime fans of the genre know that perfect movie musicals are rare. There will almost always be a missed song: an unnecessary addition that slows the pace of the story, or a forgettable melody that doesn’t square with the other numbers. For the most part, these songs are an unfortunate but forgivable aspect of the film’s musical, failing to tarnish the reputation of a beloved classic.
ten “Tightrope” – The Greatest Showman
This 2017 film follows an ambitious expedition clerk turned showman, PT Barnum, as he forms a circus with an assortment of outcasts. Sung by Barnum’s wife following his apparent abandonment, “Tightrope” is a very moving song that deserves its place in the narrative.
However, this forgettable number is overshadowed by the rest of the soundtrack, which features a variety of lively and adorable earworms. While the song has an impact on the timing, its effects are relatively shortlived compared to The greatest showman other blows.
9 “Pore Jud is Daid” – Oklahoma!
Adapted from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway musical, Oklahoma! is a 1955 film about romance and rivalry. The villain of this movie, a possessive and creepy farmer named Jud, is certainly difficult to defend. He has an obsessive determination to make one of the protagonists, Laurey, his wife, against the will of himself and his love interest, Curly.
In a bizarre attempt to resolve this conflict, Curly performs “Pore Jud Is Daid,” a song that suggests to Jud that ending his life might solve the problem of his inimitable sound. While the song is meant to be humorous, its dark lyrics and boring tune feel a bit unnatural amid an otherwise flawless soundtrack.
8 “The Fish” – The Little Mermaid
Launch of the Disney Renaissance of the 90s, The little Mermaid is a charming story about a mermaid who wants to live in the world of humans. Much of the success of this children’s film is due to the incredible soundtrack by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.
One misstep often overlooked in this soundtrack is “Les Poissons”, an aggressively “French” act performed by the chef as he prepares a meal. The song isn’t particularly enjoyable to listen to, but luckily it quickly dissolves into a chaotic cat-and-mouse game between the chef and Sebastian the crab.
7 “Prima Donna” – The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera (2004) is a much-loved rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s highly successful and famous musical. This famous story, about a disfigured and mysterious musical genius who longs for a talented singer, is told through dazzling musical numbers.
“Prima Donna” is a big song with a pretty big finish, but it’s just not as memorable or exciting as the others, and goes on for a bit too long.
6 “When all is said and done” – Mamma Mia!
Find a fault in the cheerful and colorful fun of the crowd that is Mom Mia! is an extremely difficult feat. The 2008 film, which sees a young woman set off in an unconventional search for her father, uses the best of ABBA’s music to anchor its eccentric plot.
If there was one flaw, however, it would be “When it’s all said and done,” a song performed in place of a wedding toast towards the film’s conclusion. For some fans, the song is a bummer due to Pierce Brosnan’s lackluster vocals. For others, it’s just a slightly inappropriate and unnecessary inclusion, made weirder by a phrase most would never dream of uttering on their well-attended wedding toast: “… and not too old.” for sex. “
5 “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” – La La Land
Tell the age-old story of struggling artists trying to succeed, La La Land was a massive film in 2016, garnering considerable critical attention of all kinds. While some might name “City of Stars” as La La Land’s worst song with vocals, “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” sums up a lot of what can make the movie condescending.
As aspiring actress Mia, Emma Stone performs this emotional number with notable passion. The quality of the performance, however, doesn’t deter the more boring aspects of the song. The story Mia tells perpetuates the idea that those who pursue unlikely careers in the arts are the “dreamers,” while those who cannot do so must lack bravery or perseverance. It’s a reductive representation of creativity that makes art seem exclusive.
4 “So Long, Farewell” Cover – The Sound Of Music
Another adaptation of a masterpiece by Rogers and Hammerstein, The sound of music is technically free from terrible melodies. The film, which follows the whimsical Maria as she becomes the housekeeper to seven children, lasts nearly three hours and is filled with clever and catchy songs.
“So Long, Farewell” is no exception, although it is not pleasant enough to justify being performed twice by the von Trapp family. This is a rare example where the replay is not adjusted enough for a second viewing, and this oversight makes the film’s considerable runtime even longer.
3 “The Song of the Siamese Cat” – Lady and the Tramp
There are, unfortunately, several Disney movie musicals that include offensive songs, all of which are too outdated to appreciate. “The Siamese Cat Song” is just one example, a bizarre song that interrupts the iconic romance of the 1955s The Lady and the Tramp. This film is about a sheltered cocker spaniel who, forced out of his cushy situation on the street, finds solace and advice in a wandering pooch.
“The Siamese Cat Song” occurs in a case of wickedness, in which Lady is framed by Siamese cats. These characters are racist caricatures, promoting nefarious ideas that are only exaggerated by this atrocity of a number. The song is so bad, in fact, that the 2019 live-action remake had to make some significant adjustments.
2 “Hello, little girl” – In the woods
The intertwined stories of In the woods take place in part through short transition songs, as is the norm for a Stephen Sondheim musical. The repetitive, understated lyrics and melody of “Hello, Little Girl” make it feel like this kind of song – almost a filling number between bigger and more resplendent musical moments.
Nonetheless, the encounter between Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf is memorable and considerably frightening. In fact, the wolf’s obvious meanness makes it all the more frustrating when the little girl ends up falling for his repeated advances – a moment that undermines the character’s merit.
1 “Desperately devoted to you” – Grease
Potentially the most controversial addition of all, this love ballad from the 1978 blockbuster movie, Fat, nevertheless deserves criticism. Portrayed by Olivia Newton-John as schoolgirl Sandy, “Hopelessly Devoted To You” was written specifically for the film in order to fulfill the conditions of her contract, who demanded to be given a solo.
As a result, the song is sweet but unnecessary, providing viewers with no new information or even clarification of Sandy’s already obvious feelings. While “terrible” may be a strong word to describe the song, its absence from the film would have given way to other more appropriate tunes at the time which were unfortunately cut from stage production.
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