Some of my fondest memories of the early to mid-2000s include the DisneyMania series of albums. Released between 2002 and 2010, the series of seven volumes (not counting a ‘Remix’ compilation and a ‘Princess’ edition) featured some of the day’s biggest stars putting their own spin on classic Disney tunes.
This year, Disney revived the concept with a new album titled We Love Disney. Although similar localized versions released in countries like France and Australia in the past few years, the US version is out this week. Perhaps most surprisingly, the album manages to produce some inspired spins on the songs we all know and love. It’s an assemblage of modern pop artist converge, including Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Fall Out Boy, Jason Derulo, and many more.
A handful of the songs on the album are standouts. Ariana Grande brings down the house on “Zero to Hero” (Hercules), which, lets be honest, isn’t the easiest song to sing. Jason Derulo’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight/Nants Ingonyama” mashup (The Lion King) takes time to get used to, but then turns out to be a refreshingly original take on the 1994 hit. Gwen Stefani’s “Rainbow Connection” (The Muppet Movie) as well as Tori Kelly’s take on “Colors of the Wind” (Pocahontas) are faithful to the originals and sincerely arranged. I also liked Kacey Musgraves’ version of “A Spoonful of Sugar,” a country-influenced take on the Mary Poppins standard. Finally, Rascal Flatts and Lucy Hale’s “Let It Go” (Frozen) is a catchy, countrified version of the song you still aren’t sick of hearing.
At the second tier are tracks like Ne-Yo’s “Friend Like Me” from Aladdin, which sticks close to the original song. It’s not the most unique cover, but does just enough to differentiate itself from the original. Charles Perry injects a ton of jazz-flavored fun into “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” (The Aristocats), while Jessie Ware goes the cliche route with the straightforward and true-to-the-original “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” (Cinderella).
However, many of the songs fall into the ‘not so good’ category. For example, Fall Out Boy’s “I Wanna Be Like You” from The Jungle Book is supercharged, but it lacks the fun of the original. Jessie J’s “Part of Your World” is a complete mismatch between the singer and the song. Her vocals are great as usual, but something about this version just feels off. Maybe she would have been better off with something more suited to her style? And finally, Jhene Aiko’s version of “In a World of My Own/Very Good Advice” (Alice in Wonderland) is the most obscure and baffling song choice on the album. Sadly, it’s also the longest song on the album.
The album closes with a group performance of “It’s a Small World,” which makes up for the missteps in previous tracks. Featuring every singer on the album, this version of the song is memorable, nostalgic, and, quite frankly, the “We Are the World” of Disney music. This song warrants a music video.
If you like cover albums, We Love Disney isn’t a bad choice. Still, if you prefer your Disney music ‘pure’ and not murdered modified by today’s stars, you’re better off listening to the original soundtracks. While the DisneyMania albums were mostly geared towards children, We Love Disney takes a more sophisticated approach and features a broader variety of songs. Even the album cover (featuring Tinker Bell) is classy and demure, a far cry from the splash of colors featured on DisneyMania. The album features several songs that are worth checking out and will bring back fond memories of the films. I’d like to see We Love Disney become a new series, because – to be honest – it’s time to bring these songs to the next generation.
Gary is a Disney nerd whose favorite animated movies are Beauty and the Beast, The Incredibles and Frozen. When he's not out catching Pokemon or watching animated films, he's usually analyzing literature or creating artwork.