From a purely musical perspective, the numbers composed for Disney movies are both impressive and enjoyable. Regardless of whether or not one enjoys watching the films, practically everyone can agree that the music is pretty incredible. “We Love Disney,” a compilation of Disney covers by famous current artists, released Oct. 30, seeks to update the Disney canon. Many of these covers work quite well in putting a creative spin on Disney music, though others fall flat and fail to impress.
R&B artist Ne-Yo uses his distinctive, sultry voice to bring a soulful attitude to “Friend Like Me” from “Aladdin” (1992), originally sung by the Genie (Robin Williams). This is one of the best tracks on the album, keeping true to the energetic vibe of the original track while still including some unexpected twists.
Tori Kelly shows off her impressive abilities in “Colors of the Wind” from “Pocahontas” (1995). The background and tone of this song stay fairly true to the original, but Kelly’s unique voice, bolstered with the addition of a guitar line, make the rendition feel new.
Yuna, a singer-songwriter from Malaysia, sings “A Whole New World” from “Aladdin” (1992), using just her sweet, soft voice, a ukulele and guitar. Her voice is light and airy in stark comparison to the original, in which the two leads belted the choruses with passion.
Though many covers on this album work well, some fail to impress. Ariana Grande — the new Mariah Carey when it comes to vocal abilities — sings “Zero to Hero” from “Hercules” (1997) and, surprisingly, doesn’t make an impression. The Muses of the movie belt this song out in the original with true grit and soul, neither of which Grande is able to replicate. She has the ability to do difficult vocal runs flawlessly, but without the sassy, full sound of the original Muses, her cover falls short.
Lucy Hale and Rascal Flatts’ cover of “Let It Go” from “Frozen” (2013) adds a country spin to this song. Though this may seem like a good idea in theory, something just doesn’t feel right about it. It has the same energy as the original, but the whole vibe is a bit off-putting; it pales in comparison to the original, especially during the choruses, as Hale is unable to belt the high notes the way the listener might expect.
Jason Derulo, Gwen Stefani and many other artists are also included on the 15-track Deluxe Edition. This album’s purpose is to revive Disney music. This, of course, raises the question: does the music need reviving? It’s true that many Disney songs may feel outdated, since most listeners associate them with their childhood. Though not all music from Disney movies is as catchy and memorable as the pop songs scattered across radio stations nowadays, Disney music tends to be much more varied and complex than pop. The Disney repertoire has true jazz in “Friends on the Other Side” from “Princess and the Frog” (2009), pure ballads in “Colors of the Wind,” moving duets in “A Whole New World,” soulful gospel music in “Zero to Hero” and more. Regardless of personal feelings toward Disney movies about their political correctness or the messages they send to kids — specifically the older films that rely on damsel-in-distress tropes — the music is still great.
“We Love Disney” is a fun listen, but should definitely not be seen as a replacement of the classics. If anything, this album should be used to encourage listeners to appreciate the original music.