The live-action Lion King finally comes to theaters this weekend and while there will be plenty of discussions about the characters and nature of remakes, as a life-long fan, we know there is one thing you’re most concerned about: the songs. After all, the original Lion King has arguably the greatest soundtrack in the entire Disney canon so, inevitably, fans are curious to see how the new performances compare to the originals. So, to that end, we have decided to rank the new songs, while also judging whether they are better or worse than the 1994 versions.
Quick caveat: These are not purely being ranked on how they sound, as the original numbers, at this point, are inextricably linked to the actual performances from the movie. So that will be taken into account for the comparisons.
6. “Be Prepared”
This is one of the classic Disney villain songs, as the original rendition is a show-stopping, visually-ominous number that gives us a taste of Scar’s less-than-noble intentions. However, in the remake, it is a brief, underwhelming performance robbed of all the delightfully sinister energy.
Better or Worse Than the Original: Definitely worse.
5. “I Just Can’t-Wait to Be King”
Not the most memorable song in either of the films but at least the original version had a colorful, over-the-top setting to make the song more enjoyable. The new performance is a little awkward to watch but is ultimately redeemed by the vocals of young Simba (JD McCrary), who brings a lot of fun to his performance.
Better or Worse Than the Original: Much worse, which feels hard? But…they did it!
4. “Hakuna Matata”
Like most of the songs on this list, this performance suffers on a visual level because animated animals are able to do a lot more musically-inclined action than CGI animals, such as dancing and emoting. However, Donald Glover, Billy Eichner, and Seth Rogen all do a great job putting their own spin on this delightful tribute to nihilism.
Better or Worse Than the Original: Slightly worse.
This is the only new song to be added to the film and was performed and co-written by Beyoncé. Is it likely to enter into the Disney Song Hall of Fame? Perhaps not but it’s a powerful number that holds its own against some of legitimate classics.
Better or Worse Than the Original: It’s an original song. Does not apply. But still, this song is ranked correctly.
2. “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”
Once again, the actual scene doesn’t even come close to matching the original, which is one of the most beloved musical numbers in movie history. But you know what helps people forget all about that? The angelic voice of Beyoncé, along with some extremely fun riffing from Eichner and Rogen.
Better or Worse Than the Original: Worse if you’re watching the new movie. Arguably equal quality if you are just listening to the songs.
1. “Circle of Life”
By now, you’re probably getting the sense that watching the live-action musical performances simply does not hold the same magic of watching the original cartoon versions. And, for the most part, that’s true. Except for the opening number, which, along with sounding amazing, is a genuinely breathtaking experience. Watching these animals perfectly recreate the legendary opening is stunning and it becomes easy to forget that these aren’t real creatures gathering for their Royal Baby. Truly incredible stuff.
Better or Worse Than the Original: Better! Blasphemous? Perhaps. But this really is the film’s masterpiece on an audio and visual level.
Listen to all of the songs on the list and the rest of the soundtrack below to see which is your favorite.