“A Whole New World”


Some years ago (at least three, but probably more) the Disney behemoth began advertising its Hawaiian resort Aulani with this utterly enchanting version of “A Whole New World” from Aladdin.  Even in the little bit they played in the commercial, I was in love with it.

I’ll be the first one to admit I don’t know much about Yuna, the singer who created this song (anyone who does can click here).  But she gives me the general impression of being quite charming.  I also believe she is a Muslim, which means she is persona non grata in Trump’s worldview; all Muslims are terrorists to him.  Even the one’s who sing songs as wholesomely American as Disney songs.  Of course, this particular Disney movie is now suspect in Trump’s vision of the world.  It is, after all, set in an Arab country and features brown people as characters.

I didn’t mean to make this one political at all.  The song is just an innocent romp meant to further the Disney-fied romance between Aladdin and Princess Jasmine.  And this cover is, as I stated earlier, utterly enchanting.  I just wanted to share it with you.  And to remind you that not all Muslims are out to get Westerners.  Some of them just want to create music.


A Peek Inside My Brain


I sometimes feel as though my entire brain is an iPod on shuffle.  Random songs pop into my head at odd times.  It’s been like this for years, even before I got an iPod, although it has been a bit more. . . pronounced, shall we say, since I bought that first one many years ago.

There’s two perennial staples on my mental playlist, songs that generally come up when I’m doing some kind of mundane task.  The first is what I call my Filing Song.

While I enjoy Frank Sinatra, this particular song has never actually been a favorite.  But when I spend more than five minutes filing (like I used to have to do at the community college I used to work at), “Strangers in the Night” just appears like the proverbial bad penny.  I don’t sing the lyrics; I don’t even know most of the lyrics.  I just hum, and occasionally “do be do be do” to the tune.  It’s a satisfying enough way to occupy my brain, although I’d prefer to alphabetize to “All of Me.” (If I’ve been filing too long, I get a little lost in the middle, and have to sing the ABC song to remind myself if K comes before or after M, but that’s a different story altogether.)

The other song that randomly, and rather aggressively, injects itself into my consciousness is a Disney classic.

I don’t think I’ve seen this version of the Three Little Pigs since I was in single digits, but “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” has been on rotation ever since.  Just as I mysteriously associate “Strangers in the Night” with filing, this song is mostly a kitchen tune.  Cooking brings it to the forefront of my brain and I find myself singing the chorus (the only words I remember) over and over in a high-pitched, kiddie-style voice.  Why?  How the hell should I know?

What these two songs seem to best illustrate to me is that some melodies are so ubiquitous either to the culture or our personal experience that they become woven into the fabric of our lives.  Also, that I have virtually zero control over what pops into my head for which reason.  The human brain is a weird and wonderful place, but I wouldn’t want to get lost in mine.

“Winnie the Pooh”


According to my clock (PST in the U.S.), I’ve got just about an hour and twenty minutes left to celebrate Winnie the Pooh Day.  January 18th is the birthday of A.A. Milne, the creator of Pooh Bear and all his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood.  So pull up your favorite teddy bear and sing along.

This is the way I remember Pooh best.  We used to watch The Wonderful World of Disney on TV, and sometimes they would show one of the Winnie the Pooh shorts during the program.  I also remember being read the Milne books as a very small child, three or four at most.  They’re some of my earliest memories and probably the reason why I love these characters so much.

My Musical Oscar Picks


Well, I ended up getting one of these right.  So, if I were a baseball player, I’d be batting .500 and having an awesome year.


I try to give all the  Oscar song and score nominees at least a listen, even if it’s just the samples on itunes.  I heard U2’s “Ordinary Love” after the Golden Globes, and while it was serviceable, it really isn’t the best song nominated.  At best, it’s third behind Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” and what I think is going to win.

I must say I’m a little tired of Disney songs winning almost every time one gets nominated, but this really is the best of the batch.  It fits the movie, the character, and it’s excellent musically.  (There’s the added benefit of being kind of empowering for girls, something I always advocate.)

My pick for Best Original Score is Disney related, too.  And like “Let It Go,” it was pretty easy to choose the soundtrack from Saving Mr. Banks.  Compared to the scores for Gravity and Her, it’s lively and interesting.  And unlike Philomena and The Book Thief, it’s not burdened by too much tradition.  It’s the one score that seemed like something I’d be willing to listen to while not watching the movie.

That’s what I think should win; we’ll see if I’m right in a couple of hours.

Gone to the Movies: Disney


What’s your favorite Disney song?  I’ve got lots, but I’ve noticed that I tend toward the really sappy, sentimental ones.  I’m happy to tap my toes along with “Bare Necessities” or “Under the Sea.”  I’ll grin like a loon every single time I hear “You Can Fly.”  And I’ll sing along with “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” (which I almost knew how to spell).  But the songs I listen to repeatedly are the ones that make me tear up.  Every. Damn. Time.

I don’t know what that says about me, although it’s pretty in keeping with my feelings about music.  I demand genuine feeling and emotion from my music.  Anything that doesn’t somehow feel like someone cared about it at some point in its production is garbage.  Now, arguably, all music has some genuine feeling in it somewhere.  But I’ve heard enough over-produced, poorly written, studio-dubbed crap to know that isn’t true.  Some music is created to appeal to the widest possible audience while (ostensibly) offending no one.  It’s bland and forgettable, completely lacking in any and all soul.  Many people feel that Disney is one of the mega entertainment conglomerates responsible for this kind of travesty, and I’m sure there’s more than a few Disney songs that fit this category (everything from, say, The Lion King, for example).  But they’re also responsible for a huge portion of the most iconic, and most recognizable, songs in popular culture.  And when these songs are done right, they are brilliant.

Take “When You Wish Upon a Star” for example.  Originally written for the 194o animated feature Pinocchio, the song seems to have taken on a life of its own.  This was the theme for the movie, and in the tradition of great themes, it laid out in simple musical terms the theme of the movie: “When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true.”  Toymaker Geppetto longs for a son, so he carves himself wooden marionette in the form of a little boy.  The Blue Fairy grants his wish and brings the wooden boy to life, but Pinocchio must prove himself “brave, truthful, and unselfish” in order to become a “real” boy.  I’m pretty sure you know the rest of the story (and if you don’t, go watch the movie, for goodness’ sake).  What I’m not sure anyone realized at the time was that they were creating the theme for all of Walt Disney’s empire.  “When You Wish Upon a Star” has become the de facto theme song of Disneyland–and Disney World, and all the rest of the resorts.  And movies.  And television shows.  The idea that your dreams can come true is something repeated over and over in everything Disney does.  Sure, these days those dreams seem to come attached to a price tag, but even consumerism can’t obscure the truth behind the song.  Warning: This clip contains the end of the movie, so have some tissues handy!  (It’s funny; I sometimes criticize newer Disney movies like Finding Nemo for being a little upsetting and dark, but that’s been a tradition of Disney movies since the beginning.  You can’t have the light without the dark, after all.)

Maybe we’d all do ourselves some good if we followed our dreams and imaginations a little more often.  And maybe all of our lives would be a little better if we listened to that little Jiminy Cricket in our hearts.  It certainly can’t hurt.  Of all the Disney songs I love, I think this one really might be my favorite.  It gets me every time.

So reply if you like with that one Disney song that gets you every time.  You know which one I mean.  The one that makes you happiest, and turns you into a child all over again.

“Baby Mine”


Back in 1988, a collection of covers of Disney songs by various rock artists came out.  It’s stunning because it wasn’t popular rockers; they were cult figures and also-rans whose takes on Disney classics was ingenious to say the least.  Los Lobos’ cover of “I Wanna be Like You” was true to form, but let the inherent racism of the tune bleed through.  The Replacements sang “Cruella DeVille” with gleeful malice.  And Suzanne Vega did an a capella version of “Stay Awake” that I prefer to the original (it also gave the album its title).  There really is something for everyone here, providing everyone thinks Tom Waits should be singing “Heigh-Ho.”

One of the standouts was “Baby Mine,” performed by Bonnie Raitt and Was (Not Was).  It was still the beginning of her great renaissance, so she’s in top form.    The lullaby from Dumbo is turned into a slow, smoldering blues number.  Her voice is as tender and loving as any mother’s, even though Raitt never had children herself.  You don’t need to be a parent to understand this song and for it to break your heart.  This is a song for anyone who has ever loved any child.  I don’t have children, either, but there are children in my life.  And I always want to sing this to them.  “And if they knew sweet little you, they’d end up lovin’ you too.”

When I listen to this song, I understand a little bit the overwhelming love parents feel for their children.  They want the whole world to see what they see when they look at their children.  I think that’s part of why parents talk about all the wonderful things the kids do to anyone who will listen.  They want to express that love.  Sure, kids are frustrating sometimes.  And parents always know their child’s limits–“you’re not much, goodness knows.”  But none of it matters when they take their babies in their arms, and that little head rests on their shoulders.  All that love and trust and faith directed at you has to change you for the better.    So of course the rest of the world needs to understand and be changed for the better.

“You know that you’re so precious to me, baby of mine.”