Last month, for whatever insane reason that I now definitely don’t regret, I started a bracket to determine the best Disney song of all time. The first round was pretty non-controversial and was actually relatively well received. After a few people mentioned they were waiting for part two, I decided to dig my heels in and continue. This time, we’re going to do the first part of the revival period of Disney films, which spans from the revival of animated films in the 80s (starting with Oliver and Company) and stretching all the way to early 1995 (to the criminally underrated A Goofy Movie). If you were concerned that this was going to be a chalk bracket, don’t worry, there’s definitely controversy here.

Let’s get to it; below is the bracket for the Golden Age. Again, I tried to stop songs from the same films in the first round and songs that won an Oscar were given top seeding. Oh, and only three songs per movie. Sorry, Hakuna Matata.

1. Beauty and the Beast (Beauty and the Beast) vs.
16. Prince Ali (Aladdin)

Right from the jump, you can see that this region is absolutely loaded. Prince Ali, one of the many fun romps from Aladdin, comes in as the very last seed in the tournament and immediately faces off against one of the most well known Disney songs of all time. Beauty and the Beast can be seen as one of the crowning moments of the animated renaissance that put the mouse back on the map after their disastrous run in the seventies and eighties. This is a pretty easy decision, which is appreciated because it’s going to get much harder later.

Don’t feel too bad for everyone’s favorite street rat, he’s going to make a run elsewhere.

8. Part of Your World (Little Mermaid) vs.
9. Be Prepared (Lion King)

Due to the three songs per movie rule, Be Prepared made it into the bracket as the third song from Disney’s take on Hamlet. I know it’s really tough to cut Circle of Life and Hakuna Matata, but I think you’ll find it quite impossible for me to opt in the song that has Jeremy Irons hamming it up to the Nth degree while being flanked by Whoopi Goldberg and legendary stoner Cheech Marin. It’s a great song and its dark tones make an excellent foil to the lighthearted nature of the rest of the movie. It establishes Scar as a genuine bad guy. That’s a fine line to walk. I get that it’s overshadowed by some of the bigger songs from the film, but it definitely deserves to be here.

Part of Your World suffers the same fate. Under the Sea, rightfully so, gets remembered as the top song from this movie. And we’ll get to that movie in time, but for now we’re going to focus on the best song from the Little Mermaid. It’s our introduction to Ariel and her love for all things above the oceans surface, including the dashing Prince Eric (whom the “your” in the title is referencing). It frames her entire motivation for the movie.

And it’s beautiful. It’s sad, it’s funny, it speaks to anyone who has ever felt out of place. And it definitely doesn’t make me tear up occasionally. One thing it definitely does do is move on here. Sorry, Cheech.

4. Under the Sea (The Little Mermaid) vs.
13. Gaston (Beauty and the Beast)

Is there any Disney song that’s more fun than Under the Sea? I contend that, at least to this point, there isn’t. And this song isn’t just fun, it’s a full on party. It’s even got a hot crustacean band. There’s a reason everyone remembers this song – because it’s genuinely great. The next time you’re out in a bar, turn this on and see how many people start bopping around. I wouldn’t be surprised if this song charted for a bit later this year when the new version of this movie is released.

Gaston is also a ton of fun. It really gets Gaston over as an insufferable asshole. That said, I’m still not sure that he was enough of an asshole to follow the trope of literally every Disney movie ever made (bad thing happens to princess caused by otherworldly monster, she’s saved by a handsome prince) and then die as a reward. Seriously, think about that for a minute. I want a sequel where we get #justiceforGaston.

Under the Sea moves on here, keeping the dream of an all Little Mermaid quarterfinal (meaning a sure place in the semis) intact.

5. I2I (A Goofy Movie) vs.
12. I Just Can’t Wait (To Be King) (Lion King)

You might not remember A Goofy Movie. It came out about two months before Pocahontas and would see Toy Story come out later that year as well. If you haven’t seen it, you should, because it accomplishes two things really well. First, it tells a story using, essentially, the real world. Sure, the characters look like dogs, but they go to school and have jobs and go on road trips. The problems they’re enduring in this movie aren’t evil witches or regicide or magic genies, instead they’re dealing with growing apart from their aging son or trying to figure out to impress the pretty girl at school. It’s quite possibly the most relatable Disney movie out there. And second? It. Fucking. Jams. Both of the songs from this movie (you’ll see the other later) are genuinely good pop songs. It’s hard to say which one is better, but this one comes at the tippy top of the redemption arc for the main character so it gets the nod as the higher seed.

Meanwhile, IJCWtbK is a very fun song while you’re a child and you can identify with Simba. The world is your oyster and life is going to be great just as soon as you grow up. However, when you’re an adult and you start to identify with Zazu you start to get a little tired of this whiny little bitch talking shit like he’s done something. You know what? I should’ve included Circle of Life. Fuck this song. I2I advances.

2. A Whole New World (Aladdin) vs.
15. Kiss the Girl (Little Mermaid)

A magic carpet ride around the world against being pressured to make love while a seedy little crab and a bunch of other sentient animals watch along and goad you for more? I’m a self admitted creep and I’m still taking the carpet.

7. Why Should I Worry? (Oliver and Company) vs.
10. Be Our Guest (Beauty and the Beast)

Look, if we were doing this bracket when I was a sophomore in college then the thought of having Billy Joel performing a bop in New York city as a super cool dog in a Disney movie would’ve sent me into a frenzy. Now? Give me Angela Lansbury excitedly singing as a teapot. Beauty and the Beast becomes the first movie to get two songs through to the round of eight songs.

3. Can You Feel the Love Tonight? (The Lion King) vs.
14. Stand Out (A Goofy Movie)

Spoiler alert. We’re not waiting long for another movie to get a second song through to the next round. Stand Out is another jam and a half from A Goofy Movie.  Max’s performance of it on the last day of school is a scene that I’ve watched, genuinely, no less than five hundred times. He was definitely something of a self insert for me growing up. Crashing an assembly with a smoke machine and a flying harness? So cool.

Meanwhile, Can You Feel the Love Tonight is a genuinely great song as well. But it’s a love song, and I just cannot for the life of me care about the relationship that the movie is trying to develop. So these lions are friends for a few years growing up and now she just shows up out of nowhere and night one later we’re romping through the jungle while Elton John croons along? I don’t buy it. I have a feeling that Disney knew they could get him to do a song and they just shoehorned it into the movie wherever it would fit. Sorry, Sir Elton, but you’re out.

6. What’s This? (Nightmare Before Christmas) vs.
11. Friend Like Me (Aladdin)

This was, arguably, the toughest choice to make in the first round of this region. Either of these songs could make a very deep run. What’s This is an iconic song that showed a shift in the philosophy of Disney – they were open to making different pictures that deviated from their typical formula which included either a princess, singing animals, or both. Now, we had a creepy skeleton man (delightfully voiced by Danny Elfman) singing in excitement about the discovery of a new world that celebrated anything other than Halloween. It sets the table for both the film and for Jack Skellington and shows that, though the movie might be weird, it’s still got the underlying Disney charm we all know and love.

If you’re familiar with the layout of these articles, you know there’s a but coming here. And that but manifests itself both figuratively and literally in the smiling blue face of Aladdin’s genie, wonderfully voiced by the iconic Robin Williams. The writers for the song really did an excellent job of crafting it for the man who would be performing it – so many of the puns and wordplay would’ve been lost with anyone else. Top to bottom, this might be the smartest Disney song. I’ll never apologize for how much I love a good pun. Even if I’m not smart enough to figure out a good one to make right now when you’re obviously expecting it. It’s going to be tough when this song goes head to head with Stand Out in the next round.

That wraps up the opening round. Interestingly, and perhaps not coincidentally, all eight of the spots in the second round are spread across four movies (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, A Goofy Movie, Aladdin). For those of you not scoring at home the bracket now looks like this.

1. Beauty and the Beast (Beauty and the Beast) vs.
8. Part of Your World (Little Mermaid)

Alright, now that we’re out of the first round, I can really unleash the hot takes. And sit down, because this one is a scorcher. Beauty and the Beast isn’t all that good. It’s a generic love song. There’s barely any content in it other than “people can change and fall in love”, which is a pretty bad moral for a song where the entire love affair is pretty clearly stockholm syndrome. But Jared, you implore, that’s not true! The Beast truly changed! No, he opened the door to a library that was already there and fought some wolves because he’s staring a life sentence as a beast man in the face and couldn’t let his one chance to escape that fate die. The real heroes of this movie are the servants who are literally objectified. But more on that later.

Meanwhile, part of your world is about an innocent young girl yearning for love and the satisfaction to feel like she’s in a place and a body that she belongs in. As more of society struggles with this year after year, this song seems as exceptionally salient.

4. Under the Sea (The Little Mermaid) vs.
5. I2I (A Goofy Movie)

One of my favorite moments in March Madness is when the top overall seed loses and suddenly the lower seeds in their bracket smell blood and go absolutely balls to the wall in the games that follow. If it happens after that upset, the 4/5 match-up is usually a particularly brutal game. Under the Sea and I2I is this tournaments version of that. With Beauty and the Beast out (as well as the third seed), one of these two could easily run all the way through to the round of four.

Let’s be clear – both of these songs are fantastic. Under the Sea, as we’ve discussed, is a certified bop. And I2I is a basically a top 40 hit. But I2I has a message that ties together an extremely underrated movie, by the end, the father and son see eye to eye. Their journey across the country brought them together as family. Meanwhile, by the end of the Little Mermaid, Ariel is living a new life over the sea. That’s the tiebreaker for me. Those of you dreaming for an all Mermaid semifinal: sorry, I’m not sorry.

2. A Whole New World (Aladdin) vs.
10. Be Our Guest (Beauty and the Beast)

I’m going to be honest, I don’t think Disney love songs are for me. At least the traditional kind. Again, the powerhouse from Aladdin is great, but I just don’t think it stacks up to the jam from the true heroes of Beauty and the Beast. I mean, come on, how could you not fall in love when a handsome bad-boy prince is taking you on a trip around the world on his magical flying carpet. We didn’t really need a song for that. They could’ve played scream-core death metal over that and I think we’d get the same end game. Give me Lansbury in the next round.

14. Stand Out (A Goofy Movie) vs.
11. Friend Like Me (Aladdin)

Like I2I from the same movie, Stand Out has a great pop sound to it. It really captures the sound of the time the movies were made – if you played it in a club on 90’s night I doubt anyone but a hardcore Disney fan would even notice that it wasn’t a radio hit. Guaranteed, a few people would Shazam it. It’s so good of a song that Disney universe pop star Powerline chose it as the title song of his world tour. That said, it  lacks the emotional resonance of I2I. Plus, it doesn’t help that the in-movie performance gets cut short by super-dick principal Mazur. It’s good, but it’s not top four good.

You know what is top four good? Robin Williams dressing camels up in drag. That’s gold. Actually, all of the imagery in that song hits home. I talked about it in the first round, but this really is a seminal performance by one of the greatest actors of our time. Moreso than any other film, he shined as the Genie. And this song was his magnum opus. He absolutely drills it out of the park. This might be the peak of his career. And I don’t say that lightly, the guy won a fucking academy award. Enough talk, let’s move it through and finish the round.

With that, we now have four songs from four different movies. The bracket is as follows:

I told you it wasn’t going to be chalk. This one is all Team Chaos baby.

8. Part of Your World (Little Mermaid) vs.
5. I2I (A Goofy Movie)

Well, this is impossible. I’ve written, at length, how great both of these songs are for so many reasons. But, to me, the tiebreaker here is the performance of the singers. Both Jodi Benson (Ariel) and Tevin Campbell (Powerline) are so very talented and turn in amazing performances here. Both songs are exceptionally written.

But, man, does Ariel really know how to tug on my heartstrings here. It’s just her, an orchestral arrangement, and us. I’d be lying to you if I said I weren’t listening to this right now in a coffee shop hoping that no one is looking at me because I probably look really out of place with tears in my eyes at 3:15 in the afternoon on a Monday.

Whatever, it’s 2019. It’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to. Little Mermaid’s in the finals.

10. Be Our Guest (Beauty and the Beast) vs.
11. Friend Like Me (Aladdin)

Again, I’ve made very strong cases for both of these songs so far. The amazing thing from both of them is that neither are performed by the lead character – both come from the supporting cast in the movies. And they definitely steal the show.

But nobody steals the show like Robin Williams. I keep coming back to the idea that I posited earlier that this song was his defining performance. It’s always something special when someone without signing chops gets a Disney song right (I’m looking at you Dwayne, you’re welcome).  As much as Be Our Guest deserves to make the finals, it’s hard for me to look past that. It just ran into an obviously underseeded buzz saw. Maybe I shouldn’t have used awards given out by some of the most shortsighted, arrogant, hypocritical people in entertainment as a measuring stick for seeding. You know what? Just picture your favorite shrugging emoji or gif and let’s move on to the finals.

8. Part of Your World (Little Mermaid) vs.
11. Friend Like Me (Aladdin) 

Why did I do this to myself? I understand it’s very much a first world problem type of thing to complain about ranking Disney movies in a bracket that I created myself that has no bearing on anything, but as a great man once said, it’s still real to me (dammit).

I’m going to get right to the point here (he said, over 3,000 words later), Part of Your World is winning this fucking bracket. I can’t understate how brilliant everything about Friend Like Me is. Go back and re-read everything I’ve said already. It’s a top song. But there are only so many spots in the final four, and this region’s goes to Ariel’s beautiful ballad that perfectly captures an impossibly wide range of emotions. It’s such a wonderfully dense song, it’s beautifully performed, and it’s a perfect representation of what brought Disney back to relevance. Much like pro wrestling (because everything is) movies don’t work unless the characters behind them work. If we don’t empathize with them and root for them, nothing works. It’s why Beauty and the Beast has two songs literally named after characters. It’s why Aladdin opens with “One Jump”. It’s why the Lion King falls a little flat once you’re beyond the age of ten. Part of Your World speaks to me and I’m the further thing from a Little Mermaid. I don’t know what it’s like to be a woman. I don’t know what it’s like to be a Princess. But I do know what it’s like to want something that’s so far away from you so desperately and so badly that it hurts. I know what it feels like to feel out of place. I can’t sing a song about it, but luckily for me, I don’t have to. Mrs. Benson already did it for me.

We now have two songs in the finals, with When You Wish Upon a Star having already qualified. Next up is our second round of songs from Disney’s Golden Age, where we’ll start with Pocahontas and run right up to the crest of a new millennium. We’ll catch our breath for a second in the last group, but for now this next region is another bloodbath.

All of that said, the completed bracket is below. Hopefully it’s a little easier on the next go around. I get the feeling it won’t be.