Even though I’m still on hiatus, I thought I would bust out another Top 7 list. This one involves a subject that is easy to cover for my blog…MUSIC! It has been a while since I did a music-based list and the last one I made was the one with songs more famous than the movies they were made for. That was a bit of a peculiar one since I mentioned several mainstream movie soundtrack songs and many of them were also Top 40 hits in their respective heydays. I know I’ve also made lists involving anime themes or a mix of movie themes, but I never made a list involving music strictly from Western animated works. You all know I prefer animation from Japan compared to anywhere else and it’s not just because of my severe issues with Disney. I have certainly covered independent and lesser-known Western animated flicks here, but I still want to get out of my comfort zone with a list like this one. There are several catchy and memorable tunes from various cartoons and animated films for decades, yet there are many that get lost in the shuffle and aren’t talked about as much. Here’s my little spotlight when it comes to Western animated songs. Let me lay down some ground rules…
-These are all vocal music pieces and no instrumentals. If I counted instrumentals, then I could easily put the themes from Batman: The Animated Series or The Magician on this list.
-The songs must be originally made for an animated series or movie, so no covers will be allowed.
-They can be theme songs, insert songs, or music used on official companion soundtracks for something specific (the last example plays a HUGE role with one of my picks!).
-They are songs that I personally feel aren’t well-known by the public.
An honorable mention would be the titular theme from Song of the Sea, but this will not be on there because I put it in a previous Top 7 list involving theme songs.
Okay, everybody. Let’s play these tunes!
7: I Am Iron Man by William Kevin Anderson (2nd OP to Iron Man [1994 animated series])
Some of you thought I lost my mind. I actually put a Marvel theme song on the list! Hey, does anyone remember when they were their own company and not a Disney subsidiary let alone when it was actually *GASP* UNCOOL to like superheroes unless you were a child? Pepperidge Farm remembers! As far as 90s Marvel cartoon themes are concerned, the X-Men and Spider-Man songs are far more remembered. Long before the MCU existed, Iron Man was adapted in cartoon form as part of the Marvel Super Hero Power Hour on syndicated TV (it was on UPN where I was from back in the day) alongside The Incredible Hulk and Fantastic Four. While I didn’t watch this cartoon as much as the Marvel shows on Fox Kids, I still remember this theme song to this day and recently remembered it. This song has no right to kick this much butt and it destroys the original cheesy opening out of the water! The “I! AM! IRON MAN!” chants are addictive and the guitar work was epic with the metal riffs that would make Rob Wasserman (the guy who made the Power Rangers theme) swoon! This is one of those opening themes that get you pumped up and ready for some superhero action. I’m shocked that none of the Iron Man movies much less the MCU reused this music which is a shame. Even the visuals are immense and 90s to the core. Yes, the blacksmith hammer stuff in the animation is a reference to THAT Black Sabbath song and the joke writes itself over and over again (then again, RDJ DID rock that band’s shirt in one scene from The Avengers if anyone noticed). If I can be critical, the song is too short and the lyrics only involve the title. At least it uses all 47 seconds wisely to get your attention.
Feel free to add this to my playlist, Jarvis.
6: Deep In My Heart by Coral Egan (Opening theme of Cybersix)
We’ve got another superhero theme song for this list. I know I’m kind of cheating by putting a Japanese co-production here, but most of you didn’t know TMS or a Japanese studio helped with the animation until you did research or read my review. Then again, TMS did help in the production of multiple American cartoons, but I digress. I’m counting it because it’s from a Canadian director and based on an Argentinean comic. The Cybersix theme from Coral Egan has a good amount of gravitas and some feminine charm to match the title character’s aesthetic. Egan has a great voice and the instruments work to flesh out this bio-punk superheroine story. Unlike the previous example, this does feel more like a song. I do wish there was an official extended version with additional verses with this impactful chorus. If they ever do a remake of this show, then I would be happy if they brought this song back. This was a song that was still memorable to me after not watching it since its original American run on Fox Kids during my elementary school years. “Deep In My Heart” is an underrated superhero number from an overlooked character who isn’t affiliated with Marvel or DC. I know it had its flaws, but there were some original things going for it with this biologically-engineered experiment that fights monsters by night while disguising as a male high school literature teacher by day.
5: Song of the Sea (Lullaby) by Nolwenn Leroy from Song of the Sea
I said I wouldn’t put the Song of the Sea theme on here, but it doesn’t mean I couldn’t put this song used in the ending credits! What a loophole, right? While I preferred the opening theme over the ending one, the soundtrack is still amazing. Instead of Irish singer Lisa Hannigan handling the vocal duties, this is performed by French singer Nolwenn Leroy. She’s a French national, but she’s actually of Breton descent which would make this the 2nd song from a Breton singer I’ve put on a Top 7 list after Cecile Corbel was featured for her work on the Arietty soundtrack. This was a beautiful Celtic-sounding tune with lush instrumentation and heavenly vocals to go with it. I like how there’s a build-up with the sound and more instruments are added as it progresses like tin whistles, harps, and uillean pipes to name a few. It’s not the strongest work from a Cartoon Saloon movie, but this still blows so many animated soundtrack songs out of the water. Just like my comment about the Song of the Sea theme in that other Top 7 list, if this was in a Disney movie, it would win all the awards and people would eat this up no questions asked! And to think this is only my number 5 song on this particular list…What other songs could I put here?
4: Agni Pariksha (The Heart’s Trial By Fire) by Todd Michaelson from Sita Sings the Blues
Wow, it has been years since I talked about Sita Sings the Blues. Although I have a controversial opinion on this animated musical as I didn’t think it was as great as everyone said, the best part of the movie involved this song hands down. I still stand by the fact that it was a glorified jukebox musical, this was one of the few originals used and boy did this stand out a ton! It was one of the very few non-English songs in the movie and it captures the element of the title character throwing herself ablaze to prove her love for Rama. The visuals are abstract, yet extremely powerful and this song’s presence makes it even more dynamic. This segment alone could be a music video or an arthouse short film with how creative the visuals were. Keep in mind that the creator Nina Paley animated the whole movie by herself without a major studio behind her, so you have to give her major props for the visuals. Yes, I thought Sita Sings the Blues was overrated, yet I would listen to this song several times regardless if it was tied to that movie or not which should tell you something.
Sidenote: Rama’s Great would be an honorable mention with how hilariously dark the song was and the Disney singalong lyric subtitle parodies in the visuals were 24K comedy gold!
3: The Ernest & Celestine Song by Vincent Courtois from Ernest & Celestine
Hey, look! I finally get to mention something involving this random movie in a Top 7 list for once! It is so far one of two movies I’ve reviewed that has no human characters (the other one is Ringing Bell) and don’t worry, this movie doesn’t fall under the furry bait portfolio. Wow, how trollzy of me to point that out. With that said, the theme song and soundtrack to this Belgian/French animated movie were wonderful. Ernest & Celestine had such a quirky score with strings, horns, and even a toy piano used as a lead instrument at times. The theme song is a good set-up for the main characters by cellist/composer Vincent Courtois. He has a raspy, yet intriguing voice as he has this jazzy orchestral chanson feel with the instrumentation. It’s more understated than other songs on this list, yet there’s a fun interplay with the music and vocals together. The Ernest & Celestine song has one thing going for it that other songs on this list don’t. This selection is the only one that involves a soundtrack that I actually bought. Yeah, it’s that good and I still have two more entries left to go. Make sure you listen to the soundtrack and watch this watercolor-animated film. I’m not into a lot of movies with animal characters and I can assure you that it’s worth your time with the visuals, characterization, and uses some surprisingly relevant topics that might actually be stronger in hindsight, especially after 2020.
2: Aisling’s Song by Christen Mooney from The Secret of Kells
YES! TWOOOOOOOOOOOOOO Cartoon Saloon movies are involved in the same Top 7 list. You all can do nothing about this! MWAHAHAHAHAHA! Okay, The Secret of Kells is so far my least favorite film from this Irish animation studio (I still have yet to see Wolfwalkers), but it has one of the most memorable musical moments in their portfolio to date. This insert song from Aisling really stood out for me and that melody has been in my head for over 5 years since I first watched and reviewed it. I know I’ve harped on the Cybersix and 2nd Iron Man theme for being too short, but this song feels complete and does so much with its short length. The ambiance is immaculate and Christen Mooney’s voice is purely ethereal. I thought it was awesome how it uses both English and Gaelic lyrics. Oddly enough, this song would feel weird if it was only in English which is something I can rarely say about bilingual songs. Bonus points for the Gaelic portions of the tune not repeating whatever was said in English. Some other songs I can think of that do that effectively would be “Life Is Like a Boat” from Bleach or “Telepathia” by Kali Uchis. “Aisling’s Song” may be under 2 minutes long, but it’s a glorious short song that will get stuck in your head for years to come. Now keep in mind, that I just mentioned a song associated with the acclaimed Cartoon Saloon studio. What could possibly top what is arguably one of the best songs from one of their movies?
1: Destiny by Take 6 from The Prince of Egypt (Inspirational soundtrack)
I’m actually surprised by my own number one pick. I, a person who mainly focuses on obscure movies and series am putting a song from a DREAMWORKS animated flick on this list! Surely I must have lost my mind in doing so. If you’re a Dreamworks fan or at the very least someone who watched The Prince of Egypt and listened to this song, then you must be scratching your collective noggins because this song wasn’t in the movie proper. Here’s the thing. The Prince of Egypt had three soundtracks: the main one, the Nashville soundtrack that featured country and Southern gospel artists, and the Inspirational one which had R&B, gospel, and a few CCM bands there. The first song from this companion album was this one by the veteran acapella group Take 6. You might know them for collaborating with Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, or more recently with jazz wunderkind Jacob Collier with his cover of Lionel Ritchie’s “All Night Long”. My parents had this album when this movie came out and I liked a lot of the songs back then. “Destiny” surprisingly still holds up. The vocal harmonies are top-tier, there’s a good build-up with the verses and choruses, and I liked the Middle Eastern/North African instrumentation to round out the song. Fun fact: I actually sang this song when I was a child alongside some other kids who sang other songs for a volunteer project involving a local apartment complex. I get that there’s a religious connotation with the song given the subject matter of the original film, but I can see anyone enjoying it regardless of their beliefs. If there was any companion soundtrack song that deserved to be in the film, then it should’ve been this one even if it’s just the credits. Shoot, I’m not a fan of Dreamworks, and The Prince of Egypt isn’t even close to being one of my favorite movies of all time (I’ll spare you some of my gripes even though some could guess what some of my issues are), but I still enjoy this song from Take 6 even to this day. If you ever get a chance to listen to the Inspirational soundtrack, I would also recommend the songs “River” by CeCe Winans, “I Will Get There” by Boys II Men, and “Let Go Let God” by Tye Tribbett and Mary Mary. This is definitely a deep cut when it comes to 90s animated movie soundtracks.
Hold up…I just realized that this is the 3rd time the #1 choice of a Top 7 list involved a 90s animated musical. Life is strange like that. Hahaha! 😛
So what do you think? What are some underrated songs from Western animated movies or series?
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I have so much nostalgia for that Iron Man theme, in fact I’ll put it down as the reason I became a fan of the character long before the movie came along. I also enjoyed the Cartoon Saloon representation, and you’ve reminded me that I need to watch Wolfwalkers.
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Awesome! That theme song is a banger and it’s cool that you knew who Iron Man was before the movies existed. I feel like I was one fo the few people who remember the Iron Man cartoon. Definitely about Cartoon Saloon. They’ve made good movies so far. That could be something to review in the near future.
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“Someday” from Hunchback of Notre Dame immediately came into mind as an underrated, and less known Disney song. Especially considering the reputation the movie has for its “dark and edgy” style…
Here’s one of three versions of the song for your enjoyment 😉
I haven’t seen Hunchback of Notre Dame in ages, but I know what song you’re talking about. Yeah, it is strange given how dark that movie was. I’m surprised it only got a G-rating given the subject matter.