I have not been posting nearly enough this year and I want to steer back from that. To that end I have found a 30-day blog challenge and fluffed it out to 31 entries (since December has 31 days). I have done a 30-day challenge before for movies, though that one was poorly executed (I started it in the middle of a month, at one point I posted 2 entries on one day, it is a mess). I did another one just this year in August on Video Games, that one was better, go read it after this one, all of it. Or don’t, no pressure.
Today is day 11 and the topic is “Favorite Villain Song”.
Much like yesterday I was confronted by a strange issue when looking for the best villain song: that most are quite good and should be looked at as such. While I still have a favorite there exists something else to talk about, the mix of emotions that go into each song. What does a monster feel so passionate about to drive them to sing? Ego wins in a landslide, but there are a few others. the nature of their powers, encouraging the darker impulses in others
Let’s just go ahead and start out with the category that is most prevalent and exists on some level within all others. Almost every Disney villain song is about how they are awesome on some level, but this one is explicitly about how awesome the bad guy is.
“World’s Greatest Criminal Mind” from “The Great Mouse Detective” is a camp musical sing along that just lists accomplishments and sings the praises of the bad guy. Chanting his name is the chorus. Not to say there isn’t a better known example of this, Gaston has a song sung to him about his greatness just to cheer him up. Ratigan’s song beats Gaston for one simple reason, he’s the one that starts the music, that is more egotistical.
What’s My Plan?
The most obvious one of these has got to be “The Mob Song (Kill the Beast)” from “Beauty and the Beast”. Up until this point in the story the character of Gaston has already had another villain song about how awesome he is, but at this point in the story he has not actually had any sort of plan or goal beyond schemes of having sex with Belle.
This is when the story turns completely. All at once Gaston is shown that there is a monster, that the target of his bravado has affection for the creature, and that can’t be allowed. In an instant he fear mongers, gathers resources, and then takes off to murder what he doesn’t understand. His whole plan and the thrust of the song is, “Kill the BEAST!”
The key to a good villain is making them effective, by granting them legal, physical, or intellectual power you make them a potential threat. Singing about the armies they have or how many eggs they eat to maintain their musculature makes sense for those who have mundane power, but for those who have magic at the core of their abilities you need something flashier.
“Friends on the Other Side” from “The Princess and the Frog” explains completely how Shadow Man manages to do what he does but also explains his desperation for getting his goals to come thru, he doesn’t want to upset his friends, they are the sources of his powers and his drive to attain his goal in one package. His plan though, that is not revealed in a song, that comes later thru dialogue.
“I’m not a bad person, I am doing what is necessary and right, it just looks evil because getting rid of you is part of doing right.” I am sure lots of villains have this sort of justification rattling around their deluded minds, but there is a different way to go about things.
“Sure I am a greedy and traitorous individual, but I do it because it is fun, you should do it too.” Offering help to someone’s worst impulses is a great way to be a bad guy, in the Christian mythos that is Satan’s whole thing. So who is the Satan of the Disney mythos, Ursula who sings “Poor Unfortunate Souls” in “The Little Mermaid”.
She is taking a stupid child, offering her all the poorly thought out dreams and desires her stupid child mind could want, and all for a price she only has to pay if she fails. And she won’t fail, says Ursula, she’s got body language. It is not often you see a Disney villain encouraging a teenager to be explicitly sexual to get what she wants, but here you are.
Fire up the Troops
Sometimes it is not enough to talk up your own ego, or to demonize your enemies, sometimes you have to blend them to get your troops in line and go to war. This element is present in “The Mob Song (Kill the Beast)” above. But that effort is more about a clear statement of goals that are rushed, rather than getting existing resources together to finally institute a plan that has been in the works for a good long while. I will admit, it is a fine distinction that most people wouldn’t bother to make.
“Be Prepared” from “The Lion King” is a call to arms. I have the plan, I have the talent, and you all will give me the troops necessary to get and hold onto the prize I seek. Yes, this is very much about Scar’s ego, but that is an element of getting people to follow your leadership, no one wants to follow a mastermind who is cringing and timid. It is a blend. A purer example of this (and worse song) would be “Savages” from “Pocahontas” but that is a step closer to “The Mob Song” in content and execution.
This is My Drama
Last type of villain song is the one that tells the audience about the inner turmoil of the bad guy. Not all bad guys believe they are bad, and they often feel conflicted about what they are doing, especially when they are smart enough to see the contradictions between what they are saying and what they are doing.
“Hellfire” from “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is the best villain song in this regard… Mostly because it’s the only one that does this. Frollo wants to be a pious person, he wants to destroy those who he sees as impure, but he lusts for an “impure” woman from a culture he wishes to destroy. He is conflicted. Ursula isn’t, Gaston isn’t, Shadow Man isn’t. Scar isn’t. Ratigan isn’t. Frollo is. This is my favorite villain song, both because it sounds great and because of that distinction.
Share your own thoughts on this in the comments. I know I am not the only person out there who is nostalgic for Disney products, and I am sure many people disagree with my selection for today’s entry. Did I miss talking about something? Was there a song I left out? Do you see any contradictions?
I picked Disney stuff just because I knew there was so much of it to talk about and it lends itself to discussion in the comments. So please, tell me how my opinion about cartoon movies is biased and how your opinion on cartoon movies is objectively right.