September 26, 2023
We all know the ‘emotional power’ behind the Disney brand has captivated audiences for generations and it’s hard to escape the dopamine hit when hearing a nostalgic classic from your childhood. Music can be so powerful at evoking memories and emotions for us all.
With Disney celebrating its 100th Anniversary on 16th October, we couldn't help but wonder - which Disney songs do this best?
How did we find out?
We analysed over 100 popular songs from Disney films, ranking them against criteria that are proven to boost our happiness – including tempo, key, positivity and nostalgia. And, we of course listened to some on the way. For science.
Studies show there is a strong relationship between a song’s tempo and how it makes us feel. Songs with a higher tempo can elicit a more positive psychological response. The Lion King is also the highest-rated Disney movie in the study, providing listeners with that nostalgic emotional response.
Which songs won gold, silver and bronze?
With lyrics like "It means no worries for the rest of your days", it's no surprise that Hakuna Matata from the original The Lion King (1994) film is crowned Disney's happiest song. The song has an overall score of 8.6 out of 10 thanks to its high tempo (170 bpm), C major key, film popularity (IMdB 8.5 rating) and positivity level (72%).
In second place is The Scuttlebutt from The Little Mermaid film (2023), scoring 8.5 out of 10. This is the first of three songs from the movie soundtrack that is featured in the top ten – each performed in a major key which are perceived by our brain more positively than minor keys.
Under the Sea from The Little Mermaid re-boot comes in third place, scoring 8.3 out of 10. The original song won an Oscar in 1989 for Best Original Song but the updated version by Daveed Diggs features more layers of instruments including congas, bongos and shakers which makes it more upbeat than the original.
In fact, the updated version of this song is 121 bpm, compared to the 99 bpm of the original. This song also has one of the highest positivity ratings in the top ten (93%). Research has found that those who prioritise positivity and seek it out are in fact happier.
What about the best of the rest?
Three songs are tied in sixth position, including I Just Can't Wait to Be King from The Lion King (1994), I've Got a Dream from Tangled and This is Halloween from A Nightmare Before Christmas. Each of these songs has a rating of 8.1 out of 10.
Interestingly, I Just Can’t Wait to Be King, has the lowest tempo in the top 10 (99 bpm), which is below what is typically considered to make us happiest. However, its positivity score (90%) is among the highest in the study, securing it a spot in the top ten.
I’ve Got a Dream stands out as one of the most absurd songs from the Tangled film, featuring a cast of intimidating characters who unexpectedly burst into song, revealing their hidden passions. It boasts a high bpm of 134, securing it a spot in the top ten.
This is Halloween is one of the most upbeat in the study, with a bpm of 168, which boosts its feel-good qualities. However, the slightly darker tone of this song contributes to its lower positivity rating (65%).
Listeners of Stand Out (A Goofy Movie), Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee (Pinocchio, 1992), Kiss the Girl (The Little Mermaid, 2023) and Un Poco Loco (Coco) may also get a happiness boost. These songs have a score of 7.8 out of 10 and complete the top ten happiest Disney songs.
There were some surprises...
Interestingly, some of Disney’s highest-grossing films don’t have songs featured in the top ten happiest. This includes Frozen and Frozen II which have grossed nearly $2 billion combined. The happiest song from the movie franchise is Let It Go with a score of 6.6/10.
Songs from the Toy Story franchise, which has grossed over $3 billion, also don’t feature in the top ten. Interestingly, You’ve Got a Friend in Me, the most listened-to song in the movie franchise, has a score of just 5.9/10.
We bet you're dying to listen to some of these songs now. So next time you need a bit of a pick-me-up, or you simply want to cheer your little ones up, you know what tunes to stick on.
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