Best Song isn't usually one of the most talked about or hotly contested categories at the Oscars, but this year is a different story.
We witnessed the title song from a little-seen film, "Alone Yet Not Alone," get a surprise nomination, which was subsequently put under the microscope, and later disqualified due to the songwriter's connections to the Academy. All this drama has only somewhat overshadowed the remaining four contenders: "Let It Go," from "Frozen"; "Happy," from "Despicable Me 2"; "The Moon Song," from "Her"; and "Ordinary Love," from "Mandela: The Long Walk to Freedom."
And the Oscar for Best Song goes to... "Let It Go," from "Frozen."
There you have it. The odds-on favorite took the crown... er, little gold man. Did anyone ever doubt the song-writing power of Disney?
Gallery | Best Disney Soundtracks of the Past 25 Years
- "Mulan" (1998)
Notable Songs: "Reflection," "A Girl Worth Fighting For," "I'll Make a Man Out of You"
High Praise: "As a score, 'Mulan' is far above most any other score for an animated movie. While comparisons with 'Beauty and the Beast' are useless because of their differing styles, 'Mulan' employs a method all its own for its effect." - SoundtracksReviewed
Why It's Worth Listening To: The soundtrack is actually better for Jerry Goldsmith's instrumental pieces than the original songs, but pop fans will enjoy both Broadway star Lea Salonga's and pop diva Christina Aguilera's versions of the main theme, a touching ballad about identity, societal expectations, and being true to who you want to be.
- "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1996)
Notable Songs: "The Bells of Notre Dame," "God Help the Outcasts," "Heaven's Light/Hellfire," "Someday"
High Praise: "Hunchback ranks among Disney's best soundtracks… Just think twice before playing it at your six-year-old's bedtime." –BBC
Why It's Worth Listening To: This is hands down one of Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz's darkest scores, with the song "Hellfire" (which is in the movie but not the official soundtrack) a shockingly frank discussion of the minister of justice's sinful desire for beautiful gypsy Esmeralda. On the platinum-selling soundtrack, '90s pop band All-4-One sings the end-title ballad "Someday," while Bette Midler sings Esmeralda's hopeful and sweet anthem "God Help the Outcasts."
- "Pocahontas" (1995)
Notable Songs: "Colors of the Wind," "Listen to Your Heart," "Just Around the Riverbend"
High Praise: "Pocahontas isn't as memorable as the soundtracks for Disney's three previous films ('The Lion King,' 'Aladdin,' 'Beauty and the Beast') but the music… falls into the same tradition as its predecessors -- there's lots of grand ballads and humorous, up-tempo numbers..." --Allmusic
Why It's Worth Listening To: Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz's "Pocahontas" numbers are good, if not nearly as memorable as the Disney Renaissance's other animated musicals. Despite the popularity of Vanessa Williams' syrupy rendition of "Colors of the Wind," it's Judy Kuhn (the singing voice of Pocahontas) whose version makes you think about the beautiful lyrics (the single won Best Original Song at the Academy Awards).
- "Tarzan" (1999)
Notable Songs: "You'll Be In My Heart," "Strangers Like Me," "Two Worlds"
High Praise: "The results can't compare to tunes from Disney's Alan Menken-Howard Ashman heyday ('The Little Mermaid,' 'Beauty and the Beast'), but this would still be an above-average Collins record if the darn thing weren't so padded." --EW
Why It's Worth Listening To: Phil Collins puts his stamp on the Disney musical with the sweeping "Tarzan" score. The former Genesis frontman wrote five original songs – all sounding exactly like a Phil Collins track – for Disney's adaptation of the Edgar Rice Burroughs story and went on to win an Oscar for the main ballad "You'll Be In My Heart." So if you like Phil Collins or rock ballads, this soundtrack is for you.
- "Tangled" (2010)
Notable Songs: "When Will My Life Begin," "I See the Light," "I've Got a Dream"
High Praise: "Moore captures the sweetness and energy of the long-haired princess perfectly, and Levi is a pleasant surprise as the voice of hunky Flynn… Overall, it's a pretty magical experience for fans of the movie and fans of good music." –Common Sense Media
Why It's Worth Listening To: Eight-time Oscar winner Alan Menken re-teamed with lyricist Glenn Slater ("The Little Mermaid" Broadway musical) for this romantic, theatrical score full of everything from the fabulously menacing show-stopper "Mother Knows Best" (Donna Murphy channeling Ethel Merman) to the humorously hopeful "I've Got a Dream" and the swoon-worthy romantic duet "I See the Light" (Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi).
- "The Princess and the Frog" (2009)
Notable Songs: "Almost There," "Down in New Orleans," "Never Knew I Needed"
High Praise: "Randy Newman has written both original songs and an original score that will sit nicely alongside of some of Disney's classics." -- Tracksounds
Why It's Worth Listening To: Randy Newman takes us back to the bayou with this fantastic, jazzy score featuring the voice of Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose as Princess Tiana and the accompaniment of New Orleans' own Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The tracks range from the upbeat "Down in New Orleans" (with requisite vocals from Dr. John) to the dark, voodoo-themed song "Friends From the Other Side." R&B star Ne-Yo wrote and performs the end-title's "Never Knew I Needed," an under-appreciated Disney love song.
- "Aladdin" (1992)
Notable Songs: "A Whole New World," "Friend Like Me," "Arabian Nights"
Why It's Worth Listening To: This might be one of Disney's most lighthearted and fun soundtracks, but behind the scenes it was marred by the death of composer Alan Menken's writing partner, lyricist Howard Ashman. The up-tempo Robin Williams showpieces ("Friend Like Me," "Prince Ali") are as flamboyant as the comedian, and the tender duet "A Whole New World" (sung by Brad Kane and Lea Salonga in the movie and Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle for the single release) went on to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song and to be covered by a host of artists.
- "The Little Mermaid" (1989)
Notable Songs: "Part of Your World," "Under the Sea," "Kiss the Girl"
High Praise: "A delightful soundtrack by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, creators of 'Little Shop of Horrors,' the first half is vocal numbers, the last ten are instrumental, with styles that range from English to French, Caribbean to Broadway. This may be the best music from a Disney movie yet." – Allmusic
Why It's Worth Listening To: With its range of musical styles, zippy lyrics, and catchy hooks, the songs in "The Little Mermaid" are among Disney's most memorable, and they're all equally as delightful more than two decades later. Menken and Ashman's music, full of romance and intrigue and adolescent angst, is a huge part of why "The Little Mermaid" revived Disney animation.
- "The Lion King" (1994)
Notable Songs: "Circle of Life," "Hakuna Matata," "Can You Feel the Love Tonight"
High Praise: "[Elton] John took a leaf from the Paul Simon 'Graceland' songbook and filled his music with references to South African mbaqanga." –All Music Guide
Why It's Worth Listening To: Composer Elton John's collaboration with lyricist Tim Rice yielded one of its most enduring soundtracks ever – from the unforgettable opening of "Circle of Life" to the hilariously carefree "Hakuna Matata" to John's moving "Can You Feel the Love Tonight." There is no doubt that most audiences, no matter their ages, can sing along with Simba's journey from adorable cub to the titular lion king.
- "Beauty and the Beast" (1991)
Notable Songs: "Belle," "Beauty and the Beast," "Be Our Guest"
High Praise: "'Beauty and the Beast' makes some of the best use of theme and lyrics in Disney's history and is a worthy addition to anyone's collection, even those who are generally turned off by anything even remotely Disney-related." – Soundtrack Geek
Why It's Worth Listening To: Long before it became a Broadway musical, the "Beauty and the Beast" soundtrack had already become a favorite to musical fans, children, and Disney aficionados alike. There's an infectious quality to all of the Alan Menken and Howard Ashman songs, like the opening number of "Belle" (that reveals how different Belle is from the other Disney heroines), the amazing food chorus line of "Be Our Guest," and the lovely duet "Something There." Even the most jaded of viewers has to tip his heat to Menken and Ashman for creating such a magical score.