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Ah, Beauty and the Beast, could I ever stop singing your praises? Of course not! It’s one of the greatest musicals of all time. Finding good covers of these songs was harder than it seemed, however. The original cast was so perfect to begin with that discovering reimaginings that measure up was a daunting cast. In fact, finding covers of certain songs at all was the real challenge. But since Beauty and the Beast is one of the most popular Disney movies ever created, there’s no shortage of fans who have made their love for it known, and we’re going to highlight some of them today.
And for the record, I’m not counting reprises, or the versions of the original’s songs from the Broadway musical or 2017 remake.
Gilad Hekselmen, Everybody Wants To Be A Cat: Disney Jazz Vol. 1
If Beauty and the Beast were to get a modern update, I can see this playing as Belle navigates the busy city streets, picks up some coffee and a good book, and goes about her day as one of the commuters. The story of the song comes across even when stripped of its memorable lyrics. And like all good jazz renditions of popular tunes, it’s not afraid to improvise in places. It’s both calming and energizing. Next time you’re out and about, listen to this and it forms the perfect soundtrack to whatever you’re doing.
Honorable Mention #1: PelleK – What begins as your average “one person does all voices” cover turns into a fairly rocking cover with shades of heavy metal.
Honorable Mention #2: Darren Criss – Once upon a time, long before Glee was a twinkle in Fox’s eye, Darren Criss was, in his own words, “something called a douchebag”*. He hung out in his room, played guitar, and recorded himself doing covers of Disney songs. And now he’s an Emmy-winning actor who’s starred in multiple musicals. I think the moral of the story is obvious.
Honorable Mention #3: Nick Pitera / Brian Esposito – And continuing the trend of one-man covers, here’s Nick Pitera of YouTube fame and Brian Esposito, whose performance of “Belle” at New York’s Ellen’s Starlight Diner went viral.
Johnathan Young & Caleb Hayes
I discovered Johnathan Hayes through his metal covers of Disney villain songs and immediately became a fan. He achieves the impossible task of making them sound even more sinister due to his killer guitars and soul-crushing baritone. His frequent collaborations with Caleb Hayes, a singer in the same vein that leans more towards the theatrical than heavy metal, are always fun to watch. This cover created in honor of the recent remake is no exception. I’m calling it, they’re the rock world’s answer to Gaston and Lefou but with a much healthier dynamic.
Honorable Mention #1: The Bad Plus, Everybody Wants To Be A Cat: Disney Jazz Vol. 1 – This…this just cracks me up. I can’t explain it. It’s For some reason it’s both perfectly in tune with the original but also ridiculously fast (it’s the drums and second piano that only get louder the longer the song goes, I swear). I think of Gaston falling down the stairs while trying to play the piano and this is the result. And once you hear it, you’ll probably see that too.
Honorable Mention #2: Johnathan Young feat. BradyScott – Another Johnathan Young metal cover done several years before the number one pick, but I went with that one because I think Hayes’ vocals meshes with Young’s better than Scott’s. Also Young’s singing in this one is minimal by comparison.
Be Our Guest
Kelsey Grammer and Jane Krakowski, Beauty and the Beast In Concert at the Hollywood Bowl
This was a toughie since the Broadway version is the best cover in my mind, but rules are rules. As I was on the verge of handing the title to the Honorable Mention out of default, I recalled a live concert rendition of Beauty and the Beast held at the Hollywood Bowl last year. It brought together stars including Taye Diggs, Rebel Wilson and Zooey Deschanel to sing for the beloved characters along with a live orchestra, and is one of the many, many things that made me wish I was living in California. With one notable exception, Be Our Guest was the tops that evening. It’s almost impossible to do a bad take on one of the catchiest Disney musical numbers – the keyword here being almost – but having talent dynamos like Kelsey Grammar and Jane Krakowski performing it guarantees a good time…even if I can’t help but imagine Sideshow Bob serenading this to a captive Bart Simpson as part of his latest scheme. Or Frasier Crane trying way too hard to impress somebody over dinner.
Honorable Mention: Heigh Ho Banjo: Bluegrass Salutes Favorite Disney Songs – Took me some time, but this country style cover won me over.
DISHONORABLE Mention: Descendants
It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Disney’s Monster High/Ever After High knockoff Descendants, though my hatred for it has mellowed just a bit over the years. I have friends who unironically love it, so I won’t take that away from them. HOWEVER, even they can barely get through this cringeworthy faux-acapella pop version of Be Our Guest.
This is everything I hate about the Disney Channel in a nutshell. They took a classic song and twisted it into something that tries so hard to hook the precious “tween” demographic in perpetuity. It’s pandering, poorly performed garbage airbrushed with perfect shiny phony smiles. I don’t like pretending to be an expert on whether or not a dead person I never even met would approve of remixes of their work, but if Howard Ashman were alive to see this I wouldn’t blame him if he had this reaction:
If you dare to click the link above and attempt to watch it in full without retching, well then be my guest.
Fred Mollin, Disney Princess Lullaby Album / Disney’s Instrumental Collection
Ah, Fred Mollin, my go-to for some warm and soothing instrumental tunes. The harmonica and guitar thrown in with the crickets in the background gives it a nice, rustic touch. The heartwarming essence of this song comes through without words.
Honorable Mention #1: Walt Disney World Information Channel – This is a channel on the hotel TVs in Walt Disney World that shows information regarding the parks and plays on a loop to some beautiful re-orchestrations of classic Disney tunes, and its take on Something There is one of my favorites. This entire loop just makes me feel like I’m back in the park again, getting ready for a fun day out. (sigh) Someday…
Honorable Mention #2: Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings – This calm and mellow instrumental rendition is just the perfect thing to wind down to or have in the background for a romantic moment.
Beauty and the Beast
TIE: 92 Keys feat. Siobhán Cronin, Spring of Fire / Miúcha, Disney Adventures in Bossa Nova / John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra, The Hollywood Sound: John Williams Conducts The Academy Awards’ Best Scores
The most difficult part of this entry is finding a cover of the title song that matches the emotion, romance and magic of the original. For me, the Peabo Bryson/Celine Dion rendition at the end of the movie is perfect enough (come at me). There were plenty (mostly instrumental) that could have made the cut and the majority of them will be featured in the honorable mentions, but there was only one I felt was worthy of being named…until I found another…and then I found one translated to Spanish. So it seems once again the movie’s big romantic ballad comes to a three-way tie.
92 Keys makes music in the vein of The Piano Guys or 2 Cellos, using classical instruments to create astounding rearrangements of popular songs. Their cover of Beauty and the Beast builds on its theme to an extraordinary climax. I can picture this underscoring a trailer or tribute to the film.
Miúcha’s laidback cover showcases how beautifully this song works in any language. Sadly she passed away this past December at the age of 81. If her take on this song is any indication, she’s left behind quite a legacy of Brazilian music that I should listen to soon.
And then there’s John Williams.
…what else do I have to say? It’s JOHN WILLIAMS, the man behind some of the greatest film scores of the past century. Hearing this makes me wish Disney would get him for more movies. His compositions for The BFG were but a taste of the tear jerking wonder he could create!
Honorable Mention #1: Heigh Ho Mozart – This sweeping classical cover in the style of Rachmaninoff never fails to leave me enraptured.
Honorable Mention #2: Carmen Carter, Mouse House / World Sketch, House Disney – These remixes are fun to dance to without the cost of losing the original’s soul.
Honorable Mention #3: Chase Holfelder – This minor key inversion turns the song into a creepy Panic at the Disco/Fall Out Boy tune and makes you rethink the way we hear certain songs.
Honorable Mention #4: Johnathan Young / Zakk Wylde, Disney Super Guitar – Rock ballad renditions that MeatLoaf himself would approve of.
Honorable Mention #5: Steve Tyrell, The Disney Standards / The Jazz Networks / Gordon Goodwin / Bebel Gilberto, Jazz Loves Disney 2: A Kind of Magic / Postmodern Jokebox feat. Aubrey Logan – Various styles of jazz that make for a good listen.
Honorable Mention #6: The London Pops Orchestra / The Royal Festival Orchestra / Van Craven, Interludes / Jim Brickman, The Disney Songbook / Lorie Line, Music From The Heart / Emile Pandolfi, Once Upon a Romance – Instrumental versions ranging from full orchestrations to gentle piano, all wonderful.
Honorable Mention #7: Kenny Loggins, More Songs From Pooh Corner – A gentle lullaby that guarantees sweet dreams.
The Mob Song
Johnathan Young (feat. AHmusic)
How about we give Young some solo spotlight time? If his “Gaston” hasn’t convinced you he should play a Disney villain in the future, I’m certain this will. This cover also shows why the songs of Beauty and the Beast usually adapt so well to other styles. Their inherent theatricality brings out every emotion. And this one is just so head-bangingly good that I don’t mind that Young used some the 2017 lyrics.
Honorable Mention #1: Caleb Hayes & AKIOBOY – I was unbelievably tempted to make this one a tie. In the end it came down to which one I preferred, and Johnathan Young had the edge. Maybe next time, Caleb. The video for it is the superior one (it’s got a Purge/Thriller/Bad vibe but with metal), but I just hope anyone who happened to see a group of wild, angry white people marching down the street with torches didn’t get any ideas.
Honorable Mention #2: Pacific Nowhere, Do You Believe in Magic? – These guys also did a metal style cover, though I think I made it clear which one I preferred.
BONUS TRACKS: If I Can’t Love Her / Evermore / Brows Held High
What better way to end this than looking at the best songs from the Broadway show and remake? Also, is anyone else slightly put off by how similar these numbers are? They both happen at points where the Beast thinks he’s lost Belle forever and watches from his tower as she races out of his life.
Josh Groban’s cover of “If I Can’t Love Her” makes me wish the remake used the songs from the Broadway musical. And got him to play the Beast since he’s got the vocal and acting chops. This showcases the potential as well as gets me choked up something fierce. I’m convinced it’s what persuaded Disney to have Josh close out the movie with a great take on “Evermore”. Though speaking of…
Remember how I said there was one other exception to the Hollywood Bowl concert performances? This is it. I want an official release Anthony Evan’s cover of Evermore yesterday. I don’t know how anyone was able to improve upon Josh Groban, but he did it.
As for Brows Held High, the musical crossover with Some Jerk With A Camera not only introduced me to Tony Goldmark but made me a bigger fan of Kyle Kallgren’s videos than I was before (I started watching his work earlier the same year as the Beauty and the Beast review because of his first Shakespeare Month videos). I’ve mentioned it before in my own review of Beauty and the Beast, but it’s a compare and contrast of both the Disney film and the Jean Cocteau one done by fans who are passionate about both. There are catchy tunes parodying the iconic Disney songs are sprinkled throughout, and I love listening to them. I also used to play a game during the first musical number called “Count How Many Reviewers Are Still On Channel Awesome”, but that ended last year for reasons anyone who knows the site is already familiar with.
Here’s the first part, which I urge you to watch:
And that wraps up this rendition of By The Cover. I certainly hope you enjoyed it! Are there any covers you enjoy? What musical from the past should I cover next? Let me know in the comments and until then, happy listening!
Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this, please consider supporting me on Patreon. Patreon supporters get early access to By The Cover posts as well as perks including extra movie review votes. Special thanks to Amelia Jones and Gordhan Ranaj for their contributions!
I apologize for not having this up yesterday; got caught up in birthday activities, namely seeing Avengers Endgame.
* – DISCLAIMER: I absolutely do NOT think Darren Criss is a douchebag. He’s a talented and hardworking guy who deserves to be where he is right now. I’m simply quoting his self-deprecating moment from Team Starkid’s A Very Potter Sequel, which you should definitely check out if you haven’t already, but be sure to watch the first Very Potter Musical before you do.
This was a perfect follow up to the last one. You listed some great covers, and it was a delight, seeing Jonathan Young get some love.
Though thanks a million, for introducing me to Kelsey Grammar’s Be Out Guest. Best surprise I’ve had in a long time 😀 .
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