When the original animated Lion King was released in 1994, it quickly became one of the highest-grossing animated films in the world and an integral part of many childhoods. A product of the "Disney Renaissance,” the Lion King was widely praised for its storyline, animation and music. Whenever I watch the original animated film, I'm in awe of the opening scene featuring the animals of the Serengeti set to the powerful “The Circle of Life.” It’s no surprise that the creators behind the impressive soundtrack are some of the best musical masterminds of our time: composer Elton John, lyricist Tim Rice and film score composer Hans Zimmer.
With the release of the new photorealistic “Lion King,” it’s hard to resist comparing it to the original masterpiece that was released a quarter-century ago. While the film’s appearance has drastically changed, the movie’s soundtrack upholds its original quality. Despite the soundtrack being re-recorded by the new cast, the songs and their production remain relatively unchanged. The new soundtrack features much of the original score by Hans Zimmer, including the iconic music for the stampede scene and “Battle for Pride Rock.” Meanwhile, Elton John has returned to make his mark with a brand new track titled “Never Too Late.” Up-beat, infectiously enthusiastic, this new feature is a perfect addition to the original music.
Additionally, old classics have been re-imagined by contemporary greats. The soundtrack includes production by Pharrell Williams on “I Can’t Wait to Be King,” “Hakuna Matata,” “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and “Mbube.” Pharell’s production style adds a livelier and richer element to these otherwise classic tunes. After the success of “Happy” from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack and now with his work on the new Lion King, it’s hard to deny that Pharell has a unique talent when it comes to producing music for children’s movies. Beyonce, voicing Naala, and Donald Glover, the voice of Simba, create a beautiful rendition of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.” Neither music legend holds back creating a ballad that can stand alone from the movie.
Beyonce contributes to the soundtrack with a second powerful piece titled “Spirit.” Written and produced by Beyonce, Ilya Salmanzadeh, and Labrinth, this track was the final addition to the soundtrack. The perfect cherry on top, this original piece fits the film perfectly, preserving its original sound, themes and storyline. It’s hard to believe that it wasn’t part of the 1994 film.
While this 2019 remake of an old classic has received mixed reviews from critics, its music remains magical. Talented producers and powerful vocalists, both new and old, create a soundtrack that is just as great as the original while gifting us with a few new musical gems.
The soundtrack can be streamed digitally on several music platforms here.