Friday, May 6, 2011

Villain Week: Day Five (prescheduled)

Welcome to day five of Villain Week! Today's topic is:

They Steal. They Kill. They...Sing?: Villain Songs

I'm a huge fan of musical numbers. I love showtunes and I miss the days when Disney films used to have soundtracks chock full of hummable music. I've noticed over the years, however, that I prefer songs sung by evildoers to love ballads or heroic tunes. I find that villains tend to have the best songs, whether we're talking a Tony-winning musical or a Disney film. I'm not sure why that is, but today I'm going to talk about my favorite villain songs.


1) "Hellfire" from The Hunchback of Notre Dame (sung by Frollo)

I mentioned yesterday that I fracking love this song. It's the darkest song ever used in a Disney film and it really gets at the heart of Frollo's depravity. It also shows how delusional he is. Praying to the virgin Mary he says, "You know I'm so much purer than/the common, vulgar, weak, licentious crowd." Sounds like someone needs a wake-up call. The coolest thing about this song, however, is the fact that it uses a Latin choir. I love when songs use a Latin choir. It's why I love the band E Nomine, a German group that combines techno-ish music with a creepy German guy talking over a choir belting out lyrics in Latin. The video below, "Vater Unser," is the Lord's Prayer in German. It might seem a little odd but it's actually really amazing.

But, I digress. "Hellfire" is probably my favorite animated villain song, but there are so many other great ones. Like...

2) "In the Dark of the Night" from Anastasia (sung by Rasputin)

What's not to love about this song? Rasputin is so delightfully sinister and yet he's surrounded by those cute little bug things that comprise his choir. The whole song is about how he failed to kill all of the Romanovs and so his soul can't rest until he snuffs out Anastasia. He talks about his evil plan, sings a few words of Russian, and wears a wig. It's also catchy, memorable, and has pretty decent lyrics. I don't know about you, but I'd call that a successful villain song.

3) "Savages" from Pocahontas (sung by pretty much everyone)

Okay, so I wasn't sure whether or not I was going to put this one on the list because Ratcliffe's actual villain song is "Mine, Mine, Mine" (which I also love). This song, however, is unique in that neither party (the Native Americans and the British) is particularly good at this point and they both want to kill the crap out of each other so in this context I'd say they're both being kind of villainous. You also get our heroine, Pocahontas, risking her life to save the man she loves which, while historically inaccurate, does further prove that she's in the right and therefore everyone else is in the wrong. Besides, any song where people are being racist, genocidal jerks deserves to be considered a villain song.

I love how emotional this song is. It's very angry and, therefore, very powerful. The drums keep a sinister beat in the background and the choral parts are gorgeous as well as mildly terrifying. The idea that these people are planning to kill each other and are singing about it is kind of bone-chilling. So, sure, this isn't technically a villain song, but it's my blog and this is my list so there. (I'm very mature, I know.)

4) "Be Prepared" from The Lion King (sung by Scar and a bunch of giggly hyenas)

Scar, as we learned yesterday, is a power-hungry megalomaniac with murderous tendencies and a lack of leadership qualities. He can also carry a tune. "Be Prepared" is the kind of villain song that I wish was in every movie. Good lyrics, fun music, and goose-stepping hyenas. Okay, you can leave that last bit out. But the Hitler imagery in this song is rather striking. It's one of the reasons why this song is so creepy. You have the crazy villain and his even crazier followers believing everything he tells them. We as the audience know that he's going to completely ruin everything, but they have no idea that the proverbial wool is being pulled over their beady little eyes. I think this song comes in second, right after "Hellfire," on my list of favorite Disney songs.


1) "The Riddle" from The Scarlet Pimpernel (sung by Percy, Marguerite, and Chauvelin) 

Like "Savages," "The Riddle" isn't exactly a villain song. The villain in this show, Chauvelin (played by my favorite human being on the planet, Terrence Mann), actually has a few songs in this show--"Falcon in the Dive," "Where's the Girl?"--but none of them is as amazing as this song is. The basic premise is that Chauvelin is trying to get Marguerite to betray Percy, whom he suspects of being the Scarlet Pimpernel, a nobleman from England trying to save French noblemen from angry peasants during the French Revolution. Percy, in turn, thinks that Marguerite is cheating on him with Chauvelin, with whom she has a history. The three of them sing this awesome trio during a party.

My favorite line in the entire song is: "Every Judas once loved a Jesus." To me it's a powerful reminder of how much Percy doesn't trust his wife. Even as a non-Christian, I find that Biblical references can sometimes be welcome additions if they're used well.

2) "Pretty Women" from Sweeney Todd (sung by Sweeney Todd and Judge Turpin)

No, I won't post the film version of this song, so don't ask. While I actually really like the version that Johnny Depp and Alan Rickman did, George Hearn will always be my favorite Sweeney Todd.

So, here we have a very pretty villain song. It's a slow, melodic tune all about women who are pretty and the things they do that men appreciate--like weather-watching and flower-picking (can't say that I've ever enjoyed watching a woman watch the rain but to each his own I guess). The problem with this whole scenario is that the woman Sweeney's talking about is his dead wife, whom the Judge violated after sending Sweeney off to prison on a trumped-up charge just so he could steal said wife. The woman that the Judge is talking about is Sweeney's daughter, who he's been raising since her mother died and who is, for all intents and purposes, basically a daughter to the Judge. Yeah, it's that kind of musical.

To add to the villainy of the song, Sweeney is happy the judge is there because he thinks that he can finally get his revenge on the man for ruining his slitting his throat with his straight razor. One of the things I love about this musical (and there are many things I love about this musical) is that no one is innocent, no one is the good guy. It's a bunch of horrible people doing horrible things to each other. By the end of the show, almost everyone in the cast has blood on their hands...literally. This song, however, is a nice break in all the shouting, killing, and being generally creepy and insane. There were a couple of tunes that I could have picked from this show, but I like this one because it's such a calm, serene song with such a dark undertone and meaning.

3) "Damned for All Time/Blood Money" from Jesus Christ Superstar (sung by Judas)

I played Judas in a play called Dust of the Road in college. To prepare for the part I did a little reading and I watched a few portrayals of Judas, including The Passion of the Christ and Jesus Christ Superstar. I had never heard this song before that but I soon fell completely in love with it. The passion and anguish that Judas portrays in this song are moving and the song's pretty catchy too, so that doesn't hurt. For some people, Judas is the ultimate villain, the betrayer of Christ, the epitome of the word "traitor." Others, however, take a sympathetic view, while still others see him as a hero because, without his betrayal, Christ wouldn't have been crucified and therefore the sins of the world wouldn't have been forgiven. Whether you believe in the Bible or not and regardless of what you believe about Judas, this song is incredible and I think it deserves a spot on the list of awesome villain songs.

4) "Master of the House" from Les Miserables (sung by the Thenardiers)

[WARNING: Contains some language.]

If you haven't seen the 25th anniversary edition of Les Miserables, stop what you're doing and go find a copy of it. I was incredibly impressed with it, despite the fact that Nick Jonas was playing Marius. The Javert in this version is insanely good and, I can't believe I'm saying this, I think I prefer him to Terrence Mann. (I feel like a traitor.)

But we're not here to talk about Javert. We're here to talk about the Thenardiers. This slimy couple lies, cheats, and steals from everyone they come in contact with. And they're proud of it. They don't care who they hurt as long as they get to the top. Hell, M. Thenardier steals from corpses after the battle on the barricade. Way to desecrate the dead, buddy. I love "Master of the House." It's funny, it's catchy, and it shows the absolute insanity and criminality of these characters. It's a great introduction to two very memorable characters, characters who are intimately wrapped up in events throughout the musical.

So, there they are, my top eight favorite villain songs. As always, your choices may be different. Let me know in the comments which ones tickle your fancy.


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