<center><font size="5"><b>Disneymania 2 CD Review</b></font></center>
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<td width="485"><font size="3" face="Arial"><strong>Disneymania 2 (2004)</strong></font>
<font face="Verdana" size="1"><b>Executive Producers</b>: Jay Landers, Andre Recke
<b>Artists</b>: Jump5, Raven, Baha Men, The Beu Sisters, Stevie Brock, Hilary Duff, Haylie Duff, LMNT, No Secrets, Jesse McCartney, Ashley Gearing, Daniel Bedingfield, They Might Be Giants, the Disney Channel Circle of Stars (Orlando Brown, Hilary Duff, Taj Mowry, Kyla Pratt, Raven, Christy Carlson Romano, AJ Trauth, Anneliese van der Pol)
<b>Running Time:</b> 48 minutes, 32 seconds
Available Format: CD
Release Date: January 27, 2004</font></td></tr>
By Aaron Wallace
The concept behind the <i>Disneymania</i> line is that today's biggest pop stars join stars-in-the-making to give a very "pop" edge to some of Disney's most classic pieces of music. That's exactly what the first volume achieved, making the album a success. It stands to reason, then, that the Walt Disney Records might want to follow it with a sequel. Unlike many of the follow-ups in Disney's home video branch, this reprisal nearly matches the quality of the original and offers something new and note-worthy as well.
Die-hard fans of today's chart-topping sound might take issue with the fact that this album branches out from that convention. After all, if pop music is what <i>Disneymania</i> is all about, then what place do big band jazz, blues, and techno have? That's precisely what is found among the disc's fourteen tracks, though, and there's no denying that this album's more eclectic make-up is it to its benefit.
But tweens, fear not! True, variety comes by way of the aforementioned styles, but mainstream remains in the majority here. Fortunately, aside from a few exessively twee tracks, that's achieved without constantly pandering to the very young. In fact, many of the tracks exhibit high production values and make for a lot of fun.
In short, <i>Disneymania 2</i> is a worthy successor to the original release. While its pop renditions fall just short of those found on the first <i>Disneymania</i>, broadened variety and mostly-pleasing song selection nearly make it a match.
A star (<img src="http://www.ultimatedisney.com/images/a-c/bmwstar.gif" width="9" height="9">) denotes my five favorite tracks from the CD (and I should add that picking five wasn't especially easy).
1. <i>Welcome</i> - Jump5 (3:15) (Originally from "Brother Bear")
Contemporary Christian/Pop teenaged cross-over sensation Jump5 returns to <i>Disneymania</i> for the second time with a bang in this fresh, charged update. It's addictively up-beat, but not annoyingly so, and its rocky edge makes it even more exciting than Phil Collin's catchy original. Truth be told, it's an improvement, and the perfect choice to kick-start the CD.
2. <i>True to Your Heart</i> - Raven (3:44) (Originally from "Mulan")
While the value of its message is questionable, "True to Your Heart" is too catchy to dislike. That was true for the original and it's true for this Raven-riffic remake, which sounds almost exactly like its source. That's the problem with trying to give a "pop rendition" to a song that was already thoroughly "pop" to begin with. If Christina Aguilera's "Reflection" made it on to the first CD, why not just include the 98 Degrees/Stevie Wonder collaboration here? Raven's take sounds fine and so isn't a detriment to the album, but for those looking for original twists on classics as promised, it's likely to disappoint.
3. <i>It's A Small World</i> - Baha Men (2:43) (Originally from the 1964 New York World's Fair/Disneyland attraction)
With "Who Let The Dogs Out," the Baha Men proved themselves to be masters of the numbingly infectious, so it makes perfect sense that Disney turns to them again for what is perhaps their catchiest and best-known song. As one might expect, this rendition gives the song a reggae sound with a hint of hip-hop, which, unlike the "RapMania! Mix" that would appear on <i>Disneymania 3</i>, is done tastefully. The result is a refreshing rendition that is as catchy as its source.
4. <i>He's A Tramp</i> - The Beu Sisters (2:54) (Originally from "Lady and the Tramp")
It is with this track that <i>Disneymania 2</i> begins to branch out from the pop sound that is its claim to fame. To be sure, there's still a strong pop element, but more than that is a flare of traditional jazz in the vocals and even the instrumentation. That's appropriate, given that the original was recorded by Peggy Lee, but it's a surprise for this project nonetheless. The very talented Sisters lend their soulful voices to this highly charged recording, and even begin to scat mid-way. The track's only downfall is the use of spoken lines like "He ain't nothin' but a dog" and "Put a leash on him!" that so often plague music targeted toward tweens. Fortunately, the song is good enough to off-set them.
5. <i>Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah</i> - Stevie Brock (3:29) (Originally from "Song of the South")
Upon hearing this song, it's hard to believe that Stevie Brock, who with this song had three Radio Disney hit singles at once, is only thirteen years old. That is, until the same fragments of spoken word that annoy in "He's A Tramp" pop up here too. Behind Brock, guitars are the main players. Turn table sound effects are softly employed in the background, along with the occasional chirping bird, none of which are prominent enough to agitate. If it weren't for the few excessively kiddie elements, this song would be an example of exactly the kind of thing that <i>Disneymania</i> seems to be looking for. Even with them, it comes close; it's a Disney classic given an original spin and, given its 'summertime style,' is quite the fun song.
6. <i>The Siamese Cat Song</i> - Hilary & Haylie Duff (3:49) (Originally from "Lady and the Tramp")
Haylie Duff makes her <i>Disneymania</i> debut alongside her sister, who had previously appeared on the first installment. It starts off like an Alanis Morisette ballad but quickly transforms into a mystical variation of a the stereotypical sound associated with the ancient Orient. The chorus throws in some heavy percussion and guitar for a rock 'n roll interlude of sorts as well. It's a musical hodgepodge that can probably be described as unique, at least for the people behind it, and inasmuch it meets the album's goal, though whether or not you'll like it heavily depends on your personal preference or whether you're an eleven year old girl.
7. <i>Circle of Life</i> - Disney Channel Circle of Stars (4:10) (Originally from "The Lion King")
After debuting in video form on the Disney Channel, this musical meeting of the network's biggest stars found its way to this CD, where it most certainly feels right at home. Though its premier was met with sneers by many, I find it creative. Is it such a stretch that those who act can also sing well? There seems to be a correlation between the two gifts and that's what gives it its appeal. Don't get me wrong, you aren't going to hear talent of Whitney Houston proportions, but there's something likeable to the joining of many voices. While it would have been nice to hear the movie's lyrical version instead of that of Elton John's pop hit, the sampling of the movie's African sound is a nice touch. This collaboration is likely as big a treat for fans of this grouping of stars as other grouped celebrity songs have been for other fans in the past.
8. <i>A Whole New World</i> - LMNT (4:04) (Originally from "Aladdin")
LMNT must be the boy band that the world forgot, which might be a shame, as their vocal style seems to be a little less teen-tastic than that of their contemporaries. That being said, they're also a little less unique. This spin on <i>Aladdin</i>'s signature song is almost upbeat enough to be a dance number, but believe it or not, the twist doesn't compromise the tenderness of the original.
9. <i>Once Upon Another Dream</i> - No Secrets (3:40) (Originally from "Sleeping Beauty")
The altered title should be your first clue that this isn't exactly the song you're used to. It's actually more its own techno-pop song that simply samples the traditional song in its chorus, though you won't hear Mary Costa's beautiful voice here. The parts that are actually borrowed from its namesake indicate that this could have been an apt update had they stuck with that idea for its whole run. The new verses, however, are annoyances and are enough to make this cover laughable.
<img src="http://www.ultimatedisney.com/images/a-c/bmwstar.gif" width="9" height="9"> 10. <i>Anytime You Need a Friend</i> - The Beu Sisters (3:19) (From "Home on the Range")
If you've seen <i>Home on the Range</i>, you're probably already familiar with this tune. It stands out as one of the better songs from that film and, even though it's the real thing rather than a cover, it's one of the better inclusions on this CD as well. The Beu Sisters return in a guitar-driven song about friendship that manages to exude the pop sound without feeling fluffy.
<img src="http://www.ultimatedisney.com/images/a-c/bmwstar.gif" width="9" height="9"> 11. <i>The Second Star to the Right</i> - Jesse McCartney (3:01) (Originally from "Peter Pan")
Shortly before splashing onto the pop charts with great success, Jesse McCartney was introducing himself to the world while promoting this track. <i>Peter Pan</i> fans might dislike the added lyrics, but in McCartney's defense, this isn't the easiest Disney song to adapt into a radio-friendly format. This also seems like a prime contender for one of Disney's attempts at kid-friendly rap, and while fast-spoken rhyming does pop up at one point, it's not only nice to see that this song is given attention instead of the usual "You Can Fly, You Can Fly, You Can Fly", but it's also appreciated that Disney found a talented singer to actually sing this underappreciated song.
<img src="http://www.ultimatedisney.com/images/a-c/bmwstar.gif" width="9" height="9"> 12. <i>When You Wish Upon A Star</i> - Ashley Gearing (3:57) (Originally from "Pinocchio")
<i>Disneymania 2</i> again steps just slightly beyond the boundaries of pop music with this track, a bluesy ballad delivered with skilful vocals by newcomer Ashley Gearing. It starts off with subtle piano strokes and then dons the stylings of a jazz club's solo act before bringing in some richer instrumentation for the finale. "When You Wish Upon A Star" has been included on each of the three <i>Disneymania</i>s so far and, unlike some other repeats, is a welcome treat each time.
<img src="http://www.ultimatedisney.com/images/a-c/bmwstar.gif" width="9" height="9"> 13. <i>A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes</i> - Daniel Bedingfield (3:40) (Originally from "Cinderella")
After flirting with other genres on two other tracks, Disney takes a big leap on the last two. There's not a note of "pop" in this whole song. Instead, it is unadulterated big band swing. While some in the target audience may find this upsetting, I think it stands out as the greatest inclusion on this CD by far and perhaps the best track to grace the <i>Disneymania</i> line yet. Not only does it do the song justice with class, but it exudes the Disney feeling that so many of the original classic songs did as well. If, like myself, you only previously knew of Daniel Bedingfield from his "Gotta Get Through This" hit, you might not think of him as the jazz type. As it turns out, though, he's a regular Sammy Davis, Jr. and feels right at home in this track.
<img src="http://www.ultimatedisney.com/images/a-c/bmwstar.gif" width="9" height="9"> 14. <i>Baroque Hoedown (From Disney's Electrical Parade)</i> - They Might Be Giants (2:47) (Originally from the Disneyland parade)
Incorporating jazz and blues into this album was already a pleasant surprise for the eclectic listener, but with its final track, <i>Disneymania 2</i> truly delivers the unexpected. Not only is the source- the theme from a famed but expired Disneyland parade- abstract for a compilation of this nature, but so is the deliberate "techno" sound (even moreso than the original). After thirteen tracks of predictable selections, it's wonderful to see Disney visit something like this, even if it is probably bait for the Disney fan that might otherwise pass this by. They Might Be Giants do an exemplary job in bringing the "Hoedown" to life again, preserving some of the spoken lines while letting the synthesizers do the rest. This track is every bit as appropriate for the album's closure as "Welcome" was for its opening, leaving listeners on a positive note that invites them to start from Track One all over again.
<b>PACKAGING, DESIGN, and FEATURES</b>
The CD sports an orange and yellow cover that features the names and pictures of some of the artists. The track listing can be found on the backside. Inside, there is an eight-panel fold-out mini-poster of the <i>Disneymania 2</i> stars. The poster flips over to reveal technical information, liner notes, and advertisements for other Walt Disney Records releases.
The disc is silver with swirls of orange and blue, which matches that of the other <i>Disneymania</i> releases.
A special feature awaits listeners who insert the disc into their computer's CD-Rom drive: the Disney Channel Circle of Stars' music video for "Circle of Life." If you like Disney movies enough to buy this CD, chances are you already have a copy of <i>The Lion King</i>'s Platinum Edition DVD, which also includes this video. Still, its inclusion is evidence of Disney going the extra mile, which is always appreciated. There's also a chance to access "special internet features", which are really not all that special, unless a "thank you for buying" page with a link to the <i>Disneymania</i> website (which is great, by the way), means a lot to you. One can also register for Walt Disney Records' newsletter through the CD-Rom feature, which is powered by Macromedia.
The second installment of this popular line proves itself worthy of the <i>Disneymania</i> name. Its pop collection, on the whole, isn't quite as dazzling as the original's, but still exhibits enjoyable inspiration.
Unlike the first volume, there's something here for even the most bitter pop culture rebels. If sophistication is your thing, try Bedingfield or Gearing's numbers on for size. These less typical tracks, along with a handful of others, together make this CD worth a listen for even fans whose tastes lie outside of the mainstream.
How much you enjoy <i>Disneymania 2</i> (or any such album, for that matter) will largely depend on how you feel about cover songs to begin with. If you enjoy them and are already a fan of Disney music in general, then it's likely that the <i>Disneymania</i> line is for you, and even though it suffers from a few shortcomings when compared to volume one, other strengths compensate for these and <i>Disneymania 2</i> is as recommendable as the first, which is saying something.
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