Yes, the Top Five is back. This is good news for me, terrible news for my predecessor and former Guardian entertainment editor Julian Koonce, whose legacy I continue to ruin.
That being said, here’s my latest entry into the Top Five. We’re taking a look at my top old and vintage songs.
5) “We’ll Meet Again” by Vera Lynn (1939)
“We’ll Meet Again” is an uplifting song that features the soft, melodic voice of Vera Lynn. In the 1953 re-recording, the song featured a chorus of the British Armed Forces personnel, which adds a new depth to the song, and it’s probably my favorite version of it. It has the signature instrumentation of many songs of the late 1930s, which is always a big draw for me when it comes to old music. It deserves the top spot on the list.
4) “Once Upon a Dream” by Mary Costa and Bill Shirley (1959)
I am a sucker for a duet, especially when one of the singers performs in a deeper register. This song just perfectly scratches that itch for me, and with it paired with the soft, love-story lyrics, it’s just perfectly wholesome. “Sleeping Beauty” was never my favorite Disney Princess movie, but “Once Upon a Dream” was something that I always loved, especially with the gentle string instruments and slow flow of the song. Sometimes in old music, the instrumentation can be too much, but this song has a very soft and airy arrangement, with running string parts that set the mood straight from the beginning.
3) “Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland (1939)
This song is great, don’t get me wrong, but I absolutely prefer the Israel Kamakawiwo’ole version, so I’ll be talking about that one here. I never much liked “Over the Rainbow” until I discovered the Kamakawiwo’ole take on the song. It’s less scratchy, it’s much lighter, and the vibe is very free. Compared to the harsh sound of Judy Garland’s version, the Kamakawiwo’ole rendition from 1993 is much smoother, and the instrumentation is softer, letting more of the actual song come through. Like I’ve said, old instrumentation is very hit-or-miss for me, but this version doesn’t rely on it’s instrument.
2) “Pas De Deux” by Tchaikovsky (1892)
This is the oldest song on this list, but it’s still gold. There’s a version of this song on YouTube called “‘Pas De Deux’ by Tchaikovsky but you are at the premiere night of the nutcracker in 1892,” and all it really is is a little echoing, and adds more depth to the song. It’s as if you can tell when an instrument is closer or further away, but it is magical. This really is something that could lull me to sleep, and it’s a very brain-numbing song, to the point where you don’t realize you’ve spaced out until a cymbal smacks together or it ends. It’s one of those songs that makes you hyper-productive for as long as it plays, but it’s also a song that you can fully sink into if you’re not distracted by other things.
1) “So This is Love” by Ilene Woods (1950)
Yes, another Disney Princess song for which I will not apologize. Like “Once Upon a Dream,” the melody of “So This is Love” is airy, has running string instruments, and is very serene. It’s a common theme with early Disney songs that they’re very delicate and bubbly, and I love it. “So This is Love” is also a duet, which, I mean, what more can you ask for? This one really checks all the boxes, not to mention it was one of the earliest Disney songs, after Snow White, and set a precedent for all of the songs since. This song in particular is one that I really enjoy because I just really like the string parts in the old Disney songs. It makes me think of standing in a valley or a forest full of wildflowers, and that really is the happy place in my head. It is my absolute number one.