Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Top 20 Greatest Villain Songs

Ok, so a video recently came out on which counted down the top eleven villain songs…I guess, ever written. It was a pretty good list, some things I whole-heartedly agreed with, while others I thought were a bit suspect. So, naturally, because I’m me and I’m trying to stall from studying for finals, it got me thinking about what songs I would put on that list. What do I think are the greatest villain songs ever?

Congratulations, you’re about to find out.

Now, as a lot people know, I take my villains very seriously. I have always been drawn to villainous characters, and nine times out of then I’m more likely to be a fan of the villain than the actual hero. I find villains more edgy, more truthful (if a bit exaggerated), and really just more interesting than your typical hero, and have always loved picking apart villains in just about anything I read, watch, or hear. The motive to do evil is so much more fascinating than the motive to do good, probably because in my own life I’m, I hope, usually more motivated to do good and treat people right. Why a person would want to be evil is something different and a bit more difficult to grasp for me, which is probably, ultimately, why I’m drawn to the subject.

Now, that being said. I’m also a fan of musicals. Stage musicals, animated musicals, movie musicals, musical episodes of random TV shows, British musical cop/crime/mystery dramas, you name it. If there’s music, chances are I’ll be into it. Being such a musical fan, as well as such a villain fan, this would, of course, make me a rather huge fan of villain songs. Just as villains are always the most interesting characters to me, villain songs are, by far, the best songs in any given musical. Well, at least in most of them. There are the occasional musicals which either don’t have a villain, have a non-singing villain, or whose villains songs just kind of suck. But, for the most part, the villains always get the best songs.

So, without further ado, I give you my list of the, not eleven, but twenty greatest villain songs I’ve ever heard. Why not eleven? Because there are too damn many of them. I’ve tried to provide links to the songs on YouTube, so that their awesomeness can be spread around. If I couldn’t find the song and you desperately want to hear it, let me know, and I’ll try to find a way to get it to you.

So, here we go! Let’s start with:

20.) The Queen of the Night Aria, from The Magic Flute

I’m not really sure if this counts as a villain song, per say, since it’s debatable whether or not the Queen of the Night can be seen as truly a villain, but for me, this was the original villain song. I spent a good deal of childhood obsessively watching this copy of The Magic Flute we somehow acquired from my uncle, and this was, by far, my favorite song. It’s rich and dark, despite being sung in a ridiculously high register, it’s dramatic and threatening and really, just overall completely kick-ass. (I’m sure Mozart would have loved to have heard one of his arias referred to as “kick-ass”) I wanted to be this woman in the worst way when I was a kid, and spent a lot of my time standing on the coffee table in the family room trying to sing this piece. I think it’s the emotion of it, the sheer anger that I love. I found a translation of the words recently that said the first two lines were “The vengeance of Hell boils in my heart/Death and despair flame around me!” If my mother ever said that to me, I would be scared.

19.) What You Feel, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Ok, so I’m kind of a sucker for musical episodes. I mean, I know they’re kind of gimmicky, and that it’s really hard to pull them off right without seeming stupid, but even those who hate musical episodes have to admit that the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Once More With Feeling” was, undeniably awesome. Not only did they manage to create a situation that was both appropriate for the show and true to the characters, they also managed to write a whole bunch of ridiculously catchy and impressive songs that made sense. This song isn’t really the best to showcase just how awesome Joss Whedon did at writing character and plot appropriate songs, but it is an example of how awesome this villain is. The plot of the episode isn’t really all that important, it’s your basic “demon comes and makes everybody start singing like a musical” plotline, and it would have been so easy to just sort of throw the actual villain off the side and ignore him, but instead, we get this. A tap-dancing, jazz singing, classic Broadway-esque demon in a color-changing suit, singing an ultra-sinister song about how song and dance can manipulate you to feel emotions you didn’t know you had. It’s crazy and seductive (in a weird, demon-y kind of way…) and really, just crazy awesome. If you haven’t seen “Once More With Feeling” or even if you’ve never seen Buffy, check this out. It’s seriously epic, and the subtitles are kind of awesome.

18.) My Lullaby, from The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride

As much as I absolutely loath the vast majority of the Disney sequels, the second Lion King movie actually wasn’t that bad. It was un-needed, but it wasn’t bad. There are two songs that stick with me most from this movie, “He Lives in You” which is actually from the Broadway version of the first movie, and this song, “My Lullaby”. It’s sung by Zira, who was apparently Scar’s mate and now, like Scar, wants to kill the king. Her connection to Scar is clear in the tone and environment of this song, which almost directly echoes Scar’s “Be Prepared” without all the Nazi imagery. I think I like how utterly sadistic this song is. “The sound of Simba’s dying gasp/ His daughter squealing in my grasp/His lioness’ mournful cry, that’s my lullaby.” I mean, this woman is insane. The rest of the movie’s ok, if a bit predictable, but this song really elevates it above the vast majority of the other Disney sequals. It’s certainly better than Cinderella 3: A Twist in Time.

17.) The Point of No Return, from The Phantom of the Opera

There is a tendency among villain songs to be somewhat seductive in nature as, typically, the villain is trying to seduce us into sympathizing with their cause. This song, though not necessarily trying to get us to sympathize with the villain, definitely showcases the sexual, seductive undertones to many villain songs. The song is basically the musical representation of the Phantom’s repressed sexuality since, as he says later on, “the fate which condemns me to wallow in blood, has also denied me the joys of the flesh.” Since he can’t have it, he writes a very, very extensive metaphor for it and then sneaks in to sing it with the woman he’s in love with, who he is also planning to kidnap shortly thereafter. Villainous? Oh yes. This is by no means the only villain song in this show, there’s the title song, for one thing, which is unbelievably badass, and the many threatening notes he sends to the managers of the Opera House, but in my mind, it’s this song that puts him at his most dangerous. He’s not exactly a villain, but for the eight minutes he sings this song, he’s the very personification of the seductive, evil villain we all know and love. I wish there was a video of Michael Crawford singing this song, since his Phantom is the Phantom, and he’s about a thousand times more sinister than Gerard Butler, but this one works too. Gerard Butler is quite sexy, I’ll give you that.

16.) The Last Midnight, from Into The Woods

This is another one I couldn’t find the right clip for. This is Vanessa Williams from the revival, who does a very good job, but sort of pales in comparison to the legendary Bernadette Peters, who completely blows this part out of the water. For some reason, despite the fact that the rest of her performance is on YouTube, this one song doesn’t seem to be available anywhere, so we get Vanessa. What can you do? Anyway, this song is basically the Witch pointing out all the stupid things about human nature, about how everyone else in the cast was so busy arguing they forgot about the baby, thus proving that petty arguments and selfishness blinds you to the well being of future generations. It’s a very creepy song, and almost an inversion of the typical villain song as all she’s doing is pointing out how villainous everyone else is acting, and lamenting the fact that the baby, the only true innocent on stage, is going to grow up to be just corrupt as everyone else. It’s unnerving and, when sung by Bernadette Peters, very, very powerful. Also, it’s Stephan Sondheim, so, it’s sort of guaranteed to be awesome.

15.) Forever Yours, from Once On This Island

This song is especially interesting because it doesn’t start out as a villain song. At the beginning, it’s a love song between Timoune and Daniel, as she desperately tries to keep him alive after a car accident. It’s pretty and melodic, and fairly standard as far as love songs go, with some pretty harmonies between the two singers that make you sit there and go “aww….” Unfortunately for them, the song is hijacked towards the end by the somewhat ridiculously frightening Papa Ge, the god of Death. Once this happens, the song is instantly transformed into a villain song of epic proportions. The song is intense and threatening while still using the exact same melody as Timoune and Daniel’s love song, thus emphasizing the connection between love and death. This is also one of those songs you can listen to over and over again and not get tired of. Or at least, I can. I once wrote an entire paper to this song. Just this song. The video is of the production from the Philippines, which is actually one of the best versions of this ever done, apparently. Personally, I like the Papa Ge on the soundtrack a bit better, but this guy still does a fantastic job.

14.) The Dark of the Night, from Anastasia

This link is audio-only, which is probably a good thing since, as was noted in the villain song list on, this song is about three times more epic without the little pink bugs running around everywhere. I have the soundtrack to this movie, thanks to the roommate, and when this song comes up on shuffle, I’ll admit, it gives me shivers. This is Rasputin singing about his evil plan to kill Anastasia because she’s the last of the Romanovs, even though historically he wasn’t all that evil and she wasn’t all that alive. It’s one of two truly memorable songs in a movie that, for all it’s pretty animation and witty dialogue, you can’t help but watch without feeling a bit uneasy. I especially like the end where he’s all “Come my minions/Rise for your master/Let your evil shine.” As much as the Russian history fan in me is screaming, that is pretty sinister and awesome.

13.) Les Poissons, from The Little Mermaid

Yeah, so this guy’s not really a villain, actually, he’s just sort of a random side character, but this song kicks so much ass it had to be on this list. Seriously, this is the most sadistic chef on the face of the earth, and what’s even better is that he enjoys every minute of it. I mean, he’s trying to kill Sebastian. Sebastian. The singing crab. And yet, he just keeps on happily attempting murder, making every kid who watches this suddenly want to become a vegetarian. I also love how this song has absolutely nothing at all to do with the plot of the movie, it just comes out of nowhere and is never referred to again. It’s random and ridiculous, but I think that’s why I love it. It’s sadism the whole family can love.

12.) Marley and Marley, from A Muppet Christmas Carol

Holy crap, I love this movie. Like seriously, I’m a huge fan of A Christmas Carol, I’ve read it at least four times, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every film adaption of it ever (except the recent Jim Carey version, which I’m still not sure how I feel about) and ironically, it’s this version that is my all-time favorite. It’s one of the closest adaptations I’ve ever seen, and despite some rather obvious creative license, I think is the closest to the message Charles Dickens wanted to get out. This song, in particular, showcases how well done this movie is. Yes, there are two Marleys now, which is wrong, I know, but it works. It doesn’t change the story much, or really at all, and allows for this unbelievably catchy song. It tells the entire story of Jacob Marley, gets the point of his character across, and moves the plot alone all at the same time. It’s clever, it’s effective and it’s an undeniably awesome song. Another point for the Muppets.

11.) Cell Block Tango, from Chicago

Hell yeah. Nothing says evil like a bunch of leather-clad women singing about how they murdered the men that pushed them too far. And, how they were perfectly justified in doing so. My mother calls this the “ultimate PMS song.” It’s fairly common to cast a woman as the villain in musicals, the idea that women are inherently evil dates all the way back to Adam and Eve, but very rarely is the woman the focus of the piece. When she is the focus, she’s usually the ingĂ©nue, the sweet, pure innocent. This is a rare musical in which, not only is it entirely about women, it’s entirely about evil women, women who are willing to kill a man in cold blood because he popped his bubblegum one too many times. This show is about the dark side of femininity, and never is that more clear than in this song. It’s sharp and aggressive, the dancing getting gradually more confrontational as the song goes on, till we have what seems like an army of angry, dangerous women kicking and stamping and almost screaming out the lyrics under this intense blood red lighting. This scene is amazingly choreographed, and amazingly staged, and really, is just plain amazing. If you haven’t seen Chicago, there’s something wrong with you. Really.

10.) You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, from How The Grinch Stole Christmas

This one was on the list on but it came dead last, so I’m here to remedy that. This song is one of those song you absolutely have to listen to around Christmas. It’s so embedded into our culture, it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t at least know the lyric “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch” if not the entire song. This song is creatively written and amazingly sung by Tony the Tiger himself, Thurl Ravenscroft, and really, is just epic in every sense of the word. There’s really not much to say about this one, it sort of speaks for itself.

9.) No Good Deed, from Wicked

God, it took me a while to find this clip, but it was worth it because you really need to see Idina do it to get down how truly awesome this song is. Wicked is a really interesting case when it comes to villain songs, because the show doesn’t really have a specific villain. Every character can be considered a villain at some point during the show, but then, they can also be considered a hero, or just simply misguided. It’s a really interesting look at good and evil, and manages to turn both concepts completely on their heads. This song though, is by far the closest thing the show gets to a legitimate villain song, and dear God, it’s worth it. Holy crap. This is Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, giving up on good once and for all and deciding to finally embrace the title of “wicked” that society seems to have forced on her. Her reasoning and motivation for her fall to evil is particularly interesting, simply stated as “no good deed goes unpunished”. Good will bring you nothing, at this point, so she might as well be evil. It’s a fascinating, show stopping number that, no matter how morally grey this show is, definitely deserves the title of epic villain song.

8.) Slipping, from Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog

Ok, so just about everyone who knows me knows I’m a Dr. Horrible fangirl, but really, just listen to this song. This is the villain song. I mean, the entire blog/film/episode/musical/thing is about a villain, so naturally just about every other song could be considered a villain song, but it’s this song that really clinches it. This is Dr. Horrible holding an entire room entranced, gloating and monologue-ing and just generally being a quintessential supervillain. The beginning is almost hypnotic in a way, it’s got this slow, calm rhythm that slips easily into your head (so that by the time you get to class the next morning, you’re humming it while trying to dissect the Papyrus of Ani) but then suddenly switches and goes completely chaotic, emphasizing the anarchy that Dr. Horrible is ultimately after. An interesting thing my mother pointed out when watched this was that, unlike most standard male villains, Dr. Horrible is a tenor, which is sort of out of place, but I think is ultimately what makes the song unique. So…um, hooray for evil tenors! There should be more of you!

7.) A Little Priest, from Sweeney Todd

This was hard to narrow down, because really, pretty much every song in Sweeney Todd can be considered a villain song, but after discussing it with my roommate, we eventually concluded that this song fits the standard villain song format the best. This song is funny. I mean, you don’t want to laugh at it, but…you just do. It’s Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett discussing their plans to kill and bake people into pies. It’s a cheery upbeat song about cannibalism, for god’s sake, but it’s hilarious. Why is it a villain song? Well, both Sweeney and Mrs. Lovett can be considered villains, despite being the protagonists, and this is about their murderous evil plans, so…it works! It totally works. Really though, this entire play should be listed, even the love song “Johanna” is basically an ode to stalking.

6.) Ramases side of The Plagues, from The Prince of Egypt

If you want to get really cynical, I suppose you could call this God’s villain song, but since all his singing pretty much consists of choruses of people chanting “I sent my scourge/I sent my sword/Thus said the lord,” and I’d rather not get struck down by fire and brimstone anytime soon, we’re going to just go with Ramses’ side of it. If anyone is the villain of this movie, it’s Ramses, and while the first half of this song is just a lot of epic chanting with the occasional interlude from Moses, it’s not till about halfway through that this really becomes Ramses’ villain song. I mean listen to his lyrics “Then let my heart be hardened/And never mind how high the cost may grow/This will still be so/I will never let your people go.” That’s pretty damned villainous. I suppose the more traditional villain song from this movie would be “Playing With The Big Boys Now” sung by the two priests of Ra, but really, that song doesn’t really have as much substance as this. This song really shows just how divided these two brothers have gotten, how they’ve been forced into the roles of villain and hero. It’s not really till this point that you accept that Ramses is, in fact, the true villain of the piece, either. Before that you still think of him as Moses’ goofy brother, even when he’s sitting on the thrown and laughing at him. It’s not till he sings his verse of this song where you finally accept that he is the villain.

5.) The Mob Song, from Beauty and the Beast

When I was asking around for villain songs, I got a lot people who suggested “Gaston.” I picked this song instead because unlike in “Gaston” it’s this song where Gaston actually becomes in a villain. Through most of the movie, Gaston is just someone who is mildly annoying. You want to smack him, but he is, essentially, harmless. By the time he gets here though, and he’s convincing an entire village to go hunt down the Beast in cold blood, purely because the woman he loves is in love with him, he has become a full, fledged villain. Also, this entire song is just scary. It’s scary in the movie, it’s terrifying onstage, and if you really take a second to listen to the words, it give you chills. I mean, there’s Gaston’s “Hear him roar/Watch him foam/But we’re not coming home till he’s dead/Good and dead.” Then there’s the mob itself, “We don’t like what understand/In fact it scares us/And this monster is mysterious at least.” Not to mention the frequent cries of “Kill the beast!” All because one guy didn’t get the girl he wanted. I mean, that’s evil. That’s selfishness and ignorance and basically everything that’s wrong with society and humanity all rolled into one morally objectionable black ball. And that’s why Beauty and the Beast got the Oscar nomination.

4.) Dentist Song, from Little Shop of Horrors

This song was chosen for two reasons. One, it’s funny and sadistic, kind of like Les Poissons, and Steve Martin is kind of awesome. Two, because I needed to fill this spot so that my suitemate and I could go to dinner. I’m a big fan of Little Shop of Horrors, and though just about anything Audrey II sings could be considered a villain song, this one is the one I remember the most. Maybe it’s the song, maybe it’s Steve Martin, I don’t know. For some reason, this song just owns.

3.) Hellfire, from The Hunchback of Notre Dame

This song is dark. I mean dark. Especially for a Disney movie. It digresses from your typical villain song in that it’s not a villain gloating or making grand plans, it’s actually about a struggle. Frollo is lusting after Esmeralda, already a big taboo for Disney, but is battling with his deeply held religious faith. The song is his struggle to understand his lust, which goes against everything he’s supposed to stand for, and everything he’s trying to live up to. It’s your basic struggle between human desires and faith, but the way it’s done is just…spectacular. The scene has all sorts of symbolism in it, and is definitely the most sexually charged song Disney has ever come up with. The fact that sexual desire is represented by fire is graphic enough, then comes all the religious and mythological references, the fact that if she doesn’t agree to “be his” that he will burn her alive, the constant references to God and hell, really this is like the anti-Disney song. What’s also interesting is that the song that Quasimodo sings about his love for Esmeralda comes right before this and is called “Heaven’s Light” whereas this song is called “Hellfire” and is about lust for Esmeralda, not love. Now we have contrasting imagery with heaven and light symbolizing love, while hell and fire very blatantly symbolizing lust. This is dark stuff to be tackling in a Disney movie, and whatever your opinion is on this film, you’ve got to give them some credit for taking the risk. I love the image of Esmeralda dancing in the flames, and the darkened figures in red cloaks that throw blame at Frollo. Everything in this sequence is either dark and gothic or scorching and fiery. Seriously, I could probably write a paper on this scene alone, there’s so much to it. Also, notice the dark figure that enter the castle about halfway through, to report to Frollo, apparently there’s speculation that this is the devil, which I think is a really interesting way to look at it. Especially since he’s just gotten done saying “It’s in God’s plan/He made the devil so much stronger than a man” which, I think is the entire point to the song and is definitely my favorite lyric. I should probably move on now…

2.) Poor Unfortunate Souls, The Little Mermaid

No, not the version done by the Jonas Brother. Seriously. I’m talking the original, animated song that helped usher in the Disney Renaissance of the 1990’s. This song is basically Ariel being tempted by the devil and ultimately choosing to sell her soul. The only difference is that in this version, the devil is a large octopus/witch/lady/thing. The idea, though, is basically the same. Ursula will give you anything you want, she’ll make you beautiful, thin, famous, anything you want, all you have to do is give her something in return, like your voice. Oh, and make sure you achieve the objective you’re going for, or she’ll turn you into a wrinkled…soul…thing. This song is great because it plays on a very common human desire, our insecurities, the fact that deep down we all want to change something about ourselves. Somehow, despite the fact that we know that there’s a fairly large catch, her deal somehow manages to look appealing. I don’t want to give up my voice, I’m fairly attatched to it, but I would sure like to look like Eliza Dushku…for a second, I admit, I would consider it. And that’s what so creepy and effective about this song, she makes her horrific, demonic methods seem almost humanitarian. Plus, the song is really kick-ass. I mean, I’m probably going to have it stuck in my head

1.) Be Prepared, from The Lion King

And of course, the greatest villain song ever has to be “Be Prepared” from none other than The Lion King. This song is so dark and creepy, but has a bizarre manic energy to it that makes it one of the most complex Disney villain songs out there. It starts with Scar singing with distain; he’s surrounded by idiots. It’s relatively calm, reserved, and deliberate. Then, as he gradually gets more passionate about what he’s saying, the song builds momentum, his voice becomes stronger, his eyes start to look a little bit more unhinged, and you start to worry. This worry continues until, out of nowhere, the hyenas are suddenly Nazis, marching in formation that was, apparently, actually based on footage of Nazi rallies. At this point, you start feeling really uneasy, and you start to feel just how power hungry this character is. When he jumps off his pedestal and the lighting suddenly turns red, and the fire starts exploding around him, and you realize that the look in his eyes has finally lost any trace of the calm, reserved sanity he had at the beginning, that’s when you start getting scared. You’ll also notice that he seems to change his tone right around this point as well, suddenly becoming a bit stronger and gruffer, with almost no trace of reservation. This is actually because Jeremy Irons couldn’t complete the song, and so Jim Cummings, of Winnie the Pooh fame, stepped in to finish it for him. The switch occurs on the line “You won’t get a sniff without me” and is only noticeable if you’re really, really listening. Personally, I think it works to the song’s advantage, since that’s really the specific moment the song should have changed tone, as the new voice sounds less controlled, and Scar seems to have lost that controlled, reserved mindset he had earlier anyway. The song slowly builds and gives you time to get truly scared before hitting you with what is probably the best ending to an animated song ever, the image of scar and the hyenas on a thin, eerie castle-like rock, with the yellow crescent moon behind them. It’s scary and perfect, and visually shows you just what delusions of grandeur scar really has. It’s the perfect ending to what is, in my mind, a perfect villain song.

And so, that’s my list. There are a lot of other kick-ass villain songs out there, as well a lot of kick-ass non-singing villains who are just as awesome as their singing counterparts. If you think I left something out, let me know, and I’ll…um, make a note of it? Make a sequel? I don’t know, I’ll do something with it.


  1. Whoa, this was really fun to browse! Wish all the videos were still there. I'm about to lead a Playback Theatre show on "Heroes and Villains" and was looking for a good sing-along. Didn't find it here, but greatly enjoyed the post and your writing. Thanks!

  2. I'd have to say that the greatest villain song top 5 would HAVE to include Thurl Ravenscroft's "You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch" even if the song was about (and not sung by) the villain.