Warning: MILD SPOILERS ahead for The Lion King.
The Lion King (2019) remakes the animated Disney classic, incorporating songs from both the original film and the Broadway production as well as new songs written specifically for the film. Jon Favreau directs, employing the same stunning visual effects as The Jungle Book to create photo-realistic CGI versions of the lions and other animals of Pride Rock. The Lion King has a star-studded cast of musical talent, including Donald Glover (Simba) and Beyoncé (Nala), comedians like Billy Eichner (Timon) and John Oliver (Zazu) as well as comic actor Seth Rogen (Pumbaa), and even dramatic stars like Chiwetel Ejiofor (Scar). The film also sees James Earl Jones returning in the role of Mufasa.
It was The Lion King's music as much as the story and animation that made the 1994 film a smash hit. With a score by Hans Zimmer in collaboration with South African composer, Lebo M., as well as songs written by Elton John and Tim Rice, The Lion King has an impressive musical pedigree. "Circle of Life", "Hakuna Matata", and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" were all nominated for Best Original Song at the 1994 Academy Awards, with the latter taking home the award. John, Rice, and Lebo M. would later all go to work on the Broadway adaptation of The Lion King, creating even more songs and memorable music to accompany the story. Unsurprisingly, it greatly benefits Disney's 2019 live-action remake that Zimmer, Lebo M., John, and Rice all returned to work on The Lion King.
For 2019's The Lion King, Zimmer re-recorded his original score, collaborating again with Lebo M. to give it that authentic African sound, while John and Rice reworked their original song compositions to best suit the new cast. John and Rice also wrote one new song for the film and collaborated with Beyoncé on another. Altogether, this gives The Lion King's music a consistency while also updating it with a fresh sound. Here's every song heard in 2019's The Lion King:
Circle of Life/Nants' Ingonyama
The Lion King (2019) opens with the "Circle of Life" in an almost shot-for-shot reproduction of the opening scene from the original 1994 Lion King movie. The song's opening verse - again performed in Zulu by Lebo M. - is heard as the sun rises over the Pride Lands and the animals gather for the presentation of Simba. As is the case with much of 2019's The Lion King, the scene itself is less staged than in the animated film, with the animals arriving more naturally, but it still culminates in the iconic image of Rafiki (John Kani) holding the young Simba (JD McCrary) high above Pride Rock for all the animals to see. This version of "Circle of Life" is performed Lindiwe Mkhize, the actress who played Rafiki in the London stage production of The Lion King from 2005-2008.
I Just Can't Wait to Be King
After learning about the Elephant Graveyard from Scar, Simba is eager to check it out with his best friend, Nala (Shahadi Wright Joseph), but they must first lose their chaperone, Zazu. This leads to The Lion King's next musical number, "I Just Can't Wait To Be King", where the young cubs sing about how once Simba is king, no one will be able to tell him what to do, not even Zazu. Lyrically, the song is basically identical to the version from the 1994 film, but the scene isn't presented like some Busby Berkeley number with zebras and giraffes climbing atop elephants and hippos to create a teetering tower of animals. Instead, the 2019 version of "I Just Can't Wait To Be King" sees Simba and Nala sing while they weave between the many herds gathered around the water hole, frolicking with different baby animals as they use the crowd to slip out of view from Zazu.
Be Prepared (2019)
Of all the musical numbers, the version of "Be Prepared" in The Lion King (2019) is by far the most different from its counterpart in the 1994 animated film. Less of a true musical number and more a spoken word piece which ends on some singing, "Be Prepared" still functions as the scene where Scar convinces the hyenas to join him in killing Mufasa and Simba, allowing Scar to become king. The hyenas have a much smaller role in the number, merely chanting "be prepared" instead of singing full verses, while Scar's lines preceding the final verse of "Be Prepared" are completely new to the scene. This version of "Be Prepared" is more subdued and less theatrical than the original, and because of that, will likely be the most jarring song in the film.
Having left Pride Rock following Mufasa's death, Simba is soon rescued and befriended by Timon (Billy Eichner) and Pumbaa (Seth Rogen), the meerkat and warthog who then share with the little lion their problem-free philosophy - "Hakuna Matata". The song is perhaps the best-known from The Lion King, so it isn't too surprising that the 2019 version sticks fairly close to the original. There are, however, new spoken lines given to Timon and Pumbaa throughout the song that play with audience expectations yet retain the same energy and humor as the original. Out of all the musical numbers in The Lion King (2019), "Hakuna Matata" manages to best walk that line between exactly recreating the original and doing something fresh with it. The result is a scene that is unlikely to ever eclipse the original rendition but isn't necessarily stuck in its shadow, either.
The Lion Sleeps Tonight
Along with "Hakuna Matata", Timon and Pumbaa also sing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" just as they do in 1994's The Lion King. Unlike in the animated film, though, this rendition of the song is actually a bigger and longer production, including more verses and even involving other animals who live as outcasts alongside Timon and Pumbaa. "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" is a song that was originally written in Zulu by Solomon Linda and titled "Mbube" before being covered in English by the Tokens in 1961. It's the Tokens' version of the song that Timon and Pumbaa sing, but the original Zulu version as performed by Lebo M. does play over The Lion King's end credits.
Can You Feel the Love Tonight
In the 1994 animated version of The Lion King, "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" is primarily sung by the off-screen voice of Kristle Edwards, with once verse apiece for Joseph Williams as Simba and Sally Dworsky as Nala that project their inner thoughts. For the 2019 film, "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" is a proper duet between Simba (Donald Glover) and Nala (Beyoncé), with the stars singing the refrain together and their own verses solo. The scene is more or less the same as that in the original animated film, with the singing coming from off-screen rather than directly out of the lions' mouths, while Timon and Pumbaa still sing a few lines to start and end the number.
In addition to the songs featured in the animated 1994 film, The Lion King (2019) also includes two brand new songs written for the film. The first of these new songs is "Spirit", written by Beyoncé, ILYA, and Labrinth and performed by Beyoncé. It's heard over the scene of Simba returning to the Pride Lands after speaking with the spirit of his father. This song isn't actually sung by any characters in the film, but its lyrics (which includes an opening verse of "Long live the king" in Swahili) do fit with the themes of the film and of that moment in particular. For example, in "Spirit", Beyonce sings about destiny and a boy becoming a man - both of which are themes present in Simba's arc that are touched on in his conversation with his father's spirit. Seeing as the song comes directly following that scene (not to mention the fact it's literally titled "Spirit"), the connection is pretty obvious. "Spirit" will also qualify as one of The Lion King's two contenders for Best Original Song come awards season.
Be Our Guest
Just as in the animated Lion King, Timon and Pumbaa are made to act as bait in order to distract the hyenas and allow Simba and Nala to sneak back into the Pride Lands. In that original film, Timon and Pumbaa perform a short, comedic number in the style of Hawaiian hula song called "Timone Hula", but in The Lion King (2019), Timon sings the opening verse of "Be Our Guest" from Beauty and the Beast while presenting Pumbaa as a feast for the hyenas. It serves an identical purpose as the scene from the animated film, but the direct meta-references to another Disney property is new.
Never Too Late
The other original song written specifically for The Lion King (2019) is "Never Too Late" by Elton John, Tim Rice, and Lebo M. and performed by John. It plays over the film's credits and, like "Spirit", includes verses in Swahili in addition to John's leading vocals and has lyrics that address themes from the film. In this case, "Never Too Late" discusses the idea that it's never too late to make up for past mistakes - another theme of Simba's arc, directly relating to his decision to return to Pride Rock and fix the problems that have arisen in his absence.
He Lives in You
Lebo M. may not be as famous either Elton John or Beyoncé, but the importance of his musical contributions to The Lion King franchise are undeniable. It's fitting, then, that a new Zulu version of his song, "He Lives In You" from the Rhythm of the Pride Lands album and later the Broadway production plays over the end credits.
Songs NOT In The Lion King (2019)
The Broadway production of The Lion King includes several songs that do not originate in the animated film, and most of those also do not appear in 2019's The Lion King. This is true even of "The Morning Report", a song originally written for the stage show and later incorporated into the animated film's special edition release, replacing Mufasa's pouncing lesson for Simba. In subsequent re-releases of The Lion King, "The Morning Report" is removed and the pouncing lesson is back, and it's the same for this new film. Rafiki is a less comical character in The Lion King (2019) and therefor does not sing his Swahili chant from the original film that goes, "Asante sana Squash banana, Wewe nugu mimi hapana." Also missing from The Lion King (2019) are "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen", "It's A Small World (After All)", and "I've Got A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts" - songs that Zazu sings while he's a prisoner of Scar. In the new film, Zazu is never captured and Scar is a more serious character, so recreating those songs as featured in the animated film wouldn't have suited The Lion King.