Did Shadowland Have a Secret Meaning?

If you’ve seen Broadway’s take on The Lion King (or you clicked on the video above), you might be familiar with a song called “Shadowland.” It appears in the second act, when the Pride Lands have turned into a desolate wasteland and Nala leaves home to look for anything that can help her pride survive.

But while this moment doesn’t appear in the animated movie, have you ever noticed that it’s played in the background? Like, almost a dozen times? I’ve heard the chorus line played a few times before, but it wasn’t until I bought the full movie soundtrack that I noticed just how often we hear the verse and chorus lines laced into the background music.

Granted, this isn’t the first time Disney has done this in their movies. You’ll hear the title song played off and on in Beauty and the Beast, moments of “A Whole New World” played throughout the third act in Aladdin, and the “Hellfire” theme played over and over in Hunchback of Notre Dame. But no one ever sings “Shadowland” in The Lion King. So why include it in the background music at all?

Well, to answer this question, let’s look at the moments where we hear it. It first comes up when Mufasa is showing Simba the Pride Lands. For three seconds, we hear part of the verse when Mufasa runs into the elephant graveyard to defend Simba and Nala. Then the verse and chorus are played twice afterwards, once when Mufasa scolds Simba for his carelessness and again when they’re stargazing. Then we hear the chorus line after the stampede, when Simba realizes that his father didn’t survive the ordeal. Then we hear it when Timon, Pumbaa, and an adult Simba talk about what stars are. We get another glimpse or two when Simba and Nala reunite after years of her thinking she was dead. You hear it again when Mufasa’s ghost appears and says “Remember who you are.” And we hear it again as Simba and his three friends stand on a cliff, preparing to take on Scar. It’s played off and on during the confrontation. And then we hear it one last time after Scar dies, right before Simba takes his place as king of the Pride Lands.

What do all these moments have in common? They all deal with the weight of leadership.

Think about it. We hear it when Mufasa is teaching Simba the responsibilities of being king. We hear it again when the hyenas are cornered, and they realize Mufasa can tear them limb from limb. We hear it again when Mufasa scolds Simba. We hear it again right afterwards, when we get a hint that the king might not live to see the happily ever after. We hear it again when the king is dead. We hear it again, years later, when Simba is briefly confronted with the memory of his father’s death. We hear it again when Nala realizes that Simba could take on Scar and become king. We hear it again when Mufasa tells Simba that it’s time for him to accept the role he was born to play in the circle of life. We hear it again as Simba steels himself for the upcoming battle. We hear it off and on during the confrontation between hero and villain. And we hear it one last time before Simba is named king.

This seems a little odd—especially considering the lyrics of the song. The song by itself has less to do with leadership and more to do with saying farewell. Then again, Nala is the one who sings it, and in both version of the story she becomes queen. And what is a queen except the female equivalent of a king? Maybe the writers intended to expand her story to show how she took up the mantle of leadership when Scar turned everything upside down. Or maybe the composer had some other intent altogether.

Admittedly, this theory still has a few holes in it that are worth debating. And the people at Disney might’ve had completely different reasons for including the melody as a background tune, but not as a musical number. But this is what Disney is best known for—little Easter eggs and conspiracy theories that add importance to the story. Would we enjoy Lilo and Stitch as much if they explained outright that the title meant “lost and pulled together”? Would we love Beauty and the Beast as much if the characters pointed out the significance of Belle wearing blue? So as far as the song “Shadowland” is concerned, what do you think?


Top 12 Underrated Songs

Music is one of the most popular forms of art in the history of the world. It can be sad, peaceful, or romantic. It can be fun, mysterious, or suave. It can be creepy, exciting, or intense. Whether you make music or listen to it, you can connect with it due to its power to translate emotions into sound. But for every popular song that rules the radio for a freaking eternity, there’s always a tune that recedes into the background. And today, we’re going to take a look at twelve of those songs (as well as a few honorable mentions).

12: Sally’s Song from Nightmare Before Christmas

Before making this list, this song was tied with “On My Own” from Les Miserables. While “On My Own” is good, there isn’t much to it outside of being a song about the friend zone. “Sally’s Song,” while also expressing the thoughts of a woman stuck in the friend zone, takes a different approach. When Sally isn’t singing about how Jack will never notice her, she’s singing about how much his behavior worries her. While she loves him, she can’t agree with all of the hasty decisions he’s made and it leaves her hoping beyond hope that everything will work out in the end.

11: Santa Fe from Newsies

Whether you go to the version from the movie or the Broadway show, you get two interesting takes on one character’s circumstances. In the film, Jack sings this after a day of selling papers and a quiet evening with his new friend’s family. While he’s sad that he doesn’t have a loving family like the one he just met, he puts his hope in his dream of going to Santa Fe, knowing that he’s so close to getting everything he wants. In the Broadway show, Jack doesn’t sing the song until after a failed protest, where one of his friends gets beaten and dragged away. This song is him getting close to a breaking point, and Santa Fe being his only source of hope. It’s a desperate attempt to grab something out of his reach, and the raw emotion tells you how much weight he’s got on his shoulders.

10: Threshold from Castle

Both versions of this song are featured on the episode “Famous Last Words” in the show’s second season. Though the song tells the same story no matter which version, the choice of who sings it offers an interesting take on what’s happened. When Hayley sings it, it’s just after she experienced something so traumatic she couldn’t tell anyone about it. You feel the emotion and you feel what this event did to her. When Sky sings, it’s after she’s had time to dwell on what happened to her sister and why. She sings as someone who’s gotten stronger from the experience. Though she’ll never forget the pain it caused everyone involved, she knows Hayley refused to let it break her, and the song is a vow to stay strong.

9: Candyman by Sammy Davis Jr

I don’t have much to say about this one. It’s jazzy, it’s upbeat, and I love how Davis has fun with the song, lyrics and all. And…yeah, that’s it. I’ve got nothing else. Next song.

8: Meeting Tom Riddle from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

It’s hard to talk about this song without spoiling the story, so once again I’ll keep the explanation brief. True, it’s creepy enough when you just watch Harry learning one secret behind a bloodthirsty monster’s history with Hogwarts. But it gets even creepier after you learn the truth about the person controlling the monster.

7: Dance Magic Dance from Labyrinth

Before coming across this song I hadn’t heard of the late David Bowie or seen the movie Labyrinth. Then I saw the Nostalgia Critic review, and now I want to remedy both situations. Yeah, the song is a little odd even for a movie featuring puppets. And yeah, it’s so catchy your brain will want to kill you after a while. But you know what? I’m okay with that. It’s still a fun way to summarize the perfect blend of galaxies that were David Bowie and Jim Henson.

6: Both Sides of the Coin from Mystery of Edwin Drood

Easily the most bizarre song in one of the most bizarre musicals in existence. And that’s no small feat.

5: Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance opening theme

Whether or not you’re a fan of the games, I’d recommend checking out the many music selections. They. Are. Gorgeous. The songs for battles, creepy atmospheres, small glimpses of hope, and sad moments are all beautiful to behold no matter what the occasion. In fact, when compiling this list, I had the best KH selection narrowed down to this song, Dearly Beloved, and Destiny’s Union. But in the end, I went with this one because, of all the music and all the openings KH has offered so far, this one gets fans the most excited for what’s coming next.

4: Vivaldi-Winter (1st movement)

Antonio Vivaldi wrote three movements of songs for every season, all of them dripping with atmosphere and wonder. And this one is no exception. Couldn’t you just imagine the first snowfall of the winter season while listening to it?

PS: If you live in Michigan and you know how bizarre Mother Nature was in the past few weeks (even for MI), I apologize for making you relive it.

3: Test Drive from How to Train Your Dragon

If there’s one segment of the HTTYD soundtrack that perfectly summarizes the relationship between the boy and the dragon, it’s this one. The flying scenes are some of the greatest scenes you will ever see in 3D animation, and part of it is due to having this song play in the background. You don’t even hear it until the second half of the first movie. But once it finishes, you get the feeling that this only marks the beginning of a beautiful adventure.

2: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas

Every song has a story, and this one has two. Inspired by the poem of the same name, Dukas composed “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” as an accompaniment to the story of a lad who tries to use magic before he’s learned how to control it. Eventually it got Walt Disney’s interest, and he tried to make a short flick featuring the story and the song. But after a while, he decided to turn the short flick into one of his most critically acclaimed movies, Fantasia, with “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” featured as a segment in the concert-meets-cinema movie.

1: Für Elise by Ludwig van Beethoven

Like “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” “Für Elise” also has two stories to tell. The catch: both tales remain unsolved mysteries to this day. Though it’s rumored that Beethoven wrote this song for a woman (as the title implies), no one knows who Elise is. We have speculations, but since this song wasn’t released until years after the composer’s death, the inspiration remains a mystery. And if it is for a woman, it doesn’t sound soothing and romantic like Andrew Boysen’s “Song for Lyndsay;” it sounds cryptic and—arguably—a little sad. It sounds like the kind of music you’d hear when you’re looking at someone you don’t know but want to. But maybe that’s just me.

Photo source: https://library.uncw.edu/guides/music

Why Study the Arts?


Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

Literature. Cinema. Music. Drama. Photography. No matter the medium, we’re all familiar with art, both good and bad, in every source it uses to avail itself. We all have movies, books, and songs in mind that we either love, hate, or feel indifferent to. But many seem to be split on how much of an impact the arts have on people.

Some would argue that art has a negative impact on society. In Plato’s Republic, Plato expressed his view on education and worried that the way we tell stories would serve as a bad influence to us. Plato knows that young people always watch the way their elders behave, whether they are parents, teachers, or even strangers. And these young people will often mimic what they see other people doing, thinking that what they’re witnessing is perfectly normal. With that in mind, Plato wondered if the arts should be used in education at all. And if so, should we set boundaries on the kinds of art that we expose our children and students to?

Considering some forms of ugly art that exist, I can understand what Plato is talking about. For example, Garbage Pail Kids is often regarded as one of the worst movies ever made—not only because it’s horribly written, directed, acted, and put together—but also because it’s a children’s movie that promotes disgusting behavior including theft, violence, and sexual cruelty. It’s a movie that makes people cringe and feel unclean just thinking about it. Instances like that justify Plato’s point.

Despite the bad forms of art that exist, too many good forms outnumber them. There are good authors, composers, film directors, actors, and other artists who seem determined to produce the best art they can and learn as much as possible. These people have a passion for what they do; when it comes through in their work, it’s beautiful to behold. Even if we’re not passionate about the arts, we all have a favorite story or song in the backs of our heads. Why? Because they mean something to us. For example, a good novel isn’t just a combination of good prose and good story elements. That’s certainly what it needs. But it’s much more than that; it’s an experience that leaves an impact on its readers, whether they’re aware of it or not. And when it does that, it becomes a story that we continue to read and talk about years after its time, even when other stories fade from our consciousness. That’s why we continue to read JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series or critically analyze William Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets; they left a handprint on our memory that can’t be easily thrown away.

The purpose of good art is summarized best in this quote from film critic Doug Walker: “Good art doesn’t come from focus groups and statistics; it comes from people who share how they see things in their own unique way.” Since the time of Plato, the world has seen both good and bad forms of storytelling. Everything we read tells us a little bit about the people who share their creations and what they believe. Some forms such as the Twilight series are meant to give nothing more than momentary pleasure. But then there are artists who share a piece of something undeniably good with us through clever writing and meaningful morals. Dr. Seuss’s books have shaped our childhoods since the 1950s, and people are continuing to read his stories even today. And as adults, we still talk about works created by artists such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Louisa May Alcott, and Vincent Van Gogh because their works helped us to understand how other people see the world. Maybe art is far more educational than Plato understood it to be.

Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “So long.”

photo source: http://www.summerfineartscamp.org/

What Makes Music Great?


Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

I had a difficult time coming up with ideas of how to end Music Month. I almost did a list of honorable mentions because there were so many songs that I didn’t get to talk about, or else completely forgot about when working on the lists. But for some reason, it didn’t seem right to end April on that note (no pun intended). Then I considered doing a list of worst songs since there are certainly pieces that don’t work. Again, though, it didn’t feel like the right way to end Music Month. That and I could only think of a handful of songs that made me cringe just thinking about them.

And then it finally hit me—why not dissect music as a general art? After all, whether we study it or not, we still talk about it, and we all have a favorite song or two. Music always affects us in one way or another. But how exactly does it do that? What is it that makes music worth studying? What works as a good song and what doesn’t?

Well, we might as well ask that about books, movies, and paintings too. Good music—like any other form of good art—has a lasting impression on the consumer. Sometimes it can be good background music for getting work done, or having a conversation. When I perform at jazz concerts with my school’s jazz band, we often get comments that our music provides a good study atmosphere. At other times, we dance to it. I’m not a big fan of pop music, but I will admit that they come in handy for school dances. There are even songs that allow us to look back on fond memories when they pop up in our heads. For me, “Down in the River to Pray” is the song that brings back good memories.

Emotional music, as the adjective insinuates, conveys emotions when it’s meant to do so. Songs like Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” or Emily Osment’s “Drift” express emotions and summarize some of our thoughts in ways that we can’t. And in cases like Andrew Boysen’s “Song for Lyndsay,” the music doesn’t need any words to capture the emotions just right. Sometimes we also have music that tells stories, like the background music one would find in the soundtrack of movies. Studies are beginning to show that music also has a psychological effect on listeners.

With all of that in mind, it seems like music can do a lot. But what’s the number one action it should perform to be considered good music? In her blog post on good music, Susan Scheid listed four questions that she asks when listening to music:


1) Can I find something in the piece that communicates to me or at least piques my curiosity on a first or second hearing?

2) Does the piece demonstrate both a wealth of musical ideas at work and the ability to take from those ideas to create a satisfying whole?

3) Does the piece communicate something I experience as profound?

4) Does the piece reward many re-hearings, and does it do so over time?


And…yeah, that’s a pretty good way to summarize it. Now, we all have different tastes in music. There’s such a wide variety of music that we can all agree or disagree to like, and that’s true of any art. But Scheid’s questions produce the best foundation to start from when looking for something good to listen to. No matter why we like the song, it needs to create an experience that makes us hungry for more.

Well, that concludes Music Month. If you have songs that differ from my lists that you’d like to talk about, please leave a comment below. And as always, until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “So long.”

Sources used: http://prufrocksdilemma.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/what-makes-music-great/  

Photo source: http://musicpsychology.co.uk/music-for-pain-reduction/