Ranking | TLK songs

If you know me, you know that I am a huge fan of The Lion King. From the original film to the remake to The Lion Guard to the Broadway, I am head over heels in love with the franchise. It speaks nostalgia to me. It speaks home.

Recently, I was asked by a friend why I’m such a huge TLK fan, and I surprised myself by giving the question a good deal of thought. Why do I do I love TLK so deeply? Well, there are a few reasons (some of which I list here), but one that really stands out to me—as well as one that’s stood the test of time—is the music.

Now, when you think of music from The Lion King, you probably think of “Hakuna Matata”, “Be Prepared”, or “I Just Can’t Wait to be King”. And all those songs are great and catchy. They’re classics. But you might be surprised at how much more there is to The Lion King soundscape. Truly, there are so many TLK songs out there that are so good, and yet are really only known to a handful of fans.

So, just for fun, and to shed a little light on the more shadowed side of the TLK musical experience, I thought I’d list my top ten favorite Lion King songs, as well as explain why I like them. (FYI, I’m not including songs from The Lion Guard, as there are so many of them that I thought I may as well just make a separate post sometime.)

Here we go!

#10: “We Are One”

Return to Pride Rock

Origin: Return to Pride Rock | Date: 1998 | Performers: Angeliqué Kidjo

The original version of “We Are One” debuted with the release of The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, and a new version, sung by Angeliqué Kidjo, was subsequently released with the album Return to Pride Rock. I prefer the Kidjo version of the song to the film version, namely because the harmonies are more to my taste. I also like the inclusion of the new lyrics, sung in the West African language of Fon.

Favorite lyrics:

Gnin kpo hwê kpo do kpô (If you and I stick together)

Nou dé man nan hin mi gblé (Nothing could separate us)

One family under the sun

Akon kpikpan déa dohô (Your endurance and courage)

Zéwé sou gbêwê biômon (Make you great, and it’s life’s demand)

You will find when you see

We are one


#9: “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”

Rhythm of the pride lands

Origin: Rhythm of the Pride Lands | Date: 1995 | Performers: Lebo M

Although “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was originally written by Solomon Linda and performed by The Tokens in the 1960’s, it was largely made popular by The Lion King franchise’s adaptions of it. My favorite version of the song was first released in the album Rhythm of the Pride Lands, and was later included in The Lion King . I love this song for its serene, sleepy melodies, and its swelling bridge.

Favorite lyrics:

In the jungle, the mighty jungle,

The lion sleeps tonight


#8: “Lala”

Rhythm of the Pride Lands

Origin: Rhythm of the Pride Lands | Date: 1995 | Performers: Lebo M

“Lala” originated with Rhythm of the Pride Lands, and was later recycled into “Endless Night” for the stage adaption of The Lion King. As with “Lea Halalela” (which I’ll touch on shortly), I like the song for its gentle vocals and dark, yet somehow also uplifting, melodies.

Favorite lyrics:

Motswalle waka (My dear friend)

Ngwana mme (My mother’s child)

Ndiyani khumbula (I miss you)

La la kahle (Farewell)


#7: “One of Us”

The lion king ii: Simba’s Pride

Origin: The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride | Date: 1998 | Performers: Chorus, Carmen Twillie

“One of Us” originated with The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, and is sung during Kovu’s exile from the Pride Lands. The song is arguably one of the saddest/darkest in the franchise, but I like it for its visuals, its storytelling, and its powerful beat (those drums!).

Favorite lyrics:

Born in grief

Raised in hate

Helpless to defy his fate

Let him run

Let him live

But do not forget

What we cannot forgive


#6: “Digga Tunnah Dance”

The Lion king

Origin: The Lion King | Date: 2004 | Performers: Lebo M, Vinx

“Digga Tunnah Dance” is a mashup of “Digga Tunnah” and “Circle of Life”, and plays during the credits of The Lion King . Honestly, this song is utter nonsense, and it’s so much fun. I love it for its bouncy and fast-paced beat, goofy lyrics, and a totally random mid-song grumble from Uncle Max: “Try clapping when you don’t have any hands.” (You gotta watch the movie to get it.) This is one of only a handful of TLK songs that I can listen to on constant repeat. XD

Favorite lyrics:

Digga tunnah is what we do

Life’s a tunnah, we dig it through

Digga tunnah is what we sing

Digga tunnah is everything

Mud and clay, it’s a meerkat’s friend

Always more around every bend

And when you get to your tunnah’s end

Hallelujah! Let’s dig again!


#5: “He Lives In You”

Rhythm of the Pride Lands

Origin: Rhythm of the Pride Lands | Date: 1995 | Performers: Lebo M

“He Lives In You” originated with Rhythm of the Pride Lands, and has since been featured in multiple TLK-related media, the most notable of these likely being The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, in which the song is used as an opener. In my opinion, there’s really nothing to not like about “He Lives In You”; but my favorite aspects of it are the lyrics (which could easily be applied to Jesus) and the unique choice of instruments that make up the background.

Favorite lyrics:

He lives in you

He lives in me

He watches over

Everything we see

Into the water

Into the truth

In your reflection

He lives in you


#4: “Lea Halalela”

Rhythm of the Pride Lands

Origin: Rhythm of the Pride Lands | Date: 1995 | Performers: Khululiwe Sithole, Lebo M

“Lea Halalela” was first released with Rhythm of the Pride Lands, and was later recycled into “Shadowland” for the stage adaption of The Lion King. I’m fond of the song’s soothing vocals and mysterious, almost shadowy harmonies.

Favorite lyrics:

Uzo libusa

Le lizwe

Uli buse kahle

Uzo libusa

Le lizwe

Le lizwe


#3: “BIGGER”

The Lion King: The Gift

Origin: The Lion King: The Gift | Date: 2019 | Performers: Beyoncé

“BIGGER” was released as part of The Lion King: The Gift, a spinoff album headed by Beyoncé, who voiced Nala in the 2019 remake of The Lion King. I am not a Beyoncé fan by any means, but I do like this one song because of its spirituality and the fact that it focuses primarily on the lyrics rather than the music, which I found unique. Although I’m pretty sure the song is about Beyoncé, it could easily be applied to Sarabi or even Nala as well.

Favorite lyrics:

I’ll be the roots, you be the tree

Pass on the fruit that was given to me

Legacy, ah, we’re part of something way bigger


#2: “He Lives in You”

The Lion king collection

Origin: The Lion King Collection | Date: 1999 | Performers: Tina Turner

This version of “He Lives in You”, known as “the Tina Turner version,” originated with the album The Lion King Collection, which was released in 1999. Why does this 80’s gospel-esque, slightly twisty version usurp the original? I’m not totally sure. I suppose I just like the sound of it, which is a bit odd, seeing as I’m really not a fan of gospel music. But the way the background music rebounds off Turner’s vocals and streamlines the rest of the song is deliciously harmonious. “He Lives in You” concludes with the hollow echoing of drums, a breath of fresh air after the blast of Turner’s rich voice.

Favorite lyrics:

He lives in you

He lives in me

He watches over

Everything we see

Into the water

Into the truth

In your reflection

He lives in you


#1: “Shadowland”

The Lion King (stage musical)

Origin: The Lion King (stage musical) | Date: 1997 | Performers: Heather Headley (Nala), Tsidii Le Loka (Rafiki)

As mentioned earlier, “Shadowland” evolved from “Lea Halalela” and originated with the stage adaption of The Lion King. It is sung by Nala, Rafiki, and the pride as Nala prepares to leave the famine-ravaged Pride Lands to seek help in the lands beyond. The choreography is key to witnessing the full majesty of “Shadowland”, but alone, the song still has its merits. As with “Lea Halalela”, I love “Shadowland” for its heartwrenching and empowering harmonies, as well as the many emotions—grief, regret, courage, resolve—it allows the characters to display. For me, the pure visual, musical, and emotional greatness of “Shadowland” is what earns it the top spot (for the present, anyway) on my list of the best TLK songs.

Favorite lyrics:

And where the journey may lead me

Let your prayers be my guide

I cannot stay here, my family

But I’ll remember my pride

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Thanks for reading! Have you listened to any of these songs? Which one is your favorite?

3 thoughts on “Ranking | TLK songs

  1. Pingback: Tag | The Mystery Blogger Award | Havalah Ruth Peirce

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