We ranked the songs in 'Mary Poppins' for its 50th anniversary
Today marks the 50th anniversary of Disney’s glitzy Los Angeles Mary Poppins premiere. As the recent movie Saving Mr. Banks showed, writing the music for Mary Poppins was not an easy task for composers Richard and Robert Sherman, who had to contend with prickly Poppins author P. L. Travers. “She was terrible to us—just very negative and unreceptive. I felt like we were drowning,” Richard told EW last year.
Despite all that, there’s a lot of music in this movie—probably more than you remember. The movie’s soundtrack features 16 songs with lyrics, and not all are as indelible as “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” or “A Spoonful of Sugar.” (Also, for what it’s worth, some individual tracks are variations on similar themes, like most of Mr. Banks’ songs.)
Without further ado, here’s EW’s ranking of every tune on the soundtrack. Try getting “Chim Chim Cher-ee” out of your head now.
16. “The Life I Lead”
This song has perhaps aged the most poorly. Mr. Banks is so smug: “It’s the age of men,” he declares. Not okay, Mr. Banks. Not okay.
15. “Fidelity Fiduciary Bank”
It’s all about investing—and, like the Banks children, you’ll probably stare blank-faced and puzzled when it plays. It’s hard to get excited about this type of material, even if Dick Van Dyke is moonlighting as the old Mr. Dawes Sr. Actually, maybe that’s the point. But still.
14. “A Man Has Dreams”
Aside from “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” which we’ll get to much later on this list, this is the most sympathetic of Mr. Banks’ songs. It doubles as a duet with Bert, who sings a bit of “A Spoonful of Sugar.” Unfortunately, it’s also fairly meandering.
13. “A British Bank (The Life I Lead)”
Yet another song about the glory of a bank. At least this one has some Julie Andrews on it.
12. “I Love to Laugh”
All that giggling is fun, but “I Love to Laugh” doesn’t really have much song to it.
11. “Step in Time”
“Step in Time” is a quintessential part of Mary Poppins, but it’s better as a number than purely as a song. The sequence is made by its choreography. Unfortunately, we’re judging based on listening alone for this ranking; hence, “Step in Time” gets demoted.
10. “Stay Awake”
Honestly, we’d take Julie singing sweetly over most sounds in the world.
9. “Jolly Holiday”
“Jolly Holiday” is the most egregious example of Dick Van Dyke’s terrible, terrible cockney accent. And, like “Step in Time,” this song grows exponentially in our hearts when coupled with the movie’s visuals— specifically, the animated animals and dancing umbrellas.
8. “The Perfect Nanny”
The Banks children sure were adorable, even if they admit as much in the intro to this song. Sure, it’s not the most melodic song on the soundtrack, but it may be the cutest. Try to remember to “never smell of barley water.”
7. “A Spoonful of Sugar”
The song is as sweet as its name—in fact, it’s almost too sweet if played to excess. Still, it’s probably the best use of Julie Andrews’ pipes.
6. “Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag)”
“Feed the Birds” certainly doesn’t have the pep of some other famous Mary Poppins tunes. In fact, even though it’s about kindness, it’s sort of a downer. This is your mom’s favorite song from Mary Poppins, i.e. the one that you come to appreciate more as you get older.
5. “Sister Suffragette”
Hear me out: Winifred Banks’ song about women’s crusade for voting rights is not only a great history lesson, but also funny and clever. Take, for instance the money lyric: “Though we adore men individually/ We agree that as a group they’re rather stupid.”
4. “Pavement Artist”
This is the version of “Chim Chim Cher-ee” where Bert sings about being a screever, drawing on the sidewalk. It’s hard to differentiate it from the next one on the list, but since it’s also difficult to disassociate Bert from his work as a chimney sweep, “Pavement Artist” gets demoted.
3. “Chim Chim Cher-ee”
“Chim Chim Cher-ee” actually won Best Original Song at the Oscars that year, and the Sherman brothers’ melody always brings chills. There’s something magical about it. You know, just like Mary Poppins.
2. “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”
“Let’s Go Fly a Kite” is the most listenable, soothing song on the Mary Poppins soundtrack, one that is peppy without being cloying. It’s perhaps the emotional heart of the movie, what with Mr. Banks deciding to spend time with his children and all.
Though we have a lot of love for “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” a Julie Andrews song belongs at the top of this list. And while “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” is arguably easier to sing, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” captures the zaniness of the movie. No one enunciates as well as Julie. Take lessons, Ariana Grande.