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I Won't Say (I'm in Love)

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"I Won't Say (I'm in Love)"
Song by Susan Egan and Cheryl Freeman from the album Hercules: An Original Walt Disney Records Soundtrack
Released May 27, 1997
Recorded 1996–1997
Genre
Length 2:20
Label Walt Disney
Writer(s)
Producer(s) Alan Menken
Hercules: An Original Walt Disney Records Soundtrack track listing
"Zero to Hero"
(8)
"I Won't Say (I'm in Love)"
(9)
"A Star Is Born"
(10)

"I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" is a song written by composer Alan Menken and lyricist David Zippel for Walt Disney Pictures' 35th animated feature film Hercules (1997). Included on the film's soundtrack, the song is performed by American actress and singer Susan Egan in her role as Meg, the film's heroine, while singers Cheryl Freeman, Lillias White, Vaneese Y. Thomas, LaChanze and Roz Ryan provide girl group-style backup vocals as the Muses. However, only Egan and Freeman are credited as vocalists on the track.

"I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" is a mid-tempo R&B and doo-wop ballad reminiscent of the 1950s that incorporates both Motown and teen pop influences. Stylistically similar to the songs of American girl groups The Ronettes and The Supremes, its lyrics are about denying having romantic feelings for someone and parody those of traditional love songs. In the film's musical sequence, Meg realizes that she has reluctantly begun to fall in love with Hercules but constantly refuses to admit this, while the Muses insist that she stop denying her true feelings for him and embrace them. "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" was written to replace a slower, more emotional ballad Menken had originally penned for Meg, entitled "I Can't Believe My Heart"; the song was abandoned because Meg's animator Ken Duncan felt that it was not appropriate for her personality. Menken based "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" on songs he had written for his musical Little Shop of Horrors.

"I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" has been positively received by both film and music critics, who enjoyed its girl group-inspired arrangement, as well as Egan's sultry delivery and the song's refreshing difference from traditional Disney ballads; some critics even dubbed it the film's best song. While not one of Disney's most popular songs, "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" has since developed a reputation as one of the studio's most underrated. American singer Belinda Carlisle recorded a pop rock version of "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" for the film's soundtrack. American girl group The Cheetah Girls eventually covered the song in 2005.

Background and context[edit]

"I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" was written to replace a song composer Alan Menken had originally written for Meg because it did not suit the character's independent personality.

"I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" was written by composer Alan Menken and lyricist David Zippel.[1] Menken had originally composed a "soaring" ballad entitled "I Can't Believe My Heart" for Meg to perform,[2] which would have served as a solo for the heroine intended to depict her falling in love with Hercules.[3][4] However, Meg's supervising animator Ken Duncan disagreed with Menken's song because he believed that the character was simply "too tough" and "hardened by life" to perform such a soft ballad.[2] The writers also agreed that Meg "wasn’t a ballad kind of girl."[5] Therefore, Menken was prompted to write "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)", the style of which he based on girl group songs he had written for his musical Little Shop of Horrors, with which "I Can't Believe My Heart" was ultimately replaced.[2] Although she had liked the original song, actress and singer Susan Egan, who voices Meg, agreed that the much slower "I Can't Believe My Heart"[3] was not a suitable number for her character to perform because it was "too straightforward and literal", whereas "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" expresses a similar meaning, only "the way Meg would—without admitting any of it."[6]

Egan joked that although "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" was "fun" to perform, she felt much more "white" than usual recording alongside the five singers cast as the Muses, who provide the song's back up vocals.[2] Familiar with singers Cheryl Freeman, Lillias White, Vaneese Y. Thomas, LaChanze and Roz Ryan's Broadway work, Egan felt intimated by their powerful voices and riffing abilities.[7] Egan recalled, "Alan would say, 'Okay Lillias (White), just do a riff over there and LaChanze, you do a little something over here and Susan, just at the end, get from this note to this note and just do a riff.' I raise my hand and I'm like, 'Umm, can you plunk it out on the piano?' He looks at me like, 'Are you kidding?'"[7] While it took Egan half an hour to solidify only one of her riffs, the other singers recorded multiple takes of theirs within that same time; Egan was greatly humbled by the experience.[7] On the film's soundtrack, only Egan and Freeman are credited as vocalists on the track.[8] Menken also produced the song.[9] Danny Troob arranged the song while Michael Kosarin conducted the orchestration.[10] Egan would later lament that unlike her fellow Disney princess actresses such as Lea Salonga, Judy Kuhn, and Jodi Benson, she was denied a "soaring Alan Menken [solo] ballad" that she could easily sing outside the context of the film, as it requires interplay with backup singers.[11]

Recognized as Meg's signature song,[12] "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" has been identified as the character's "big moment of romantic realization" in Hercules.[13] Prior to "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)", the audience has only been exposed to Meg's cynicism; the song finally reveals that Meg's cynicism is actually a reaction to her romantic side.[14] "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" reveals that the character has fallen in love too fast before, and explains that she is afraid of repeating the same mistake once more with Hercules.[14] Despite her best efforts, the character realizes that she has in fact begun to develop feelings for Hercules much to her chagrin, but at first refuses to admit this;[15] the song allows Meg to "work through her denial".[16] Resembling an "admonishing" exchange between Meg and the Muses,[17] "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" is Meg's attempt to avoid the clichéd storylines of her predecessors.[18] Finally, after strolling a Greek courtyard while performing the song accompanied by the Muses who insist she is in denial,[18] the character's resistance eventually proves futile and she ultimately relents.[17][19] According to Taylor Weatherby of Billboard, the character "finally comes to a conclusion to which many a girl (or guy) can relate".[18] Tracy Dye of Bustle described the scene: "Joined by The Muses, Meg attempts to vehemently deny her amour for Hercules".[20] Writing for film critic Eric D. Snider's website, Kimber Kay joked that Meg "tries her best to give a top 40 rendition of her solo song, but it gets stolen by the magnificent Muses."[21] Additionally, the musical number predicts that one of Hercules' most difficult challenges will be trying to change Meg's opinion of him.[22] Writing for The Daily Dot, Aja Romano cited the song as Meg's "I Want" song.[23]

Music and lyrics[edit]

The song's vocals and doo-wop arrangement have been compared to the work of American girl group The Supremes.

Spanning a duration of two minutes and twenty seconds,[24] "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" was written in the key of C major at a tempo of 100 beats per minute.[25] Performed "freely"[25] in the style of a mellow[26] 1950s girl group number,[27][28] the ballad features "sultry" vocals by Egan.[26] The pop song[29] adheres to "the R&B motif" Menken uses throughout the entire film,[27] this time incorporating doo-wop.[30] Featuring "cooing shooby-doos and sha-la-las" by the Muses,[17] who perform "gospel-tinged" back up vocals and riffs on the track,[3][7] Jeffrey Gantz of the Boston Phoenix compared Egan's "soaring" vocals to those of girl group The Ronettes.[17] Describing "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" as "a traditional Disney [heroine's] lament," Vulture.com's Lindsey Weber acknowledged its "unique Motown edge", comparing the Muses' vocals to those of girl group The Supremes.[16] Musically, Irving Tan of Sputnikmusic described the teen pop-influenced "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" as "the closest the Herculean villa ever comes to approximating a Broadway show".[26] Combined, Egan and the Muses' vocals span two octaves, from G3 to C5.[25] Egan's vocal range is more restrained than those of the actresses who voiced Ariel from The Little Mermaid (1989) and Belle from Beauty and the Beast (1991).[31] Chelsea Fagan of Thought Catalog described Egan's voice as "sarcastic" and "smoky",[32] while Billboard's Taylor Weatherby coined it "soulfully belt[ed]".[18]

25-second sample of the R&B and doo-wop song, featuring Egan's lead accompanied by girl group-style back up vocals.

Lyrically, the love song[33] is about denial, specifically one's reluctance to fall in love or succumb to romantic clichés.[16][34] Meg discusses how cliché, insufficient and false love can feel.[32] Parodying "classic" love songs,[15] "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" differs in style from love songs usually associated with Disney films by offering "a unique spin".[20][35] Rob Burch of The Hollywood News dubbed "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" an "anti-love song".[36] Described as an "emotional barnstormer",[37] the song begins with Egan singing the lyrics "If there's a prize for rotten judgment I guess I've already won that",[25] which is soon followed by "Been there, done that".[30] Thought Catalog's Chelsea Fagan believes that first verse "sums up in four lines everything that we’ve ever tried to convey while on our third drink out at the bar with the girls", joking, "I believe this song would come shortly after dancing in a circle with all women, but just before the tearful texting of your ex".[32]

The song expresses "the hesitancy savvy women everywhere feel when trying to stop themselves from falling head over heels".[32] Gantz described the Muses' lyrics "Face it like a grown-up/When ya gonna own up/That ya got got got it bad?" as "admonishing".[17] Calling the song a "self-aware ballad", The Oxford Companion to the American Musical: Theatre, Film, and Television author Thomas S. Hischak observed that its lyrics are "filled with sly anachronisms".[38] Meanwhile, in his book The Disney Song Encyclopedia, Hischak referred to "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" as a "contradictory love song ... in which Meg denies her true feelings yet admits that she is quite taken with the brawny and naive hero Hercules", additionally observing the Muses' "oohs" and "ahs."[39] According to D23, "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" is a love song "For those who don’t want to admit their hearts’ desires,"[40] as the protagonist refuses to admit her true feelings for her love interest until the very last lyric.[20] Despite being a parody of love songs, "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" is nonetheless considered to be a love song itself.[41] The song's relatable last line reads: "At least out loud, I won’t say I’m in love."[18]

Reception[edit]

"I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" has garnered positive reviews from both film and music critics, some of whom even identified it as the film's best song.[22][27][35] Aja Romano of The Daily Dot hailed the song as Hercules' highlight that "satisfies us every time".[23] Writing for Indiewire, Greg Ehbar cited "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" as his favorite, describing the song as one of the film's "truly great tunes".[30] Ella Ceron of Thought Catalog called the song "a pop song made on Olympus."[29] Irving Tan of Sputnikmusic was especially kind towards the song, which he hailed as "the ultimate pantheon of Grecian achievement".[26] Tan continued, "the five Muses prov[e] that their pillow talk skills are right up there with the best of them", concluding, "The track also works well as an alternative to modern pop's teenage heartbreak music ... be sure to ditch Hilary Duff and play this instead".[26] Tracy Dye of Bustle hailed the song as "one of Disney's most addictive pieces of ear-candy," appreciating the fact that "it veers from the typical love-laced ballads we're used to."[20] Rob Burch of The Hollywood News called "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" a "refreshing change of pace".[36]

Beamly ranked the song fifth on its list of "The Best Ever Disney Songs", with author Sophie Hall dubbing Meg "The Celine Dion of the cartoon world".[37] BuzzFeed ranked "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" 14th in its "Definitive Ranking Of The 102 Best Animated Disney Songs".[42] Meanwhile, BuzzFeed also ranked the song Disney's ninth greatest love song,[43] while D23 ranked it 10th in a similar article.[40] Billboard ranked the song the 21st best song of the Disney Renaissance.[18] "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" is also considered to be one of Disney's most underrated songs, with the New York Post including it on their list.[15] Moviepilot included the song in a similar article, with author Jeremiah Paul describing it as a "hidden gem" which "should have been another classic", while praising Egan's performance.[44]

Cover versions[edit]

To promote the film, American singer Belinda Carlisle recorded a pop rock version of "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" in 1997,[45] which was included on the film's soundtrack in alongside Egan's original. Produced by Gary Wallis and Toby Chapman,[46] Carlisle's rendition was released as a single exclusively in France and Germany,[47] on May 26, 1997.[45][48] The single garnered critical acclaim.[49] American girl group The Cheetah Girls covered the song in 2005; their version was included on the Disney-themed compilation album Disneymania 3.[50] Their cover was released as a single.[51] An abridged version of "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" appears on stage in the jukebox musical Disney's on the Record, performed by Andrew Samonsky, with Meredith Inglesby, Andy Karl, Tyler Maynard and Keewa Nurullah providing backup vocals.[39]

References[edit]

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  49. ^ "Belinda Carlisle releasing singles collection". Music-News.com. July 6, 2015. Retrieved March 29, 2017. Critically lauded nuggets such as I Won’t Say I’m In Love (from Disney’s Hercules)... 
  50. ^ "Disneymania 3 Enhanced, Compilation". Amazon.ca. Amazon.com, Inc. Retrieved May 25, 2016. 
  51. ^ McCann, Bob (2009). Encyclopedia of African American Actresses in Film and Television. United States: McFarland. p. 361. ISBN 9780786458042. 

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