The original Mary Poppins is an almost perfect movie, and the songs in it are a big reason for that. Naturally, the soundtrack for Mary Poppins Returns had a lot to live up to as a result. Mary Poppins songs have a particular style, one that the songwriters on this sequel film had to imitate without replicating exactly. The results were mixed. For the most part, the performers in Mary Poppins Returns, including Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda do an admirable job. Sometimes, however, the material is simply not there.
That's not to say that the soundtrack is completely limp. There are a couple of songs that work really well, and give this film a distinctive feel and verve. The songs ranked below run the gamut of quality, and they all come from the long-awaited Mary Poppins sequel. These songs are distinguished from the rest of the album they're featured on by virtue of having singers from the cast. Here is every song from Mary Poppins Returns, ranked.
Notably, this is the only song without a direct analog in the original film. It's also the song that unleashes Lin-Manuel Miranda's natural talents more than any other. Mostly, though, this song is just a rip-roaring good time. Oddly enough, the lyrical content is probably a bit too adult for most children.
Even so, it's a catchy, exciting song that isn't afraid to advance the style most fans of Mary Poppins are familiar with from the first film. It's here that we get to see Mary Poppins perform, complete with a wig. It's a fantastical sequence inside of the film. Outside of it, it's the soundtrack's catchiest song.
This is meant to be Emily Blunt's signature Mary Poppins song, and it largely works. It's buoyant and joyful, and smart in the ways it plays with the incredibly logical children at the film's center. With Michael and Jane in the original Mary Poppins, the titular nanny's role was to impose discipline. This time, Mary Poppins has to remind the children of how joyful it is to be a child.
This song does that perfectly and is a great introduction to this version of Mary Poppins. She's still stern, wise, and ageless. This time, though, she's going to try and have a little more fun.
This number is almost a prelude to "A Cover is Not the Book," but it's plenty of fun on its own. Emily Blunt gets the chance to growl a little bit, something Julie Andrews never did while embodying the character. The song as a whole works kind of like a riff on "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," but it has a slightly different tone.
To say that any of these songs have an edge would be a massive overstatement, but this is certainly one of the film's more rocking tunes. It's still a show tune by almost every definition, but one that brings a little bit of new life to Mary Poppins as a character.
Ben Whishaw isn't even close to the best singer on this soundtrack, but he's one of the film's best actors. "A Conversation" is a delicate, mournful song about grief. Wisely, Ben chooses to half sing, half talk his way through it, and turns in a moving performance as a result.
The song is short, but it has a lovely melody that seems to be a natural extension of Ben's performance. In the history of movie musicals, there are plenty of songs about grief. "A Conversation" is a beautiful, modest song that works as a continuation of that tradition. It's not a blockbuster, but it does its job well.
This closing number is a lot of fun. It doesn't work hard to be new or inventive, but it is delightful all the same. Just as the original film ends with a moment of almost pure bliss, "Nowhere to Go But Up" provides us a chance to share a moment of unabashed joy with these characters before leaving the theater.
"Nowhere to Go But Up" is also the only song in the film that features everyone in the cast. Although Emily Blunt doesn't do any singing, she still makes an appearance. It's a song about optimism, but one that recognizes how fleeting that feeling is.
Dick Van Dyke makes everything better. Does it have to be more complicated than that? His cameo in this film is thrilling in part because Dick is 93 years old and still unafraid of dancing on a desk. Even more than that, though, this song shines with the life that so many of the original songs from Mary Poppins had.
This song gets docked only for its brevity. Other than that, it's the film's best reminder of what the original felt like. It's a delightful, fun song that also feels strangely moving. Because of that, it's one of the movie's most perfect songs.
This is the big dance sequence, and it's a total rip off of "Step in Time." Like many sequences in the sequel, it's totally and completed dwarfed by its counterpart in the original film. Even so, "Trip a Little Light Fantastic" has some life in it. There's plenty of fun, intricate dancing. The song itself isn't particularly melodic, but it was the percussive elements that make it worth dancing to.
Big dance numbers are pretty hard to resist, and "Trip a Little Light Fantastic" is no exception. It's fun from beginning to end, even if it isn't exactly the most innovative song in the film.
This song is 37 seconds long, and there's basically no singing in it. Even so, it gives us a delightful reminder of Emily Blunt's total skill in the role. As Lin-Manuel Miranda's Jack and the cartoon animals surrounding them beg her to perform, Mary Poppins puts on a front. She acts as though she's reluctant. We know that's not the case.
It's this moment, and other scenes like it, where Emily's version of the character really comes to life. She's prim and proper, but she's not afraid to cut loose. As soon as she tells the band what key to be in, we know we're in for a treat.
Lin-Manuel Miranda is, for the most part, a delightful presence throughout the film. He's a brilliant songwriter, but the Hamilton creator is not the world's most talented singer. As a result, this number, which opens the movie, is just a little bit underwhelming.
Lin is playing a character very similar to Dick Van Dyke's Burt from the original film, and Dick couldn't really sing either. The difference is that he was still able to communicate feeling and emotion through his singing. Whether it's a result of the production or of Lin's singing, all emotion has been stripped away from this song.
The idea behind this song is beautiful and moving. It's a song about losing someone or something you love and remembering that it's not gone forever. As a meditation on grief, it's quite powerful. In execution, though, something just feels off. Emily Blunt does an admirable job of carrying the tune, but it doesn't really resonate.
It doesn't help that the natural point of comparison is to "Feed the Birds," a haunting and beautiful song that leaves a lasting impact. When measured against that high bar, "The Place Where the Lost Things Go" just falls short in terms of songwriting and emotional weight.
Reprises can serve a variety of functions. In this case, "London Sky" provides bookends for the movie, as Lin rides off in the film's final scene. The song doesn't work much better the second time around, and this is the point where both the movie and the soundtrack begin to drag.
"Nowhere to Go But Up" provides a perfect moment of joy and melancholy as we say goodbye to Mary Poppins once again. Everything that comes after that feels like the film working too hard. It's often quite difficult to find the moment where a movie should end, but it shouldn't have been with this song, quite frankly.
The scene where this song is featured is meant to be an emotional wallop. Unfortunately, because the melody is fairly unremarkable, the moment falls slightly flat. It's a chance for the children to take center stage, and while they perform admirably, they don't make an enormous impression.
This is a moment where the movie and soundtrack falter when compared with the original film. What was once a genuinely moving scene feels more like a retread here. The song is supposed to be about grief, but it doesn't really translate. Instead, it's a lifeless moment in a movie that is often filled with joy.
Adding a little bit of Meryl Streep to your movie rarely hurts. She's one of the world's very best performers, and she's rarely bad. In Mary Poppins Returns, though, her presence does feel a bit unnecessary. She's not helped by "Turning Turtle," which is a perfectly fine song but is almost completely unmemorable.
The set design in this scene is intricate and impressive. Everything else, though, generates a big shrug. Casting Meryl Streep in your movie does not give you an excuse to waste her. Unfortunately, Mary Poppins Returns does exactly that, failing to find any great reason for the character to exist.
This song is really more a footnote than anything. It only features a single line of singing from Lin-Manuel Miranda's Jack. The rest comes from an orchestra. It's a pleasing, gentle song, but it isn't exactly revolutionary. "Kite Takes Off" is just perfect music to leave the theater to as the credits begin to roll.
Of course, the kite plays an enormous role in both Mary Poppins Returns and the original film, so the song's name is significant. Even so, the song itself is fairly unremarkable, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's not bad, necessarily, it just doesn't leave much of an impression at all.