NEW
Rating Every Song from the CATS Movie
FOLLOW NERDIST TO STAY UP TO DATE
FOLLOW US

In an effort to either prevent us from losing our minds during the great social distancing or perhaps to let us lean into it in a therapeutic way, Universal Pictures released Cats early on digital last week. The subsequent viewing was my first time seeing the film. It has now become a permanent and ineffable presence of my consciousness. Unable to break free of the Cats spell, we decided to create a guide to the songs in the film. 

Usually, we rank songs instead of rating them. But given that there are so many musical numbers in the film, we decided to keep them in their original order and rate them all, on a scale of 1 to 5 toe beans. I did this so that you don’t have to. I’ve also tried to focus on the songs themselves and not really tear down any of the actors’ performances because I feel they’ve suffered enough. 

The following contains details of the plot of Cats. Yes, there is one.
Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats

The big introduction number. “Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats” is a bit of a shock if you’re uninitiated, but it’s definitely got a lot going for it. The song starts off kind of ominous, then moves into more of a banger. It’s the musical version of what the cats on screen are doing, sniffing you out as a newcomer and making sure you should be here. And once it knows you should, it is time to party. The song is a little all over the map, which frankly is a great introduction to the film. 

Rating: 4 toe beans

“The Naming of Cats / Invitation to the Jellicle Ball”

Both are more of an exposition device moment than full-fledged musical numbers. They serve their function, and they set up the purpose behind most of the other songs. These are “the song(s) of themselves of course, who they are and what they do,” which could be said of these particular melodies and how they relate to the overall film, but still, they’re mostly bridges. 

Rating: 3 beans

Jennyanydots: The Old Gumbie Cat

This one gets old for me fairly quickly. The mice and cockroaches are a bit of a mind-freak as they are introduced, but those lessen on repeat viewings. Overall there’s just too much reliance on the gags of Jennyanydots scratching herself or other similar physical gags, a joke that wears itself out fast. Plus all of the jazz scat breaks feel a bit laborious in an operetta like this. 

Rating: 1 bean

The Rum Tum Tugger

The upbeat nature of this song is fun, and it’s refreshing to get Jason Derulo in here because I firmly believe that most musical adaptations really need to prioritize actual singers over famous actors when it comes to casting. Especially in a film where the most famous faces are being covered by CGI “fur.” The standout here is the insanely catchy melody. The lyrics are a bit repetitive, which is fitting given the context. Mostly I just focus on the ethical quandary of a cat wearing a fur coat.

Rating: 4 beans

Grizabella: The Glamour Cat / Memory (Prelude)
Jennifer Hudson as Grizabella in Cats

Gonna put these two together because while they could technically be categorized as “asides” type songs, there’s just something compelling about whenever Jennifer Hudson shows up and delivers performances for the movie she thought this was going to be in her head. If nothing else, you kind of have to respect these repeated attempts to put the movie back on the rails that it insists on rushing right off of again. 

Rating: 5 beans

Bustopher Jones: The Cat About Town

Did Broadway and Hollywood make some sort of deal that each and every adaptation of a musical must now include a spot for James Corden? That’s just the way it is and there’s no use fighting it. Having said that, this does feel like one of the better uses of him. The movie already feels like an extended sketch from The Late Late Show and this song just leans on into that. Yet, despite that, it also feels like he’s sincerely delighting in being here, which lends some charm. 

Rating: 3 beans

Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer

Overall I’ve tried not to use the stage musical’s versions of the songs as a factor in this ranking, but I have to point out that this song suffers the most in translation. It’s the song that most stuck in my head as a kid from the live show, and it just feels so deflated in the film. It goes from an upbeat high energy number to kind of a sleepy, skulky number. It’s just far too mellow for how chaotic these cats are supposed to be. 

Rating: 2 beans

Growltiger’s Last Stand
Rating Every Song from the CATS Movie_1

I just want to see every moment of Ray Winstone being pitched this role, showing up on set, preparing to play a cat, and singing this song. 

Rating: 3 beans

Old Deuteronomy

This song serves a purpose, but it doesn’t make you as awestricken by the arrival of Old Deuteronomy as it wants you to be. Judi Dench is the only reason that the song really lands. The Dench creates her own anticipation. 

Rating: 2 beans

The Jellicle Ball
Rating Every Song from the CATS Movie_2

It’s got Dench. It’s got creepy harmonized whispering. And it’s got Ian McKellan who was seemingly given a script and then just shook his head and said, “Oh I got this, don’t worry.” All of this builds anticipation and once the song jumps up in tempo, you’re on board and excited. A solid on-its-feet landing for sure. Also, cats in sneakers doing cocaine nose sniffs? I gotta give it the edge just for that. 

Rating: 3 beans

Beautiful Ghosts / Reprise

Many Cats fans were annoyed at Taylor Swift’s involvement when it was first announced. It’s also risky to have a pop star, even a hugely successful one like Tay Tay, pen an original song to stick in amongst T.S. Eliot’s poetry. But we’re here to tell you that it absolutely paid off. This song is a highlight of the film. “Beautiful Ghosts” both fits in seamlessly and stands out immensely. The movie’s notably shaky release really killed the momentum on a potential campaign for Best Original Song at the Oscars this year and that’s a legitimate shame. 

Rating: 5 beans

The Moment of Happiness
Rating Every Song from the CATS Movie_3

Ain’t never gonna be mad at Dench. Our cat grandma loves us all. 

Rating: 3 beans 

Gus: The Theater Cat 

I don’t know how to say this without it sounding weird, so here it goes. Ian McKellan is very good at playing a cat. Out of all the cats in Cats, there’s just something so much more natural about his feline movements, how he drops them when necessary so as not to overdo it.  Even the way his CGI cat work blends into him. Not unlike Corden as Bustopher, this one slips by on pure charm, even with McKellan mostly talk-singing his way through it. Having said that, Tom Hooper did him dirty by leaving that very last note of the song in the final cut. 

Rating: 4 beans

Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat

The first time I saw this, I was torn between loving seeing the wood planks being laid out like train track and angry that in a movie with so many ridiculous sets, that they were going to just hang out in the Egyptian during a song about railways and trains. So when the train sets came in, I was delighted. We got both! But also this song is a much welcome burst of energy back into the film, after several slower numbers in a row. It’s the number where Robbie Fairchild’s Munkstrap actually seems really excited about the cat he’s introducing to us.

Rating: 5 beans

Macavity: The Mystery Cat

This truly is the number where you either give into what this movie is doing or you’re probably just done. It’s just got so much of what the initial trailer drop brought to the table. Taylor as Bombalurina dropping catnip like drugs while sporting kitty sized high heels (but not, it should be clarified, kitten heels). To cap it all off, Idris Elba suddenly realizing he’s in a film version of Cats and going whole-hog with it. This is the moment where the movie is trying its hardest to have a plot aside from a series of cats saying their names. And it definitely thinks it got there. 

Rating: 3 beans

Mr. Mistoffelees 

Like Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, this is the only other song where the notable change from the stage musical factors into my feelings towards it. I go the other way with it this time though. Switching the song from the boastful anthem into a rallying cry to get the shy Mistoffelees to believe in himself was an interesting choice. Following the Macavity song, the original version might’ve felt repetitive. Here, it’s actually kind of sweet. The only real ding to “Magical Mister Mistoffelees” is that it does slightly undercut what happens next with Memory. 

Rating: 4 beans

Memory

Look, this is the most popular song from Cats for a reason. There’s also a reason why Grizabella is picked to go to the Heaviside Layer. Jennifer Hudson brought it so hard to this movie and if Leonardo DiCaprio won an Oscar for what he made himself endure for The Revenant, she should’ve had one literally driven to her house. This is one of the rare moments in the film where it completely flips its ridiculous script. It is achingly beautiful. But, you know, with the human cats still. 

Rating: 6 beans, the Hemingway

The Journey to the Heaviside Layer
Rating Every Song from the CATS Movie_4

If you’ve hung on this long and this song doesn’t get you in the feels, you might be a little dead inside. It’s pure schmaltz, but it’s fun schmaltz. The Macavity moment is… unnecessary, but the movie really wants to pretend it has a plot. 

Rating: 3 beans

Finale: The Ad-Dressing of Cats

This one really goes on for quite a while, doesn’t it? I don’t wanna feel like I need Dench only in moderation but here we are. 

Rating: 2 beans

What do you think? Do you agree with our ratings? Are you still hung up on the concept of a “butthole cut” of the movie? Let us know in the comments below!

Featured Image: Universal

Want to watch for yourself? Cats is available for purchase on Amazon Prime.

This post has affiliate links, which means we may earn advertising money if you buy something. This doesn’t cost you anything extra, we just have to give you the heads up for legal reasons. Click away!