'The Little Mermaid' Soundtrack: Everything to Know About the New Songs and Updated Originals
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The best element of Disney movie musicals is undoubtedly the music. Disney's live-action remake of The Little Mermaid gives audiences a mix of their favorite classics with modern tweaks, including three new songs and several updates to the soundtrack's iconic tunes.
The music reflects the film's refreshed story, which director Rob Marshall, producer John DeLuca, and screenwriter David Magee have explained they tweaked to implement specific changes showcasing a more modern Disney princess, addressing criticism that the original film featured a young woman who was too wrapped up in a man, and giving Ariel more agency.
The soundtrack features the vocal talents of the film's new cast, including GRAMMY-nominated singer Halle Bailey as the titular mermaid, Princess Ariel, Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric, Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, and Javier Bardem as King Triton, with Daveed Diggs as the voice of Sebastian the crab, Jacob Tremblay as Flounder, and Awkwafina as Scuttle.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, who teamed up with legendary composer-songwriter Alan Menken to write the film's new songs, previously told ET that "getting to write music for these characters that are probably the reason I started writing musicals in the first place, was actually easier than I thought."
"But the hardest part was my own intimidation working with Alan Menken, and that was entirely self-imposed," acknowledged Miranda, who also serves as a producer on the film, alongside Marc Platt. "But when it came to how these characters speak and what they say, I've known that all my life. So that was a joy."
When it comes to the new music, the live-action remake's additions include original new songs for Ariel and Eric, as well as a duet for Scuttle and Sebastian.
Eric, who gets an upgraded personality in the new film, yearns for the nautical adventures he finds on the open sea and the potential they hold to help advance his kingdom. He argues with his mother, Queen Seline (Noma Dumezweni), about how closed off their home is to other kingdoms and how his journeys could help them open trades and build relationships with other lands.
His yearning for the open seas leads to the biggest change for his character in the live-action remake -- his own "I Want" song!
While all Disney Princesses have their "I Want" song, a tune that conveys their main motivation in the film, princes are rarely given the chance to express the same. Ariel's big moment comes in "Part of Your World," and for Eric, it's "Wild Uncharted Waters."
After he's been saved by Ariel and sent scores of his men out to search for his mysterious savior, Hauer-King’s Prince Eric channels his frustration into the emotional song. Overwhelmed by his mother's dismissal of his voyages and his fierce desire to find Ariel -- of whom he has no real memory, knowing only that she has a captivating voice -- Eric wanders along the shore to express his wants through song.
The song alludes to Ariel -- perhaps unconsciously -- haunting Eric with her siren song and spurring his intense desire to find her. "All I ever wanted / Was the open sea and sky / Freedom from the life I always knew. / Now all I am is haunted / As days and hours roll by / All I ever think about is you," he sings. "Now I am on the shoreline / But I'm still lost at sea / In these wild uncharted waters / Come find me... again."
"We realized, of course, Eric had no song in the original," Marshall told IndieWire. "I don't know anything about him! So it was very obvious we needed to give him an 'I Want' song. And [with it], he becomes a three-dimensional character. It's a different genre. You're moving from a 2-D piece to a 3-D piece with real people."
"I took one look at it and heard it and was just blown away. It made me want to be even more involved with the project because it's such a special song. Musically, melodically, it's so wonderful," Hauer-King added. "We get to know him so well through this song. We understand him so much better. We understand what he's longing for and what his hopes and his dreams are. And we understand some of his frustration and his pain and longing for this girl that saved him and longing for something bigger."
He joked: "Obviously, it was sort of terrifying because I knew that meant that I'd be singing next to Halle. And that's a horrible experience, given how exceptional she is. But I just sort of did my best!"
Ariel is also treated to a new, original song! In a clever workaround for the mermaid-turned-human lacking a voice for a large chunk of the story, Menken and Miranda wrote a song for Ariel -- who only sings once in the animated film -- after she's been welcomed into the castle with her new legs.
The song, "For the First Time," serves for Ariel's internal monologue as she comes on land and experiences everything for the first time.
"Of course, by that time, she's lost her voice, but we could use this technique of actually hearing her internal thoughts and song," Marshall told IndieWire. "We were also able to use it as a musical concept where you take a song and it wraps around a whole montage, so it takes her from [getting] on land till the moment she meets the prince and past that. It was exciting to actually pull that all together with one big new song for her."
Menken and Miranda also teamed up for the Hamilton-esque rap "The Scuttlebutt," performed by Scuttle and Sebastian when they are trying to figure out whom Prince Eric will marry.
In the third act, Scuttle -- now sporting some new feathers as a gannet rather than a seagull -- dives into Ariel's bedroom in the castle to deliver some important information to the mermaid and Sebastian. But, because of Scuttle's inability to tell a straightforward story, the bird's message gets muddled as she and Sebastian parse through the facts to land at the big news.
"It was such an honor because I didn't even know Scuttle would have a song, and then I was surprised with that gift," Awkwafina told Comicbook.com. "And then also, Lin is an incredible songwriter. So it was so cool to have performed something like that with the help of Daveed, obviously."
When it comes to updates for the classic songs, two of them get significant changes. Originally, "Kiss the Girl" suggested Eric give in without asking Ariel first. "It don't take a word, not a single word/Go on and kiss the girl", Sebastian sings in the animated film. In the live-action remake, Sebastian now croons for him to "Use your words, boy, and ask her."
Menken told Vanity Fair the changes were done to avoid suggesting the prince "would, in any way, force himself" on Ariel.
For "Poor Unfortunate Souls," where Ursula originally informs Ariel that "on land it's much preferred/for ladies not to say a word" and that "it's she who holds her tongue who gets a man," the new version drops that verse entirely.
Menken explained some lines "might make young girls somehow feel that they shouldn't speak out of turn, even though Ursula is clearly manipulating Ariel."
Bailey's Ariel also gets to ad-lib during Sebastian's rendition of "Under the Sea." While the crustacean was originally backed by a bevy of sea friends in the animated film, the live-action adaptation gives Ariel a chance to join in on the fun.
"I think naturally, I just really tried my best to stay true to myself with every choice that I would make in acting, especially in the songs," Bailey told ET about the various song changes. "I was really grateful to Rob Marshall that he gave me the freedom to just be me and sing how Halle would sing. And some of those inflections and riffs I was allowed to do -- that was fun to be able to play because the original music that we have is so beautiful and such a staple in all of our childhoods; the fact that I got to tweak and edit it a little bit was like so much fun and a joy to have that creative freedom."
"Moments like those are really fun when you get to sing with your favorite songs," she gushed.
Fans can dive right into the soundtrack below and check out The Little Mermaid now out in theaters.
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