“A Whole New World” may very well be the greatest song of all-time. Featured in Aladdin (my favourite Disney movie) it won the Oscar and Grammy for Song of the Year. It is actually older than I am (as many good songs are). I have heard it hundreds of times and never tire of it, even yesterday as I was hearing it in a store on an Echo Dot I was reading the instructions to. I’d say it is in the Mythic-tier of Disney songs alongside “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid and “Let It Go” from Frozen.
In anticipation of the mediocre looking remake we will be magic carpet bombed with by Disney’s vertical media integration marketing campaign (the movie opens in two weeks), and with the release of the awfully over-produced version of ‘A Whole New World’ by Zayn Malik and Zhavia Ward (shown below), I thought I’d take a look at some of the best versions of the song ever done and you can get at me which version I forgot to include even though your opinion matters a bit less because you don’t have a website.
This empty breathy auto-tuned rendition should be a strong indication of the style of remake we can expect. With an all-time Disney film roster that includes a remake of The Lion King, Toy Story 4, Frozen II, Star Wars Episode IX, alongside an over-budgeted Dumbo, and with the MEGA-BUDGETED Avengers: Endgame, as well as the moderately pricey Captain Marvel, the money had come out of somehwere. It is likely Aladdin might’ve gotten the short end of the stick. Although the costumes and casting of Aladdin is spot on (He actually is more attractive than Jasmine to the point where I would have gender-swapped the roles with Jasmine as the street rat going after Prince Ali for real.) The film looks a bit small shot unimagineably on a soundstage with questionable CGI. Still, I count on Will Smith’s charm and other ideas that go back to the original text 1001 Nights like Iago turning into a giant bird. Hopefully there will be some surprises in the interpretation. Blue face aside, I can see the casting of Smith as the Genie, but I have my concerns. Addressing the above video, Zhavia Ward from The Four is a talented singer and performer. Her rendition of “Bodak Yellow” is better than Cardi B’s original, but similar to Naomi Scott who is a bit of a commoner for Princess Jasmine she is not right for this type of song or role.
Zayn Malik I find medicore. Hate me all you want. I do not care for any of his singles, and One Direction did a fine album without him. The only song he’s associated with I like is the Taylor Swift collaboration for Fifty Shades Darker. I will settle for a mediocre modern Disney soundtrack that arrives with great fanfare if it means just a little more attention was put into the movie. Similar to the improved Jungle Book and Cinderella remakes which are musically more muted. Here it’s a barely warmed over of arguably the best version.
If there’s one thing the new version lacks, that the original soundtrack had it is SOUL. The sequence that takes place in the film is actually quite short at two and a half minutes, but it gets its power equally from the visuals that match so well with the music. It takes a lot of lift to power a magic carpet ride, as Aladdin takes Jasmine out of Agrabah and show her the wonderful life she’s missing. It really is a thrilling chase, through a wondrous place that’s exhilirating. The two versions both have performers with a lot of chemistry, but the ability of Peabo Bryson, who had done work with Disney on a wonderful Celine Dion duet rendition of Beauty and the Beast, and Regina Belle to take their time makes this version stand out. It feels as much their own song as it is the original performers (who I will get to). I can see why Disney put both on their original soundtrack (which dropped on Halloween 1992.) Just last month, Peabo suffered a heart attack and has been recovering in the hospital so be sure to send him some Facebook love for the credit he no doubt deserves. He also inspired American Idol Season 2 winner Ruben Studdard’s silky smooth performance.
I always loved Aladdin as a kid. Appropriate for this site it was the first video game I ever beat on the Sega Genesis. I watched the movie on VHS countless times, and I remember rediscovering it as my dad repurchased it on DVD when I was in split Grade 7/8. There was a girl a year above me in our class I’d say I liked about as much as Aladdin liked Jasmine. We had good chemistry and bonded over Disney animated films’ innapropriate subliminal messages (since scrubbed by Disney). She was the first girl I really liked based on personality alone but alas it wasn’t meant to be. Still that flying feeling did probably power 20 rewatches of this song. More so than I can say for my Twitch Sings rendition. The swift animation movements will be hard to cover in this remake. It’s not the realest take, that’d be completely against the purpose of it. But it feels real and with the escapist aspect puts together the best of what film is about. Shout out to the real Jasmine – Lea Salonga (still performing on Broadway) & Aladdin – Brad Kane (Pirate Show writer for Black Sails) reuniting after 23 years on Good Morning America and performing with much more character. Also that PIXAR employee sneaking off and doing both male and female parts. The song is available for everyone to karaoke a version Twitch Sings.
Aladdin opens in theatres on May 24th.