Disney’s live-action Aladdin: Are the new songs better than the originals?


Disney’s live-action Aladdin has officially arrived, and the story is mostly unchanged. The soundtrack has definitely gotten some tweaks, though.

Hey, clear the way in the old box office – Disney’s live-action Aladdin has officially flown into theaters, and it doesn’t need three wishes for success. According to the numbers, Aladdin has had the fifth highest Memorial Day weekend ever. 

It’s impressive, and admittedly a bit surprising. There were many a Disney fan who expected – maybe even hoped – it would fail. But at the end of the day, it’s familiar and nostalgic. Disney didn’t need to do much to draw people to the theater.

That doesn’t mean they did nothing, though. Jasmine got a seriously upgraded story arc, and Will Smith certainly made the Genie his own, but most of the changes came in the movie’s soundtrack.

So, we’re taking a look back at the original tracklist to see what 27 years in Disney’s

Cave of Wonders

vault did for them.

“Arabian Nights”

In both the 1992 animation and the 2019 live-action version, “Arabian Nights” set the stage for Aladdin.

In the original film, an unknown merchant sings while traveling through the desert. It’s quite short, at just over a minute long, and mostly serves as a score to introduce the world of Agrabah.

In the live-action version, it’s much darker, and almost three times as long. Here, the Genie begins it as a way of telling his children Aladdin’s story. It moves much faster, and in truth, it gave this writer chills.

“One Jump Ahead”

“One Jump Ahead” gives us the first real taste of the pop modernization that spans throughout the live-action Aladdin.  Much like the original, it sets the pace and keeps the audience energized as Aladdin weaves through the marketplace, dodging guards.

Unlike the original, Aladdin is essentially singing the song to Jasmine in the updated version. It works well, and more clearly establishes Jasmine’s adventurous side – even if they do fail her moments later, having her freeze up when it comes time to pole vault the roof. Animated Jasmine wasn’t even a little daunted by that.

There was one key spot where it felt off: Mena Massoud (Aladdin) was mostly speak-singing the song. The final line – “All I gotta do is jump!” – was more drawn out in the original. It would’ve given Massoud the perfect chance to show a little range.

The reprises (yes, plural! Disney added in a bonus this time around) showed Massoud’s sweet, boyish tone a bit more, but for the most part, those were mostly spoken as well.

“Friend Like Me”

No one expected Will Smith to imitate Robin Williams’s original Genie of the lamp. It would’ve been impossible, and the movie would’ve suffered for it. Heading into Genie’s first number, it was near certain that Smith would rap a good portion of “Friend Like Me.”

Not only did he rap, he also beatboxed! And yet, the energy never quite got to where it needed to be. The song was much better on screen, with Genie’s fun shape-shifting and some new dance breaks. But in the end, it was almost as if they were afraid to let Will Smith go as big as he could have.

The live-action honored the original, but in this case, I’d much rather just be listening to the original.

“Prince Ali”

Full disclosure: “Prince Ali” is my favorite Disney song ever. I can admit I might have had the harshest eye on this one. But you know what? It didn’t disappoint.

Well, minus changing “Heard your princess was a sight, lovely to see” to “Heard your princess was hot. Where is she?” That was a wildly unnecessary “update.”

On the flip side, changing “He’s got slaves, he’s got servants and flunkies,” to “he’s got 10,000 servants and flunkies,” was much more appropriate.

Here, Smith was able to rise to the challenge. His energy was perfect all the way through, and he even managed to sneak in a few liberties. Nobody could’ve taken on this song in a new way but him.

“A Whole New World”

“A Whole New World” is one of Disney’s most iconic love songs. It’s the moment that Jasmine truly falls for Aladdin. It was an instant classic, and as such, must be done right. In Disney’s live-action Aladdin, it was.

Naomi Scott was the perfect choice for Jasmine, both in terms of acting and singing. There’s a purity to her voice that is so Disney-esque. Knowing exactly how important the ballad is, neither Scott nor Massoud chose to take any vocal liberties, and it was much appreciated.

As in the original, there was a second version of the song for the end credits. This time, it was done by Zayn and Zhavia Ward. They were a strong pairing, but seemed to just go through the motions. It was… very 2019.

Bonus: “Speechless”

In the original Aladdin, Jasmine was mostly just a princess who wanted to marry for love. She barely even wanted to be a princess.  In the live action version, Jasmine didn’t just want to be a princess, she wanted to be Sultan.

This time around, her arc was all about wanting to lead her people, to be both seen and heard. Jafar did everything he could to put her in her “rightful” place, but she rebelled at every turn. Naomi Scott is the Jasmine we needed in 1992.

So, for the live action soundtrack, Disney hired La La Land songwriting duo Benj Pasek and Justin Paul to write a brand new song for Jasmine. Titled “Speechless,” it was the perfect power ballad for Scott’s voice, and the story of the song seamlessly captured Jasmine’s spirit.

Final Grade: A-

All in all, the soundtrack fared a lot like the movie itself: fine. There were some fun updates, some needed ones, and some truly odd ones. Realistically, had Disney made too many changes, the integrity of the soundtrack would’ve gotten lost.

dark. Next. Aladdin review: Not quite a whole new world

What did you think about the new songs from Aladdin? Let us know in the comments.