Warning: MILD SPOILERS ahead for Aladdin.
Aladdin (2019) is Disney's latest live-action remake of an animated classic, bringing not only a fresh spin to the story but the musical's songs as well. Directed by Guy Ritchie, Aladdin doesn't veer too far from its roots in the 1992 animated feature, but in the few places that it does, it's hard to argue with the changes as they do (for the most part) improve the film.
Unlike their previous remake of an animated musical, Beauty and the Beast (2017), Disney smartly chose to cast relative unknowns Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott in the roles of Aladdin and Jasmine, opting for actors who can sing (and sing well) over more established stars. However, again in the tradition of the 1992 animated feature, Aladdin (2019) lands their big name for the Genie, casting bona fide movie star Will Smith in the role. Smith's Genie may have earned some ire when his digitally-created blue form was revealed in an earlier trailer, but luckily, Smith has more than enough charm and swagger to make the role work. Not to mention, he's no stranger to singing (or rapping) a tune or two.
Aladdin (2019) includes all of the animated feature's original songs composed by Alan Menken with lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. Menken returns to expand on his Aladdin score for this film and is joined by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (La La Land, The Greatest Showman). The songwriting duo were brought on to help rework the lyrics to a few of the original tunes, updating them for modern audiences, and they also contribute a brand new song to soundtrack. Here's every song heard in the new Aladdin.
Opening Aladdin is a new version of "Arabian Nights" sung by Will Smith. He isn't the Genie here, but is rather the 2019 remake's version of the Merchant (originally voiced by Robin Willaims, with Broadway actor Bruce Adler singing). This version of the song is longer, with more lyrics that work to better establish the setting of the film. A few of the song's more problematic lyrics have also been changed. For example, the line "It's barbaric, but hey, it's home," now replaces "barbaric" with "chaotic", keeping the same rhythm but coming across as less culturally insensitive. "Arabian Nights" also includes a line spoken by the Cave of Wonders, with legendary voice actor, Frank Welker reprising the role (as well as those of Abu and Rajah) from the 1992 animated feature.
One Jump Ahead
Once in Agrabah, Aladdin moves to the market where the streetrat and Jasmine first meet. The sequence leads in to "One Jump Ahead", but unlike in the 1992 animated feature where it's Aladdin caught stealing, the Aladdin remake puts that crime on an in-disguise Jasmine. What follows is an exciting chase scene with some fun stunt work as Aladdin and Jasmine weave through the crowded streets and run across rooftops to avoid the guards. All throughout, Aladdin introduces himself via "One Jump Ahead", demonstrating his carefree nature and quickly charming Jasmine. The lyrics remain more or less the same as the original track, and even though Jasmine accompanies Aladdin in the scene, she doesn't sing (yet).
In the 1992 animated feature, Jasmine only sings during her duet with Aladdin, but in Aladdin 2019, Jasmine has her own solo number, and a more substantial arc to boot. "Speechless" has lyrics by Pasek & Paul with a score from Menken and is very much a power anthem for Jasmine. It's quintessential Disney, letting Jasmine speak directly to the audience about what she wants. "Speechless" is sung in two parts, once earlier in the film after Jasmine has her wish to become Sultan shot down, and later as she realizes she'll have to fight for what she wants.
Friend Like Me
Without a doubt, the Aladdin remake's version of "Friend Like Me" is what will receive the most scrutiny given the absolute iconic rendition by Robin Williams in the 1992 animated feature. Thankfully, though, Will Smith's Genie doesn't try to mimic William's performance and instead brings his own style to the song which, yes, includes a short beatbox break. There's also some great, Willenium era dance moves on display and the whole number pulls out all the CGI-stops to create a real spectacle. Die-hard song and dance fans will also appreciate the choreography's shout out to this signature dance move of the Nicholas Brothers.
While "Friend Like Me" relies heavily on the magic of digital effects to create its spectacle, "Prince Ali" - the number which introduces Aladdin's new prince persona to Agrabah - is a more old-fashioned musical production. The scene has dozens of costumed extras playing Ali's entourage, all of whom dance and sing along with Genie as they enter the town to great fanfare. There are a few lyrical changes from the original, most notably the removal of a line referencing Ali owning slaves and a switch from "Sunday salam" to "Friday salam" since Aladdin has a fictional Arabic setting and Friday is the holy day for Muslims, not Sunday. Most of the pop-culture callbacks and fourth wall breaking from Williams' Genie are also removed, as the number relies more on Smith's singing, dancing, and natural charm. However, Smith's Genie does still cross dress for a brief moment as a harem girl.
A Whole New World
"A Whole New World" is by far the most recognizable song from Aladdin and the remake does it justice by changing basically nothing about the tune. Massoud and Scott bring their all to the number, and while their rendition may never supplant the original sung by Brad Kane and Lea Salonga, their performances throughout help sell the still-developing romance between their characters. In the film, "A Whole New World" is also accompanied by a short scene of Jasmine and Ali-Aladdin observing the poorer residents of Agrabah throwing their own party, and even though it's a bit heavy-handed, it fits well with Jasmine's new arc to have a scene implying her "whole new world" includes wanting to be a good ruler to all her people, even those less fortunate. Also, as is Disney tradition, there is a cover version of "A Whole New World" by ZAYN and Zhavia Ward that plays over the credits.
Friend Like Me (End Title)
Following more in the tradition of Will Smith movies than Disney, Aladdin begins its credits with a new rap version of "Friend Like Me" performed by Smith and DJ Khaled. Anyone familiar with Smith's career knows that the 1990s saw him not just star in hit blockbusters but also sing a track for the soundtrack, and it's great that Aladdin keeps that tradition alive. The song is accompanied by a final dance number that works almost like a curtain call, even bearing some resemblance to the end of a Bollywood masala film.