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‘Little Mermaid’ Soundtrack Criticism Prompts a Question: Why Forget Broadway?

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The soundtrack for the new, live-action version of The Little Mermaid came out on Spotify yesterday, and while fans were clearly blown away by some of the renditions presented – like Melissa McCarthy’s “Poor Unfortunate Souls.” Unfortunately, some other songs weren’t as popular.

Critics online did not, overall, seem to be fans of the new songs added to the Little Mermaid soundtrack. They especially did not like Scuttle’s new song, “The Scuttlebutt,” sung by Awkwafina and composed for the film by Lin-Manuel Miranda, in part because it was so distinctly his style that it feels out of place surrounded by the music of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.

Related: ‘The Little Mermaid’ Star Launches Campaign to Join ‘Star Wars’

While the rest of the internet debates the casting of Awkwafina and the songwriting of Lin-Manuel Miranda, however, another argument has cropped up.

User @ThemeParkLore said it best:

Little Mermaid soundtrack sounds great! It’s just weird that it’s the third time Disney has had an entire album of songs made for a Broadway adaptation and used none of them in the live action remake, while creating songs that are objectively worse instead.

Related: Tony Nominations See Big Box Office Boost, Lack of Broadcast May Not Hurt As Predicted

Fans of the Broadway musical version of The Little Mermaid have been wondering – why would they write so many new songs for this new movie, when the songs from the musical were right there all along?

The Little Mermaid musical came out on Broadway in 2007, and it included a smorgasbord of new songs from which the composer and directors could have chosen. “Beyond My Wildest Dreams” is basically the same song as “For The First Time,” and arguably gets more information across.

“Her Voice” is a lilting, heartrending melody that one really cannot compare to “Wild Uncharted Waters.” Instead of “Scuttlebutt,” you have “Human Stuff,” which, while it doesn’t add much to the show, at least fits in with the other numbers.

User @Geo_Was_Here said:

I still haven’t heard the full soundtrack, but while it’s not fair to compare, “Wild Uncharted Waters” felt lack-luster when “Her Voice” was right there. I loved “Speechless” & “Evermore”, but I don’t understand why not use the songs that worked already.

This brings another point to the fore, which is that The Little Mermaid hasn’t been the only Disney movie to suffer this fate. Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin also had stage musicals that had wonderful added numbers, both were made into live-action films, and neither film’s soundtrack featured the iconic songs that Broadway fans had come to love.

@LeviathanPop said:

Yeah see this was my issue with Aladdin’s live action remake… I’ll die mad that To Be Free was replaced by Speechless. Name a bigger downgrade!

Similarly, @JoshFromOrlando said:

I will never forgive B&tB for not using Home but lifting it for a moment of score. All I know is Hunchback better be the damn music from the musical if they are not gonna bring it to Broadway

Related: Ursula Leak Spoils ‘The Little Mermaid’

Admittedly, the song “Home” was used in the live action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast…for about two bars of the score, in the moment in the movie where it would usually go. It was almost like a tease for fans who knew what it was.

Why Didn’t They Use The Broadway Songs in the Live-Action ‘Little Mermaid?’

Of course, the real reason that this happens is that a movie cannot win the Oscar for “Best Original Song” if none of the songs on the soundtrack are original to that movie.

In other words, they ignore the existing songs crafted specifically to expand and deepen the story, using actual score from the original movie – songs that were essentially peer-reviewed through the process of workshopping the Broadway show – to just invent something entirely different that The Academy might like.

This gambit has never worked. The only time it came close was when Mary Poppins Returns was nominated for “The Place Where Lost Things Go.” This is a slightly different conversation, however, given that the original film was already live-action.

We must wonder if it’s worth it for Disney to keep following this model hoping for an Oscar nomination, when they already produce scores of films with original songs worthy of Oscars – and when some of the songs they’re cutting from their soundtracks are from shows that have won Tonys for their original scores.

At a certain point, you need to embrace that you are, in fact, re-making something.

Do you think Disney should put Broadway songs in their live-action movies? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments.



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