'Little Mermaid' Star Halle Bailey Talks Working With Alan Menken and Lin Manuel-Miranda (EXCLUSIVE)
What is the 'Little Mermaid' lyric change controversy all about? Halle Bailey spoke with 'Distractify' about the Disney film's soundtrack!
Disney sent the internet into a tizzy when it was announced that singer-songwriter Halle Bailey was slated to star in the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid.
While some social media users voiced their concerns about Halle being cast as Ariel — who was white in the 1989 animated movie — others welcomed the step toward diversity. But the Disney princess's ethnicity isn't the only innovation that viewers will encounter in the film.
Fans will be surprised to learn that the lyrics to not one, but two key songs in The Little Mermaid have been updated for the 2023 version.
Ahead of the film's release, Halle addressed the controversy and shared what it was like working alongside the film's original composer, Alan Menken, and Lin Manuel-Miranda behind the scenes of The Little Mermaid in an exclusive interview with Distractify. Read on for more!
Halle Bailey talks working with 'Little Mermaid' composers Alan Menken and Lin Manuel-Miranda.
Halle does all of her own stunts in The Little Mermaid, and by stunts, we mean the riffs and runs. The singer follows in the footsteps of former Disney Princess Jodi Benson, who voiced Ariel in the original film more than three decades ago. "It was wonderful to be able to work with the musical team on The Little Mermaid. Alan Menken is a legend," Halle told us, adding, "Lin Manuel is great as well!"
"It was cool collaborating with them when they worked on the new songs for the film, and then, the original songs are still the same songs we all know and love. So I'm so so excited for people to see our new version," the singer gushed.
While developing the film, the cast and crew honed in on creating new classics while still staying true to the original soundtrack ... that is, of course, with the exception of a few minor changes ...
The 'Little Mermaid' lyric controversy explained.
Following the May 26 premiere of The Little Mermaid, the lyric change controversy set social media ablaze, yet again. A TikTok posted by user @gabriellaxoxo60 gives us a glimpse at the updates that were made to the song.
"There is only one way to ask her / It don't take a word, not a single word," Sebastion sings in the original film. "Go on and kiss the girl!"
The 2023 version, on the other hand, is a little different: "Use your words boy, and ask her / If the time is right and the time is tonight / Go on and kiss the girl!"
Speaking to Vanity Fair, Menken—the legendary composer who worked on the 1989 Little Mermaid with the late Howard Ashman—said that Sebastian's love song "Kiss the Girl" had been changed in order to remove any suggestion that "[Prince Eric] would, in any way, force himself on [Ariel]."
Since Ariel cannot speak during the scene, having lost her voice at that point in the movie, those lyrics have been the subject of debate in more recent years. Some fans believe that they suggest Eric should kiss Ariel without her consent, and Menken has now worked to remove that concern in the live-action version.
As is the case with many modern remakes, though, social media has been divided on the change. Some Twitter users have said that the updates are akin to "ruining" the songs, while others think they're an overreaction.
"Why did Disney think it was a smart idea to change the lyrics to the songs in The Little Mermaid?" tweeted user @incuworm. "Especially when the songs are as beloved as 'Kiss the Girl' and 'Poor Unfortunate Souls.'
'Poor Unfortunate Souls' is also getting a lyric update for the live-action 'Little Mermaid.'
Little Mermaid villain Ursula's major number "Poor Unfortunate Souls" is the other Little Mermaid song getting a lyrical revision. Menken explained to Vanity Fair that some of the original words could now be interpreted as "lines that might make young girls somehow feel that they shouldn’t speak out of turn."
Menken did acknowledge that the entire point of the song is Ursula convincing Ariel to give up her literal voice — but Disney doesn't want that to be interpreted metaphorically.
One line in the song is, "It’s she who holds her tongue who gets a man."
Yet some fans have counterpointed that since Ursula is an antagonist, she should be able to say (or sing) things that aren't positive. After all, her entire goal is to undermine Ariel.
It's worth noting that not everyone is bothered by the Little Mermaid lyric changes, though. In Deadline's report about the news, a commenter simply wrote, "Oh thank God."
But regardless of which side you're on, no one knows the songs better than Menken, who made them so beloved in the first place. If anyone can make changes and still preserve the magic of the original versions, it's him.
The Little Mermaid will be released in theatres on May 26, 2023.