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Composed and Co-Produced by:

Lyrics by:
Howard Ashman
Tim Rice
Benj Pasek
Justin Paul

Orchestrated by:
James Shearman
Doug Besterman
Tom Kilworth

Conducted by:
Michael Kosarin

Additional Music by:
Christopher Benstead

Co-Produced by:
Matt Sullivan
Mitchell Lieb
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Walt Disney Records
(May 24th, 2019)
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Regular U.S. release.
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Decorative Nonsense
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   Availability | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... only if you wish to augment the 1992 soundtrack recording with the solid orchestrations of this adaptation, several of Alan Menken's themes impressively rendered with exotic embellishment.

Avoid it... if you expect the songs of the 2019 remake to compete on any level with those of the original, as the vocals are a poor match for the concept, the style obnoxiously modernized, and the villain's entry removed.
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WRITTEN 10/6/19
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Aladdin: (Alan Menken) There have been both successes and failures in Disney's quest to translate its classic animated tales to live action in the 2010's, and after the reasonably encouraging success of 2017's remake of Beauty and the Beast, there was hope that its original successor, 1992's Aladdin, would enjoy the same transition. Undoubtedly, though, the whole concept of Aladdin was culturally problematic for a live action adaptation, the studio long in hot water from the original animation over its depictions of Arabs. Their solution was to hire Guy Ritchie as screenwriter and director for 2019's Aladdin and give the remake a more modern sensibility, in many ways diminishing the charm of the original. A highly promising teaser trailer for the adaptation yielded a movie that failed to emulate key features of the inspiration and ignore facets of the proven formula, making this musical less effective. Critics were not thrilled by the results but audiences nostalgic for the Disney renaissance of the early 1990's flocked to the picture to extent of over a billion dollars of grosses. As with the equivalent for Beauty and the Beast, there are multitudes of reasons why the remake of Aladdin will both impress and disappoint. The basic story and musical numbers remain the same, the street urchin of Agrabah still destined to win the heart of a princess despite interference of an evil sorcerer and a benevolent genie. In expanding elements of the story and shooting them with cheesy slow-motion effects, Ritchie cheapens the whole affair, and his influence unfortunately taints the accomplished music for the film by Alan Menken. The composer's continued involvement with Disney is an incredible bonus for fans of his 1990's achievements nevertheless, and for many listeners, his work for 2019's Aladdin will merit affection by his mere presence. Whereas Beauty and the Beast experienced fairly significant evolution through its journey from film to stage and then back to film, Aladdin's equivalent path has been less striking. Aspects of the musical were indeed expanded upon for the stage, and those changes do inform the 2019 live action version on screen, but those who skipped the Broadway step of Aladdin won't feel as out of the loop here.

Menken's guiding role in Aladdin is familiar to the tact he took with Beauty and the Beast, updating the classic songs, adding some new material, and beefing up the score with robust orchestrations. In concept, that's great, but there are problems in casting, style, and spotting that harm this version of Aladdin significantly, so the end result is a frustratingly but not surprisingly mixed bag. The casting was the major problem with Beauty and the Beast, and with Aladdin, the same applies to a lesser extent. The early hiring of Will Smith as the Genie proved to be a love or hate prospect, and the entire situation with the villainous Jafar in this movie is a travesty worth a thousand words that won't come from this review. The shift from Robin Williams to Smith in the Genie role meant that the soundtrack's big band personality for his performances adopts a hip hop and rap influence that may jive with the director's sensibilities but is jarring in context. After much animosity between Williams and Disney over his salary for the 1992 film, the two sides finally made up a decade later, and it would have been interesting to see if the two could collaborate again on the character for the live-action version had Williams still been alive. After all, CGI can make anything happen. (Though that's part of the problem with this movie.) Meanwhile, the loss of Jonathan Freeman as Jafar is immense, as the villain's only song from the original is completely dropped from this recording. Freeman's growling voice is so enticing that he alone carried the otherwise forgettable The Return of Jafar sequel from 1994, and he portrayed the character all the way through the stage version of Aladdin. In full makeup, he still conveys a convincing Jafar, and he has aged well for the role. The two leads are sufficient, and although Naomi Scott will never compete with Lea Salonga for Jasmine or any other singing role, Mena Massoud as the titular character actually sounds quite similar to Brad Kane's original. No other character has a significant impact on the songs, but with the original narrator performing "Arabian Nights," Bruce Adler, having passed away, the remake opted to use Smith for the expansion of that song, with highly unfortunate results. The only returning voice is the incredible Frank Welker, who returns as Abu, Rajah, and the Cave of Wonders, the last one vaguely sounding here as if Megatron himself is lecturing us about the diamond in the rough.

The style of 2019's Aladdin is a really tough aspect of the soundtrack to analyze, because there is a diametrically opposed shift away from the original musical in both positive and negative directions simultaneously. On the upside, Menken has treated his orchestrations to the same fantastic reimagining that he brought to Beauty and the Beast, adding incredible depth and, in this case, ethnicity to the equation. The score is resounding, aided by a plethora of (albeit stereotypical) regional sounds in lending another dimension to the music. The use of oud, duduk, ney, and other instruments in tasteful applications throughout the score is a major plus, and the percussive layers are far more mature here as well. The ensemble's depth alone is a massive improvement. On the other hand, the songs' instrumental accompaniment has shifted brazenly towards the pop realm, a reflection, perhaps, of the kind of shifts you see in the small performing groups of live stage performances. Each of the major songs now has pop percussion backing it, a technique previously reserved by Menken for only the end credits variations on his main song per picture. Here, the infusion of thumping snare and the Smith-inspired genre bending of his major numbers may make the songs suitable for a Richie film, but they lack all the innocence and heartfelt character of their original genre. Even the humor is less refined. Some enthusiasts of the original 1992 recording will find the songs unpalatable because of these changes alone. The spotting of 2019's Aladdin also raises some curiosities. The melody of the new song, "Speechless," the usual yearning ballad for the heroine, is pretty and alluring, but it doesn't really fit with the personality of the other songs. Whereas "Evermore" was a natural extension of the songs in Beauty and the Beast, "Speechless" has the personality better akin to Frozen than Aladdin, mainly because of the divergent, ultra-modern progressions of its melody. When the "Speechless" theme transfers into the score, this distinction becomes clearer. Menken dropped the reprise of "Prince Ali" in favor of another "One Jump Ahead" reprise, and while the latter is very welcomed, the loss of the villain's retort to "Prince Ali" is unacceptable. It's extremely rare for a Disney villain to throw a hero's own song back at him (not to mention that Jafar bitch slaps Aladdin at this point in the original movie), and "Prince Ali (Reprise)" was the best orchestrated and among the most impactful songs in the first film. How can there be a Disney musical with no villain's song? Its loss is extremely disappointing.

With those general observations about the Aladdin remake established, a quick dive into individual songs and score tracks is merited. The most altered song on the soundtrack is "Arabian Nights," which is expanded nicely in structure but ruined by Smith's vocal performance and a mix that places him far too front in the soundscape. (The same issue happens with most of the songs; the 1992 recording ironically featured a wetter mix of the vocals, which helped the fantasy aspect of the whole story.) Smith's chuckles and other performance embellishments tend to get in the way of the enhanced orchestrations underneath. The actual expansion of the song is nicely done by Menken, and its new lyrics are careful to avoid accusations of racism that were prompted by the 1992 version. (It's not hard to remain partial to the original, offensive lyrics, though: "Where they cut off your ear if they don't like your face... It's barbaric, but hey, it's home.") The transition from the song's vocals to the Welker contribution as the Cave of Wonders at 2:15 is rushed and required a few more seconds of breathing space. Intrusive pop percussion in "One Jump Ahead" is extremely obnoxious. The most loyal song adaptation in this score, ironically, is "One Jump Ahead (Reprise)," which retains Menken's original sensitivity on woodwinds. The acoustic guitar accompaniment of "Speechless (Part 1)" is totally out of place in this context; couldn't a Middle Eastern alternative been utilized? This isn't some modern urban chick singing... or a John Rambo film. The performance by Scott is overwrought, too, the primary verse at 0:43 sounding as though she's auditioning for a James Bond song. In "Friend Like Me," Smith actually hits fewer notes than Williams, the recording far less polished. The expanded opening of "Prince Ali" is impressive, though Smith again lags behind Williams, especially by the time he yells repeatedly at the audience near the end. The bass accents at the Broadway line dancing portion at 2:50 are insufferable. What was formerly the pop rendition of "A Whole New World" has become the film version, the modern orchestrations cheap and out of place. The same applies to "Speechless (Part 2)," with Scott again losing all finesse in the performance and descending bass accents out of place. These aren't children's songs, folks. They're aimed at the people who were kids in the early 1990's and now expect everything to be overwrought for coolness. It's a shame, really, that there's more elegance in the ZAYN & Zhavia Ward cover of "A Whole New World" over the end credits. The DJ Khaled remix of "Friend Like Me" with Will Smith doesn't belong in this film, period.

Ratings Icon
Average: 2.85 Stars
***** 17 5 Stars
**** 27 4 Stars
*** 36 3 Stars
** 31 2 Stars
* 25 1 Stars
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Track Listings Icon
Total Time: 76:25
• 1. Arabian Nights (2019) (song) (3:13)
• 2. One Jump Ahead (song) (2:55)
• 3. One Jump Ahead (Reprise) (song) (1:00)
• 4. Speechless (Part 1) (song) (1:17)
• 5. Friend Like Me (song) (2:35)
• 6. Prince Ali (song) (3:29)
• 7. A Whole New World (song) (2:55)
• 8. One Jump Ahead (Reprise 2) (song) (1:06)
• 9. Speechless (Part 2) (song) (2:24)
• 10. A Whole New World (End Title) - performed by ZAYN & Zhavia Ward (4:02)
• 11. Friend Like Me (End Title) - performed by Will Smith and DJ Khaled (2:39)
• 12. Speechless (Full) - performed by Naomi Scott (3:28)

Score: (45:22)
• 13. The Big Ship (1:17)
• 14. Agrabah Marketplace (1:53)
• 15. Aladdin's Hideout (1:55)
• 16. Jasmine Meets Prince Anders (0:34)
• 17. Breaking In (1:46)
• 18. Returning the Bracelet (0:58)
• 19. The Dunes (0:36)
• 20. Simple Oil Lamp (0:52)
• 21. The Cave of Wonders (2:43)
• 22. The Basics (1:38)
• 23. Escape from the Cave (1:09)
• 24. Prince Ali's Outfit (2:18)
• 25. Until Tomorrow (2:03)
• 26. Aladdin's Second Wish (2:08)
• 27. Never Called a Master Friend (2:25)
• 28. Harvest Dance (2:26)
• 29. Jafar Becomes Sultan (0:57)
• 30. Hakim's Loyalty Tested (1:14)
• 31. Most Powerful Sorcerer (1:28)
• 32. Carpet Chase (1:49)
• 33. Jafar Summons the Storm (1:20)
• 34. Jafar's Final Wish (3:37)
• 35. Genie Set Free (5:36)
• 36. The Wedding (1:11)
• 37. Friend Like Me (Finale) (1:31)

Notes Icon
The insert includes a lengthy note from the composer and lyrics to each song.
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or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Aladdin are Copyright © 2019, Walt Disney Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 10/6/19 (and not updated significantly since).
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