‘A Whole New World,’ in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful songs in the Disney canon. It certainly is one of my favorites. I am certainly not alone in thinking this, as it is the one and only Disney theme song that has won the Grammy for ‘Song of the Year.’ Moreover, it has the all the elements of what a perfect songs is for a musical. I always love songs when two people first meet each other, and this song captures that moment precisely, and Tim Rice’s lyrics open up two fold: on one end, it’s a literal (magic carpet) ride akin to a lovers’ ‘first date,’ but at the same time it is also a metaphor to a start of a relationship: it’s a whole new world, we are falling in love. Lea Salonga and Brad Kane sing the song flawlessly, perfectly expressing the exhilaration, the anticipation, the promise of a first romance. I don’t think I am wrong if I declare their version will be listened to long after I am gone. And while the original ‘pop’ version is a lesser, Regina Belle and Peabo Bryson both were able to capture in their own way the essence of a song.
Cut to 2019, and we are about to get a new ‘live action’ version of the movie, directed by Guy Ritchie. I will reserve judgement on the film till I see it, but everything I have seen and heard about it points to an (artistic) failure. And then we get this: the new ‘pop’version of this song, played at the end credits, and sung by Zayn Malik and Zhavia Ward (the old fogey me says ‘who?’ regarding the latter) Malik is completely wrong for the song – his ’emo’ sensibility is the opposite of what the song needs. He sounds sad, moping, detached. He mumbles half of Tim Rice’s lyrics, and when Ward comes in, you barely notice in the difference in their voices – I had to listen in to make sure another person was dueting with him. They have zilch chemistry, and I feel like she was only chosen because their names start with the same letter. And never mind lyric interpretation and sense of character – never for one minute did I sense that the song is about two characters about to fall in love. They sound like they are singing about cat food.
So, no. As afar as I am concerned, this version is an affront to the song’s legacy. No thank you, please.
I love a woman with a piano and was looking forward to listening to Miriam Luna’s ‘Piano and Soul.’ Luna, from my internet research, hails from Barcelona, and is doing the Germany circuit right now. The recording, unfortunately, is a bit flat. She is probably better in live performances, but the album doesn’t really have any zing in it. I give her props for an eclectic collection of tunes, but it’s all white noise to me, just like the one on her album cover. Her cover of ‘If I Ain’t Got You’ is probably the whitest version I have heard of it – soulful is the last word I would use to describe it.
Jan Daley is my kind of singer, someone who is like a throwback to the golden age of music. And I have written about this numerous times before, but there really is something to be said about a singer who is of a certain age, and you know that she knows exactly what she is singing about because she has lived the life int hose words. Her album ‘Broadway Memories,’ I am guessing is a collection of shows from the theater but why she included ‘You Raise Me Up’ here I don’t know. In my opinion, she works best at tracks where she is given room to breathe, like in ‘Losing My Mind’ or ‘Send In The Clowns.’ While I wouldn’t consider her a straight-up jazz singer, she gives these songs her own interpretations. On pop-ish numbers, she seems stifled.
Bibi Ferreira was one of Brasil’s greatest divas and I recently chanced upon her album ‘Bibi Ferreira canta Sinatra,’ which was probably reissued because she passed away February of this year. Some internet searching place this album from a live show of hers from 2014, and indeed, her voice seem a little on the ‘mature’ side here, but it isn’t without character. Clearly, this woman knows how to relay the messages of these songs and have the experience to back it up. Obviously, my favorite track is a medley of the Brasilian songs: from Meditation to Quiet Nights to Agua de Beber. but I thought she was just as effective in singing standards, like ‘Night and Day,’ and ‘I Get A Kick Out Of You.’ Her theater background even comes in handy as she sings ‘Ol Man River,’ and by God it is gorgeous. She i a little bit of a discovery for me so know excuse me as I try to dig up more of her work.
Even though I have heard all of Seth McFarlane’s albums, I never seem to come back to any pf them. His new album, ‘Once In A While’ may just change that. This album, in my opinion, is his best so far – it’s moody and melancholy, and it feels like an oil painting, and maybe that’s why the album cover is of a painting of him. He has compared this album to a Sinatra torch album, and I think he has achieved that. I think what I loved most about this album is the intelligent and emotional arrangements by Andrew Cottee. There’s an underlying sensitive sadness in the way the songs are presented, and it helps bring out the lushness of the lyrics. My favorite is his version of Peggy Lee’s ‘There’ll Be Another Spring.’ And of course, nothing beats an Irving Berlin ballad, and he interprets the tearfullness out of ‘What’ll I Do,’ and ‘They Say It’s Wonderful.’ There is such tenderness and longing in ‘You Are Too Beautiful’ that made me openly weep.
But of course, some people will think this too weepy and overly sad. But for someone like me who thrives in melancholy, this is pure bliss.
As a show, I can take ‘Dear Evan Hanson,’ even though I have problems with its score. I mean, is it just me, or does every Pasek and Paul song sound exactly the same? There’s no denying Ben Platt is great in it, though, and make the songs sound much better. But his style is molded in that modern melisma vocal-fry style that I really at times despise. I know Platt did a version of ‘Maria’ from West Side Story that was full of those things, and I cringed when I heard it.
So call me surprised when I that I liked his debut album, ‘Sing To Me Instead.’ First of all, his vocal style is muted. I always say, let the songs showcase your voice and it will shine on its own, no need for extraneous exercises. His songs may not much variety in style, but he expresses the emotions in them with great authenticity. They are also cohesive in message – songs about love and heartbreak that you can tell come from the same point of view, making them more personal and heartfelt. I especially like three songs best: “Grow as We Go,’ wherein he sings about maybe being apart as they grow together. There’s also ‘Older,’ which has the wise line of ‘When you are younger, you wish you’re older, and when you’re older, you’ll wish for life to turn around.’ And of course, damn if I can’t relate to ‘Bad Habit’ wherein he just can;t seem to let go of someone, as he expresses the need for that person to be in his life. All in all, the album is quite layered, and I bet as I listen to it even more I will be able to peel more out of it. Much has been written about Platt ‘coming out’ via the first music video for this album. but it hardly matters nowadays. Think of him as a more localized Sam Smith, just as relateable, just as bombastic.
Luke Murgatroyd played Phantom in Ireland and he has released an album, called ‘The Journey’ and you know me, I am always a sucker for vocal albums of theater performers. But this one kind of bored me – for me it felt kind of lifeless. While it is sung well enough, it seemed bland for me, akin to a lounge performance that would serve as ‘background.’ more than anything else. Do we need another ‘white’ version of ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight,’ or ‘Circle of Life,’ for example?