It’s human nature to contrast the new with the old. For starters, with Halle Bailey as Ariel for The Little Mermaid, we won’t be pushing a VHS tape into a video player, nor will Flounder be rounder around the cheeks. However, as much as our nostalgic brains churn with melancholy as soon as we hit play on this rendition of ‘Part of Your World,’ noticing that Ariel’s wonder-eyed epiphany of “I just don’t see how a world that makes such wonderful things could be bad” is taken out before launching into the song, it doesn’t take long before our hesitancy dissipates. For one, Jodi Benson and Halle’s voices sound so complementary after listening back-to-back, as if they both came out of the same merfolk cave, but as soon as we’re whisked into the high-note change of wanting more, our inner child is singing right along with her.
Halle Bailey recently sat down with Zane Lowe for Apple Music 1 to discuss precisely this: the original version’s impact on her childhood and stepping into the mermaid’s tail of Ariel herself. So not due to an act of comparison—remember, we’ve learned our lesson!—but by appreciating both versions, we wanted to spend some time touching on why they’re special in their own rights! We’ll start by flashing back to 1989 and then go through a whirlpool to end up in today’s times.
Not to have you lounging around in a bath forever, hoping the tips of your fingers turn all scaly as it’ll be the closest sensation to being a mermaid instead of “where the people are,” but apparently, a bunch of children who don’t know change-making songs when they hear one almost had ‘Part of Your World’ ripped from the movie! In a test viewing, their attention spans were far too short during the unfinished sequence, which caused Disney studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg to remove it. Thankfully, directors Ron Clements and John Musker were unrelenting, had animator Glen Keane finish it, and then the said children understood. We could’ve heard the song all staticky through a seashell for the first time, and we would’ve still known every lyric, but we digress! That’s why it’s also in Halle’s version, so it all worked out.
“Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat? / Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete?”
Much to our dismay, we do understand because the sequence is why the song works so well! By itself, you can channel all those icky bits of isolation and the desire to be somewhere else, somewhere where your heart already is, but by some happenstance, you’re stuck in a different world, so there’s just the anguish of needing hope. Still, with the help of the visuals, we can truly get there. It’s in seeing how expansive Ariel’s human trinket collection is, for we all know the grasping of doing or having something close to what you want but perhaps not quite there yet—maybe it’s pouring your emotions out into song for a lover you haven’t yet confessed to or knowing everything about a country you still have on your bucket list—that the music box chimes as she spins the couple, representing dreams you’ve had since childhood.
To the glistening noises, bouncing off sparkling fish, and the sun reflecting on Ariel, it’s “up where they walk, up where they run / Up where they stay all day in the sun.” She’s flicking through books and pieces of art, the only stories and interactions she can have with humans, because even though there’s a communication block there, it’s still a way for her to connect with them, and it makes the clutching of her chest to “when it’s my turn” so much more impactful. However, that block becomes even more apparent when she floats to the top of the cave, and only her hand fits through it, so she’s physically unable to leave, much like the separation between the water and the land.
I mean every time I hear Jodi Benson sing it, the nostalgia that I get is just amazing and it fills me up with so much joy. I get goosebumps all over so I was very excited to do my own rendition of this song and try my very best to give the song justice, you know, because it’s an amazing work of art.
Halle Bailey for Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1
With Halle’s, though, we don’t have a visual to go with it—they’re leaving it for the big reveal come premiere night—so only her vocals, and they’re sensational. We’ve already talked about the melodic trance of our brains hypnotizing us to think that Halle Bailey could very well be Jodi. If you were to shuffle the songs around and send them to us nameless, we might not have a clue. However, there’s more to it, which makes us think that if anyone had to troubleshoot Ariel for the next generation, we’re glad it’s Halle. It’s in her deflated “sure,” caught between the projections of the outside world and her father’s beliefs that there should be a divide between the humans and the merfolk, and her own desires of wanting to live amongst them, after claiming that others may think she has everything.
It’s in the Broadway stylizations of her voice during her admission, “But who cares? No big deal, I want more.”The production has also helped! After this line, there’s a pause in the track. Everything fades away—her voice, the percussion—and then Halle Bailey comes in once again, and she sounds younger. It’s like Ariel’s inner child is grappling this time, in verse two. It goes through waves of Ariel being so sure of her desires and knowing how much she’ll have to overcome to rewrite the ocean’s unwritten laws, playing more with the ohs and ahs after remembering particular human phrases and words.
“I’m ready to know what the people know / Ask ’em my questions and get some answers.”
Halle’s also given Ariel a voice of reason that trickles in on “Bet they don’t reprimand their daughters.” It’s less rose-colored glasses for the human world and more so trying to speak out that there’s some sort of injustice in the ocean. Then her voice is right back to flex with, “Bright young women sick of swimmin’ / Ready to stand.” The pure talent in the word “stand” will shock us in the theaters when it comes out of those surround speakers! It has humor and personality, blasting the hope up to a hundred and electing Ariel to be the main vocalist in The Catfish Club Band if she isn’t already.
Ariel is a very big part of the reason why I even wanted to get in the water being a little girl and learn how to swim. And she’s a very big part of who I am as an individual and learning, especially venturing into womanhood, what it means to want something greater and bigger for yourself and not being afraid to go after your passions and dreams.
Halle Bailey for Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1
As we make new memories around Halle’s version of The Little Mermaid, we reflect on the traditions we held around the one that came before. We’d love to hear about them over at our Twitter @thehoneypop, and how exactly you might incorporate them into this viewing, starting on May 25th, 2023.