Princess Jasmine has long been considered a strong Disney heroine. Now, she finally has a song to show for it.
In the live-action “Aladdin” (in theaters now), Jasmine (Naomi Scott) gets her first solo. That’s a change from the 1992 animated film when the character only sang the duet “A Whole New World.” The new song, “Speechless,” is a dramatic belter written by Disney maestro Alan Menken, who composed the original “Aladdin” music, and “La La Land” and “Greatest Showman” songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.
“It’s a punch in the face. Let’s put it this way, it’s the hardest song I’ve ever sung in my entire life,” says Scott, 26, of the vocally demanding tune.
“Speechless” is a ballad with “Let It Go” levels of emotional power and “can’t stop me” lyrics.
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“The message of the song is really timely. It’s, basically: ‘You do have a voice. Your voice matters.’ I just feel very blessed that I’m the person that gets to sing it,” says Scott.
One lyric goes: “I won’t be silenced. You can’t keep me quiet. Won’t tremble when you try it. All I know is I won’t go speechless.”
Music supervisor Matt Sullivan says it was always the plan to add more music to the new live-action “Aladdin,” because “the original movie only had like 20 minutes of songs, which is light for a musical.” But in order to give the solo more reason for being, Jasmine’s character needed to be slightly tweaked from the animated version.
“It started to create this character that was a much more empowered version of Jasmine, a Jasmine who wanted to be sultan and not just choose to be married,” producer Jonathan Eirich says. “It really felt like that (song) was the critical moment to prove to her father that she was worthy to lead.”
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Sullivan and Eirich recall the time, two years ago, when Scott sang “Speechless” on the set and recorded most of her vocals live. They remember it as a day when the #MeToo movement had gone viral after sexual assault allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein were made public.
“We had talked about that song and this character long before this, so it had somehow coalesced on this day. It was really special,” says Eirich. “It was really emotional for Naomi, it was really emotional for everyone on set, and we just hope the audience feels the same way.”
Jasmine sings the first verse and chorus of “Speechless” early on in the movie, then finishes the song in the film’s third act. In addition to that new song, the character was intended to have a second duet with Aladdin (Mena Massoud), called “Desert Moon.”
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That song was shot but didn’t make it into the final cut of “Aladdin.”
“It was a love anthem between Aladdin and Princess Jasmine,” says Sullivan. “It was right before you get to the Genie, and right around there, you just want to see the Genie.”
“Aladdin” fans should be able to hear “Desert Moon” eventually, though.
“It’ll be on the DVD or iTunes extras, or somewhere in the cloud,” says Sullivan.
Contributing: Brian Truitt