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The Little Mermaid: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

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Before Broadway was Disneyfied and Times Square became a mall, the best Broadway musicals were being written for Disney animated features by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman. Their songs for The Little Mermaid created the mold from which their even more popular work (Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin) would be cast. Almost every tune in Mermaid has its (slightly inferior) counterpart in Beauty, for example. But there’s no topping the Oscar-winning calypso show-stopper, “Under the Sea”–in which a Caribbean crab convinces you that “Darlin’ it’s better/Down where it’s wetter.” Other songs, just as delightful, are even more impressive in the context of the movie. The rapturous “Kiss the Girl” accompanies a scene in which, despite the whispered urgings of creatures all around, the romantic hero does not act on the title’s advice! That’s the kind of abstract dramatic (OK, comedic) conceit you’d expect from Harold Pinter rather than Disney. And the gruesomely hilarious “Les Poissons” gives us a fisheye view of a kitchen where the seafood chef is a sort of French Ed Gein–a sadistic murderer who brutally tortures and chops up his victims, then eats them! Who says Disney never did black comedy? “…I stuff you with bread/It won’t hurt, ’cause you’re dead/And you’re certainly lucky you are….” Lyricist Ashman may not have been Cole Porter, but he was the next best thing. –Jim Emerson

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