You’ve got to assume every movie-musical producer spends hours and hours agonizing about the best possible way to shoehorn a few new songs in among the classic numbers we all know and love. If we’re being generous, a new song does perhaps give filmmakers a chance to show off what they can do with a sequence everyone doesn’t already know by heart; if we’re being cynical, it’s a shameless Best Original Song Oscar grab. The practice leads to some mixed results. For every “You Must Love Me” (stunning, aching, Oscar winner) there’s an equal and opposite “Suddenly” (clunky, useless, Oscar nominee).
So, of course, it’s fair to approach the new songs in Beauty and the Beast with some trepidation, even though they’re written by Alan Menken and Tim Rice. But after sitting with them for a few weeks I’ve come to the conclusion: Dammit, I love ’em. Flaws and all. Let’s run them down:
“Days in the Sun”
One weird thing about the new Beauty and the Beast is that the servants feel like they have to take some culpability for the Beast being not a great guy. Uh, he’s your employer guys. You don’t have to try to make your boss nice! “Days in the Sun” is a lullaby about how they miss their good lives, but are hopeful still. Like the new “Aria” this song mostly just exists to let Audra McDonald flex, which there is no possible legitimate argument against.
“How Does a Moment Last Forever”
The less we speak of Céline Dion being replaced by Ariana Grande on the pop version of “Beauty and the Beast,” the better. Let’s hope Menken and director Bill Condon are trying to get Dion on another Oscar-winner with this soaring original.
Versions of this song appear three times in the movie and the best one to listen to over and over — especially if you’re just, like, really in the mood for crying — is Belle remembering a Paris that never really existed for her. The lack of any “canonical” version really benefits Emma Watson’s fragile voice as she sings, “Easy to remember, harder to move on / Knowing the Paris of my childhood is gone.”
Director Bill Condon told The Hollywood Reporter that they actually tried to get “If I Can’t Love Her,” the Beast’s big number in the musical, into the movie, but it didn’t work for the scene they wanted. Enter “Evermore.”
How amazingly audacious is it to put another song directly after “Beauty and the Beast,” the most famous song in the movie? I legit went to the bathroom after the big ballroom dance scene because I thought there was no chance of anything exciting happening in the downtime where they villagers are getting all riled up by Gaston. But then I came back to a new song! Honestly, if you have the opportunity to have a brooding character dramatically climb a tower while belting a love song, you should just freaking go for it. Josh Groban sings this song on the soundtrack because, of course. I usually listen to both versions back-to-back and feel zero ounces of shame.
So there you have it: The new songs are sweet and pretty, if completely unnecessary. But in case you needed a gigantic grain of salt to accompany this recommendation, now is the perfect time to tell you that I also still listen to Carly Rae Jepsen’s “All I Need Is an Angel” from Grease Live! every single day. Okay, bye!