“A Whole New World” by Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle

As ridiculous Easy Listening oversingers of the Nineties go, Peabo Bryson is, for my money, far worse than the genre’s most common whipping boy Michael Bolton. The only time I’ve ever enjoyed his singing was when he played Lun Tha in The King and I opposite Lea Salonga, a situation that apparently inspired him to turn down the vocal showboating, and even then the part had been done much better by others. Apart from that, he generally sounds more unintentionally comic than smooth and romantic, and the problem is particularly severe on songs written for a musical-theater vocal style (like this, or his overblown “Beauty and the Beast” with Celine Dion, or, as a more obscure example, his embarrassing part in “You Are My Home” opposite Linda Eder on the Scarlet Pimpernel concept album). Regina Belle is a far more legit vocalist than Bryson, but her soulful contralto doesn’t sound right for a wide-eyed ingenue, which given the content of the lyrics is about the only thing the female part in this song can possibly be even outside the context of the movie, so she doesn’t make a great deal of sense in the part. The song itself is so ravishing melodically and lyrically that it manages to shine through to some degree even in this awkward rendition, but you’re much better off seeking out the Brad Kane/Lea Salonga duet from the actual movie.

Verdict: Great song, very disappointing performance (especially since there’s an obvious better alternative).

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