“Part of Your World” by Jodi Benson
As of this writing The Little Mermaid, starring Halle Bailey, is trending in theaters. Its success is in large part due to nostalgia associated with the original, animated version of the film that came out in 1989. And being that this is a Disney effort and all, of course music is a major part of the equation.
“Part of Your World”, as rendered by Jodi Benson, originally came out on 13 October 1989 as the third single from The Little Mermaid: Original Walt Disney Records Soundtrack and furthermore serves as the theme song to the movie. And to note, Bailey also lays down her own rendition of this piece in the newer, live-action version of the film.
Who is Jodi Benson?
Jodi Benson, who hails from Illinois, is a singer/actress. She is primarily a voice actress, and her signature work is considered to be voicing “Ariel”, the lead character of The Little Mermaid, back in 1989. In fact in that regard, she won a Disney Legend Award in 2011 in the category of Animation – Voice for said contribution.
It was Benson’s anonymous audition of “Part of Your World” which led to her landing the role of Ariel, which was actually her first voice-acting gig. In other words, the song proved very effective and can even be regarded as a hit. But that said, its eventual inclusion in the film wasn’t a smooth process. In fact Jodi Benson’s “Part of Your World” can go down in history as one of those classics which endured notable behind-the-scenes’ drama before ultimately being released.
Also, whereas Benson’s rendition of “Part of Your World” apparently didn’t chart, Billboard has memorialized it in other ways, such as listing their favorite covers of the song. And it has also proven to be a commercial success, i.e. being certified triple-platinum earlier in 2023.
The Team behind “Part of Your World”
In writing and co-producing “Part of My World”, Howard Ashman (lyricist) and Alan Menken (composer) were part and parcel of the late 20th century phenomenon known as “the Disney Renaissance ”.
As legendary as Disney cartoons may be, for a time there they sorta fell off the map, in that a really-popular one hadn’t, i.e. one that is considered a classic, hadn’t been dropped in a couple of decades, arguably since 1967’s The Jungle Book.
So it was actually the success of 1989’s The Little Mermaid which setoff the Disney Renaissance, i.e. the studio releasing a string of well-received full-length, theater-based animated features up until 1999’s Tarzan.
In fact Disney itself was not even expecting The Little Mermaid nor its soundtrack to blow up the way they did, which may explain why this song doesn’t have a chart history, in that they “had not thought to prepare a single version… at the time”.
Also interesting to note is that Ashman and Menken were originally tasked with writing a song that was romantic in nature. But they rather decided to write one indicative of Ariel’s internal aspirations. And their inspiration is a standard known in musical theater as an “I Want” song.
The other producer of this track is Robert Kraft, who at the time presided over Fox Music. And of course, it was made public through Walt Disney Records.
Artists who have Covered “Part of Your World”
This song has been covered by many artists, including quite a few A-listers, thus ranking it as one of the more popular Disney tunes of recent times. And amongst well-known singers who have laid down versions, besides Halle Bailey, are the likes of:
Faith Hill (1996)
Olivia Newton-John (1996)
Jessica Simpson (2002)
Miley Cyrus (2007)
Bruno Mars (2012)
Carly Rae Jepsen (2013)
Jessie J (2015)
Sabrina Carpenter (2020)
It has been pointed out by a number of analysts that even though there is a “your” in the title, there really isn’t a specific addressee of this song. Or if anything, said “your” would be akin to a personification of the entirety of mankind. In other words, this piece could have been more-aptly (though less-excitingly) titled something like ‘Part of the Human World’, as it centers on the vocalist’s desire to live on the surface, as people do.
On that note, it should be pointed out – for readers who may not know – that the vocalist is taking on the role of a mermaid. According to mythology, the upper half of a mermaid’s body is that of a woman but the lower a fish, i.e. a tail with fins. And due to that latter attribute, mermaids are relegated to living underwater.
So the character at hand, Ariel, is one who has dreams of residing on the surface, like a normal person does. And these lyrics do an outstanding job of sticking to that very idea – so much so that, even though “Part of Your World” has been covered by a slew of mainstream singers, it really doesn’t have a general applicability per se.
“Up where they walk, up where they run
Up where they stay all day in the sun
Wish I could be part of that world”
Or let’s say that if it does have one, it would be illustrative of a young woman’s longing to get away from home and explore the world. For example, in the second verse Ariel alludes to feeling as if she’s under the thumb of parents (which, in this case, would be her father) and has grown weary of being so.
But more the point would be her desire to explore the world in general. And of course, parents aside, being relegated to spending your entire life underwater would greatly minimize one’s possibility to do so.
Ariel is a princess and besides that a collector of human treasures, so it isn’t as if she’s in need of material goods. What she wants, more than anything, is to witness the type of wonders we surface dwellers take for granted, such as watching a fire burn, chillin’ on the beach or even having legs which enable us to engage in activities such as walking and dancing.