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Beauty and the Beast: The Behind-the-Scenes Story of a Timeless Hit Song

CEO Tinh Phung
It's a tale as old as time, but the story behind the iconic Beauty and the Beast hit single is specific to the early '90s. Before the song's release in 1991, the world had yet...

It's a tale as old as time, but the story behind the iconic Beauty and the Beast hit single is specific to the early '90s. Before the song's release in 1991, the world had yet to fully recognize the talents of Céline Dion, Peabo Bryson, and Angela Lansbury. However, Disney saw the perfect storm brewing and enlisted the trio to create a chart-topping hit.

The Little Mermaid, released two years prior, had already garnered critical acclaim for its soundtrack, but "Beauty and the Beast" became the first Disney song to crack the Billboard Hot 100's top 10. It went on to win a Golden Globe, two Grammys, and an Oscar. While Lansbury provided the voice for Mrs. Potts in the film, Dion was chosen to sing the radio single, and Bryson was brought in to add name recognition in the United States.

In honor of Disney's live-action Beauty and the Beast hitting theaters, let's take a trip down memory lane and hear from Bryson and Lansbury as they share their experiences recording the original song, and their thoughts on John Legend and Ariana Grande's 2017 reboot.

The Making-of Process

Lansbury recalls recording her version of the song in October 1990, accompanied by the New York Philharmonic. She reminisces about the thrilling experience of arriving in New York just in time for the recording session. In a stroke of luck, Lansbury's first take turned out to be the one that made the final cut, perfectly capturing the essence of the film's pivotal scene.

Meanwhile, Dion and Bryson recorded their duet version separately with a glass partition between them. This setup allowed them to maintain eye contact while preventing audio interference. Bryson explains how he and Dion established a rapport during the recording, building trust and bringing out the best in each other's vocal performances.

Beauty and the Beast Song Image credit: Disney

The Lasting Legacy of 'Beauty and the Beast'

Lansbury reflects on how the importance of the song became clear after the film's release. She believes that the song resonated with audiences because of the romantic connection it portrays between two mismatched characters. As for Bryson, he admits that most songs can become tiresome with repetition, but "Beauty and the Beast" never lost its magic. He credits the enduring appeal of the song to its timeless quality.

Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts Image credit: Disney

The Challenges of Working with Duet Material

Bryson explains that singing Alan Menken/Tim Rice songs presents a unique challenge due to their structured melodies and specific emotional progression. While there are no vocal instructions provided, Bryson emphasizes the importance of bringing one's own interpretation to the music and infusing it with personal touch.

The Controversial Oscars Performance

The 1992 Oscars performance of "Beauty and the Beast" featured Lansbury, Dion, and Bryson on stage together. Bryson reveals that behind-the-scenes, there was opposition to their performance, with Lansbury expressing a desire to sing the song herself. However, Bryson humorously points out the impracticality of Lansbury, who voices a teapot in the film, wearing a teapot-inspired outfit for her performance. In the end, Lansbury still got to sing a verse, while Bryson and Dion performed the full duet, ensuring the song reached the widest possible audience.

Peabo Bryson and Céline Dion Image credit: Disney

A Heated Exchange with Jay Leno

Bryson recalls a heated exchange with Jay Leno during an appearance on his show. Leno wanted Bryson to share a story about the scarcity of tickets for the 1992 Oscars. However, Bryson refused to tell the story out of respect for Dion's emotions on that particular day. The disagreement escalated to the point where Bryson and Leno exchanged heated words. As a result, Bryson decided not to share the story after all, leaving Leno frustrated.

The 2017 Reboot

When asked about the new version of the song, Lansbury admits that she hasn't listened to it. She holds a special attachment to her rendition and prefers to cherish the original. Bryson, on the other hand, acknowledges the talent of the new artists but cautions against comparing their rendition to the original. He offers words of wisdom, explaining that younger artists tend to overcomplicate songs with excessive vocal flourishes. Bryson believes that staying true to the melody would have made the new version even better.

1991 Beauty and the Beast Album Cover Image credit: Disney

As we revisit the captivating story behind the Beauty and the Beast hit song, it becomes clear that this timeless masterpiece continues to touch hearts and captivate audiences around the world.