Awkwafina’s ‘Little Mermaid’ Rap ‘Scuttlebutt’ Is Terribly Bad

When it comes to creating original music that is catchy and utterly unforgettable, Disney’s track record is second to none. But I don’t need to tell you that. You probably grew up with these songs. Either that, or you learned to love them when Disney Channel stars like Ashley Tisdale performed deafening pop-rock covers of them in the early 2000s, wearing the worst outfit you’ve ever seen, to some compilation CD collecting dust on your parents ‘ basement.

No matter how you first heard them, Disney has the hits. It’s impossible to deny – even for those like me who have all but eliminated their childhood affinity for the House of Mouse. I, however, am a victim of the songs of The Little Mermaid, because, before being human, I am gay. In my humble and strange opinion, The Little Mermaid has the best collection of original Disney songs, which straddle the intersection of the magical and the theatrical perfectly.

Naturally, I was looking forward to hearing these old favorites re-arranged in the live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid. After all, the movie stars the talented Halle Bailey as Ariel; the only way Disney could improve Ariel’s songs would be to get half the women behind “Ungodly Hour” behind the microphone. Turns out I was correct: all original live-action music Little Mermaid are equally as good or better than the 1989 soundtrack versions.

But I am just referring to these original songs.

Walt Disney Studio Films

Broadway’s biggest offender, Lin-Manuel Miranda, wrote three entirely new selections for the remake, ranging from “all right” to “sonic waterboarding.” The worst of all is “The Scuttlebutt”, a hamiltonsing-rap style led by Awkwafina, who voices the seagull Scuttle, a character who did not sing in the original film. And for good reason, it seems! “The Scuttlebutt” is such a terrible song that it almost imprisons the overall quality of the film in its grip.

If you’ve seen the original Little Mermaid, you know the suspense really builds in the last 20 minutes. This final act is introduced when Scuttle flies through Ariel’s bedroom window in Prince Eric’s palace, to tell the mermaid-turned-human that her lover has decided to propose marriage. This leads Ariel to discover that the sea witch, Ursula, became human in order to put a love spell on Eric and prevent Ariel from receiving her true love’s kiss, which would keep the mermaid human forever, thwarting Ariel’s greater plans. Ursula.

The entire Scuttle ad takes 20 seconds in the animated film. It’s an effective transition because the viewer’s hopes for Ariel rise quickly, before being dashed just as quickly when we learn that Eric isn’t asking our protagonist to marry him. In the live-action remake – which is already stretched to a staggering 135 minutes – this scene is filled with seemingly endless bloat, its effectiveness thwarted by Awkwafina’s voice spitting out Miranda’s irritating lyrics.

The song starts out unpretentiously pleasant, with a sort of Cross between animals– cadenced beat. That is, before Awkwafina enters the runway (as Scuttle does in the film), her raspy voice commands us: “Wake up! To wake up! Wake up!” I have enough trouble getting out of bed in the morning, I don’t need my brain to conjure up Awkwafina’s stern demands the second my alarm goes off, which it has for the last week since I first showed the film. She then proceeds to ask us if we heard the rumour.

“Scuttlebutt” is an old-fashioned word for gossip, rumors and chatter. This is how the character Scuttle gets its name, as it is the bird that flies all over the island watching its inhabitants. Scuttle is a great character for simple comic relief, because as much as he loves gossip, he can never remember the full details, let alone keep his train of thought on its proverbial track. That goofy quality is endearing to both the animated film and its remake – when Scuttle is talking.

Walt Disney Studio Films

There’s a reason this seagull doesn’t sing, and it’s because its bird-fuzzy brain doesn’t transcribe perfectly to lyrical music. Why Miranda decided to thrash this flying piece of chicken is completely beyond the realm of logical human understanding. Granted, Awkwafina started out rapping comedic raps, but the Nicki Minaj-meets-Twista style bars of Scuttle’s rap fly by so quickly that they shake the story’s audience completely.

Awkwafina features obtuse lyrics that are intended to mirror Scuttle’s distorted memory, such as when Scuttle tries to describe the wedding but cannot remember the word for it. “You know when humans dress up like penguins, throw rice to pigeons?” Scuttle rap-question. “They are trying to blow up the pigeons, but they are just urban legends, I know a lot of really fat pigeons.”

What? Forgive me, run this back. Now play it again a second time. Scuttle accidentally got into a bottle of prescription cough medicine? As an experiment, I tried to discern these lyrics just by listening to the song a few times, several times, but all I got was a throbbing headache and mood swing that ruined my afternoon. The song is only two minutes long, but it’s filled with Scuttle’s lyrical tangents to the point of pure madness.

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Watching in the cinema is no better. A CGI bird flying around, trying to explain to Ariel and Sebastian the crab what’s going on. I feel sorry for poor Bailey, who was certainly a cop on set for how many times she probably had to listen to this song. I would have begged on my knees for a Disney-sponsored lobotomy courtesy of King Triton’s scepter after the fifth take.

By the end, “The Scuttlebutt” turns into aural cottage cheese, with a lyrical delivery so thick you can barely make out a word. This scene, which is meant to introduce the film’s nail-biting finale, nearly thwarts all the good faith this hefty remake guarantees in the first two-thirds of its running time. It’s irrefutable proof that Miranda’s distinctive brand of musical terrorism has officially gone too far. God help us, he hit the kids! Only Tylenol with extra strength will be able to save the world’s parents now.

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