The Most Important Beauty & The Beast Song Is...

by S. Atkinson

What's the best song in Beauty and the Beast? If you asked the average person, their answer would be "Be My Guest," right? Or the fast-paced, jittery "The Mob Song"? Nope. According to the experts Disney assembled to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Beauty And The Beast, the best Beauty And The Beast song is "Belle." "What's 'Belle'?" I hear you cry. It's the seven minute song that opens of the movie, and, according to the musical experts that are Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, Disney composer Alan Menken, Frozen writers Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, and Broadway and Disney composer Stephen Schwartz, this song tells you so much more about the movie than you ever could have imagined.

According to Miranda, the song hinges on the line in the bridge: "Oh, isn't this amazing, it's my favorite part because — you'll see." He loves it because "It tells you everything you need to know about Belle." He's right and not just because he's Broadway hit creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and he's presumably right about everything. Miranda draws attention to how clever the song is and how unafraid the composer is to create a moment of metafiction: Belle starts the film reading a story about a prince in disguise, preempting her own discovery: the Beast isn't a Beast, he's a prince.

He also emphasizes Belle's function as both narrator and narrated: "She can't wait to tell you her story." Since Belle is a voracious reader, we can assume she's more aware of how to construct a narrative than most folks. Since she spends much of the film serenading us with her reactions, she effectively narrates her own story. The story's happening to her at the same time she's writing it.

What's fascinating about the song "Belle" is that it emphasizes one key fact: Belle isn't the only one attempting to build her own narrative. Check out Gaston's first sung lines in the song. "Right from the moment that I met her, saw her, I said she's gorgeous and fell/Here in town there's only she, who is as beautiful as me, so I'm making plans to woo and marry Belle." From Gaston's perspective, their marriage is written in the stars: their similar levels of beauty mean that the only ending he can imagine for his story is in Belle's arms.

This, to me, is profound. The story is larger than being just about Belle — it's about our attempts as human beings to write and control our own narrative and our inability to do so. Just as the Prince gets turned into a beast, just as Belle's father almost gets thrown into an asylum, so too, do we have no real ability to control what happens to us. We only have the power to control our responses to these situations, much as Belle does with the Beast, taming him and finally learning to love him. And that's why "Belle" is such an important song.

Images: Walt Disney Pictures