“Prince Ali” and Why We’re All Music Theorists

Fans are not happy with Will Smith’s update of the classic Disney song “Prince Ali” in the live-action Aladdin. Their complaint? The new “Prince Ali” is slow, sluggish, and dull. Indeed, the Smith version is 8 BPM (beats per minute) slower than Robin Williams’s 1992 original—a subtle musical detail. We dig into the properties of tempo and key to understand why people have such a visceral reaction to a relatively small change and consider whether it suggests that we—meaning all of us humans, from musicians to amateurs—are more musically literate than we think.