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When we first meet him, Aladdin doesn’t appear to be Jafar’s “diamond in the rough” or a future prince for that matter. That’s because when we meet him in “One Jump Ahead”, Aladdin is fleeing the city guards after stealing a loaf of bread for himself and his pet monkey Abu.
The song takes Aladdin and Abu all over the market place of Agrabah. In fact, based on the lyrics in “One Jump Ahead”, Aladdin’s gotten so good at evading and eluding that he doesn’t seem overly concerned about whether or not he’ll get away.
One jump ahead of the breadline
One swing ahead of the sword
I steal only what I can’t afford
And that’s everything!
One jump ahead of the lawmen
That’s all, and that’s no joke
These guys don’t appreciate I’m broke
Riffraff! Street rat! Scoundrel!
Just a little snack, guys
Rip him open! Take it back, guys!
I can take a hint,
Gotta face the facts
You’re my only friend, Abu!
Aladdin and Abu try to hide in several places, the most notable being what appears to be a brothel (you know, the room full of pretty girls dressed in bright clothes that sing about “oh it’s just Aladdin again?”)
Oh, it’s sad, Aladdin’s hit the bottom
He’s become a one-man rise in crime
I’d blame parents except he hasn’t got ’em
Gotta eat to live,
Gotta steal to eat
Tell you all about it when I got the time!
One jump ahead of the slowpokes
One skip ahead of my doom
Next time gonna use a nom de plume
One jump ahead of the hitmen
One hit ahead of the flock
I think I’ll take a stroll around the block
At least that’s what someone claims it is on Tumblr, but another possible (maybe) explanation is that it’s a family of pretty girls, they’re all sisters and Aladdin just annoys them? (I really don’t want the brothel explanation to be true, because it weirds me out that Disney would put anything like this in one of their movies!!)
A recurring theme in the song is Aladdin being derided as “rif-raff….street rat…scoundrel…” etc. It’s clear the “respectable” people of Agrabah think very little of a poor kid like Aladdin. This point comes up again in the reprise to this song, after Prince Achmed informs Aladdin “You were born a street rat, you will die a street rat, and only your fleas will mourn you!”
Stop, thief! Vandal!
Let’s not be too hasty
Still I think he’s rather tasty!
Gotta eat to live,
Gotta steal to eat
Otherwise, we’d get along
One jump ahead of the hoofbeats
One hop ahead of the hump
One trick ahead of disaster
They’re quick, but I’m much faster
Here goes: Better throw my hand in
Wish me happy landin’
All I gotta do is jump!
Meanwhile, Aladdin continues to dodge and evade, but the guards are slowly closing in from all directions, forcing Aladdin and Abu to climb higher and higher, until finally, all they can do is “JUMP!” They get away safely, and the guards end up falling into a stinky pile of camel poo (ewwwwwwww, gross!)
However, after spending all that time and effort to acquire a loaf of bread to eat, Aladdin ends up giving it to two little kids who clearly need more than he does, showing that despite being a thief, Aladdin is a good guy at heart. After being insulted by Prince Achmed, Aladdin begins the long walk home, singing a sad reprise of “One Jump Ahead.” This part always got to me when I was younger (having been teased a great deal), because it talks about how all the people Aladdin knows judge him and put him down, but they wouldn’t if they really KNEW him. I really liked the last line “they’d find out/there’s so much more, to me…”
At the end, we get to see that Aladdin lives in a half ruined building that has a great view of the palace. Aladdin dreams about being rich someday, imagining that when he lives in a palace he “won’t have any problems at all.” Of course the complete opposite happens to be true, as Princess Jasmine knows all too well.
“One Jump Ahead” was one of the songs created by Alan Menken and Tim Rice after Howard Ashman passed away. Originally, this part of the film had a completely different number entitled “Proud of Your Boy”, a song that Aladdin sings to his mother (who is disappointed in how he’s living his life). This song was ultimately cut (but later restored to the Broadway play adaptation of the story) and temporarily replaced by a song entitled “Count on Me” before “One Jump Ahead” was finally selected. The song serves as a good introduction to Aladdin and his mischievous nature, and I enjoy listening to it.
So that’s it for “One Jump Ahead” and would you believe there’s only one song left? All that remains is “Prince Ali (reprise)” and that’ll do it for Aladdin!
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