Top Ten Songs in Steven Universe
By: Justin Cummings
Yes, everyone is making this list; I know it’s not quite as out there and analytical as other pieces I’ve done but I figure I’d throw my two cents in on the subject. This list will be looking at the songs and ranking based on four qualities: lyrics, music, video, and episode context. Hopefully this list will show not just what songs are cool, but what methods have worked best at incorporating songs into the show. This will only look at the way songs air in the show meaning demos, instrumental versions, fan covers, and the extended theme will all be excluded from the list. (This list was written before Wednesday’s episode so “Peace and Love” wasn’t considered)
What earns this relatively simple poppy tune a spot in the list is that within the episode we hear it performed by three different characters. At first we hear Sadie’s fun, dancing with myself rendition, followed by Olivia Olsen’s radio version, and finally Steven’s performance version. This is the only song to fully get a vocal reprise, and helps show the three acts of the episode very well. It’s a bit of an experiment for the show and worked out great. The fact that Olivia Olsen lent her voice to this song also makes it special and helps it stand out as worthy of the number ten position.
This could be a case of recency bias which is part of why it’s so low on the list as I don’t want to overhype it. This is the duet we’d been waiting for, and boy was it worth it. I’ve been listening to it over and over again to get a better feel for it, and really what the crew pulled off here is incredible. The sing-talk mix in the middle, which was jarring the first time, actually enhances the emotion of the song, and makes its rawness flow better. The song also works in the context of the episode, as it becomes the first ever fusion song, and has chords from various others. The easiest one to hear is “Stronger than You,” which shows that the refrain common between these two and the instrumental “Reconciliation” is Ruby and Sapphire’s fusion song. All these well combined elements earn the number nine spot on the list.
#8: On the Run
This one kind of gets swept under the rug and forgotten a lot, which is a darn shame because it’s still Amethyst’s best song, and a beautiful duet. Part of its greatness comes from both parts of the song being from different perspectives. Steven sings about being homeless like he’s a character in his book; he’s pretending. Amethyst however has that longing in her voice that can’t be faked as she thinks about her life with the gems. It’s short, it’s fun, but thematically it’s pretty heavy and dives a lot deeper into the characters than you’d expect. In addition the video itself is adorable, with the two of them running away and getting into mischief. It’s not a magnum opus, but it’s still a great song.
At the beginning of the show seeing Steven sing was rather hit or miss; his voice just didn’t always gel with the song. This was the first song where I feel his voice finally came into its own. The video sees Lars and Sadie at their best, fully away from society and being themselves. It gives some of the best interactions between the three characters we’ve ever seen, particularly when Lars and Sadie cuddle up and Steven tries to join. Lyrically it’s a pretty song, not full of depth but fitting the Blue Lagoon tone the episode sets very well. The ukulele works perfectly on this song, and as one of the few songs in the show to focus on side characters it truly stands out.
#6: Just a Comet
Ah Greg, how we love you. This is the first song we see from Greg’s Mr. Universe gimmick in a flashback, and boy is it good. Whenever the show dives into rock music (haha get it, they’re rocks) it does an amazing job. When we first hear about Greg being a singer and hear his song in “Laser Light Cannon,” it’s rather cheesy, and doesn’t set the best standard for what’s to come. This song however makes me want to buy Greg’s album. It’s a full fledged music video, and as such has some awesome visuals and would work just airing on Cartoon Network as a bumper with no context. The lyrics are still a bit cheesy, but fit him a lot better than singing about his van. It’s a fun classic rock tune, and one we won’t soon forget.
The show’s first balled, “Strong in the Real Way” has an amazing structure, with the switch from piano to guitar as it goes from Pearl singing to Steven making it feel massive in scale in a short amount of time. Pearl’s vocals are just stunning as always, and her emotion really comes through. The two different ideas of strong, one mentally the other physically, are put to the test in this song and throughout the video with no real conclusion. This open endedness sets up the rest of the episode perfectly, and the fact this song upstaged Nicki Minaj is impressive in and of itself.
#4: What Can I Do?
Like I said, I’d buy Greg’s album. I don’t usually care for guitar solos but this song made me. The solo at the end of the song is simply incredible, both before and after we see the fusion. This also is the only time we’ve seen a fusion for the first time in a song, giving it importance not just to the episode, but the show as a whole. It’s also the second time we see the gems as a band, which is always a nice sight, specifically Garnet on keytar is hilarious. The fact that we also hear Rose and Greg sing is a first, which helps put it over “Just a Comet.” So many firsts happen in this song that it had to make the list, and the guitar simply puts it over the top.
Yes, I know, how dare I not make this number one. This is many people’s pick for the best song in the show, and don’t get me wrong it’s incredible and based purely on lyrics and music I probably would have picked it. Heck even based on video the fight scene is cool, but it’s just not enough to reach the top spot. The fact that this is sung by Estelle and I believe still the longest song in show history is very impressive though, and the style stands out among the frequent guitars and ukuleles of the show. The song is made even better in hindsight by the chorus being Garnet’s fusion song, and all around it’s a true (forgive me) gem.
#2: Do it For Her
Episode context, it’s all about context, and this balled oozes it. This song was the perfect way to show Connie becoming a better fighter, Steven becoming more concerned, and Pearl becoming more destructive. Many songs in the show could have been left out the episode felt whole, but this song is the glue that holds the episode together. it’s absolutely essential to bridging the gap in time and is the best montage song in the show. Connie does show some impressive talent and Pearl stuns as always, but to me, one song is just a bit better.
#1: Full Disclosure
Explaining why this is the best song to me is so difficult but I’m going to give it a shot. First, the structure. The song builds up beautifully, with the chorus beginning as a simple ringtone, and then layers being added as the song builds up. The lyrics are Steven at his most open, reflecting on some really heavy stuff and being completely honest with himself. The chords at the end of the song during the Malachite flashback are very memorable, and is honestly chilling. No song in the show has more heart, soul, or power than “Full Disclosure,” meaning in my mind, it’s the best song yet.