Well, at least of Seasons 1 and 2.
I’m still on a music kick, but let’s head a bit back into the wheelhouse. Steven Universe is a cartoon on Cartoon Network about a young teenage boy named Steven Universe and his family, a group of women warriors called the Crystal Gems (Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl). Along with his dad Greg and his best friend Connie Maheswaran, Steven saves the world and gets into many adventures in his hometown of Beach City. One of the best things about the show is all of the original music that they compose for the show, and how they use music in the show. This list will focus mainly on the songs with lyrics, but the use of music in the show is some of the most inventive I’ve seen in a while. That being said, the music with lyrics is absolutely amazing. Anyone here keeping up with Summer of Steven? Watched “Mr. Greg”? Yeah, you know the song.
This will only cover the first two seasons mostly because the third season isn’t over yet. I’ll probably do another list for season 3, but for now, here’s the list.
12. Love Like You/Nothing Like You (End Credits)
There’s still a lot that we don’t know about this song– who’s singing it? Who are they singing it to? (Steven? Probably Steven.) The piano makes me think Pearl, but the bridge doesn’t sound like her. What we do know is that this is the song that’s been at the end credits for most of the series, and it’s been building on itself for the longest time. Much like the show itself, the mysteries are still revealing themselves. There was a video put out not too long ago with the full lyrics, but it hasn’t appeared (as far as I know) on the show yet.
11. Just a Comet– “Story for Steven”
Who doesn’t love a good 80’s power ballad? Steven’s dad Greg was at one point in time an aspiring musician, and this was one of his songs. As Rose Quartz would say later: “His gimmick is space” which, honestly, what other gimmick could you have if your last name is “Universe”? The guitar descant at the end is a particular high point. This is actually the song that Greg plays at the concert where he meets Steven’s mom– a gem named Rose Quartz. Over the series we see in flashback episodes how their relationship formed and grew. It’s mainly through this that we begin to see Rose Quartz beyond the glowing praise that the Gems usually give her– Greg humanizes her in a way that the others don’t. Mostly because they really aren’t human.
10. Giant Woman– “Giant Woman”
All he wants to do is see them turn into a giant woman. (A giant woman!) It’s catchy. This is in the episode that first introduces the concept of fusion– that two gems can merge into one by performing a dance in order to make themselves stronger. This is an important concept in the show that is used to teach many very important lessons about relationships and consent, in a kid-friendly way.
9. Haven’t You Noticed (I’m a Star)– “Sadie’s Song”
(Use “Play in Browser” for SoundCloud stuff)
There are actually three versions of this in the episode: one with the titular Sadie singing, one as background music, and one with Steven singing. This version here is sung by Olivia Olsen, aka Marceline the Vampire Queen from Adventure Time which show-runner Rebecca Sugar used to work on. This one is interesting because it’s an actual song within the show– the first time you hear it it’s playing on the radio. Many of the songs are like that– it’s called diagetic music. This is music that’s actually happening within the context of what you’re watching. Non-diagetic music is music that you hear, but is not necessarily what the characters hear. Most musicals operate off of songs that are non-diagetic, the characters aren’t actually breaking out into song, this is just how they are conveying their thoughts and emotions to the audience.
8. Lapis Lazuli– “The Message”
Midway through Season One there is a two-parter that introduces the character Lapis Lazuli, another Gem. However, she is the first Gem we meet that is not a Crystal Gem– she forms a friendship with Steven before leaving to return to Homeworld, which is what the Gems call their planet of origin. This short song by Steven might not seem like much, but in every interaction with Lapis, we are introduced to more of her by her relationship with Steven. She doesn’t really want much to do with anyone else.
7. Be Wherever You Are– “Island Adventure”
This song isn’t actually talked about much within the fandom, probably because it’s from a Lars and Sadie episode, and while Sadie is fantastic, a lot of people just can’t stand Lars. But I find this has some of the most complex chord structure and melody in any of these songs, while still having the unique sound of a Steven Universe song. An underrated gem of a song. (See what I did there?)
6. On the Run– “On the Run”
Inspired by an in-universe book series The No Home Boys (a cross between the Hardy Boys and the Boxcar Children), Steven and Amethyst hit the road with just their bindles and some dreams. Amethyst is having some issues because she doesn’t have the same connection to Homeworld that Garnet and Pearl do, and a conversation at the beginning of the episode brought it back up again. It’s a road song, much in the same vein as “Movin’ Right Along” or “Send Me on My Way”, but it’s really Amethyst’s counterpoint in the final verse that brings this up to number six. The conceit of having two characters singing the same song but having them mean two different things seems to be a favorite trope of Rebecca Sugar.
5. Something Entirely New– “The Answer”
You might wonder why some of these songs are from YouTube, while others are from SoundCloud. The short answer is spoilers, especially with this song. (Also some just didn’t have great YouTube vids.) The two singers are Gems named Ruby and Sapphire, and they are walking spoilers. I can’t talk too much about this song without giving something away. What I will say is that one thing I learned in music is that you can have as much tension as you want so long as it’s resolved at the end of the piece. The slightly off-key singing of Ruby and Sapphire show how they’re not quite in-sync until they finally come together on the last harmony. Listen for that ending melody line later– it’ll show up again.
4. Peace and Love (On the Planet Earth)– “It Could’ve Been Great”
This song also has a walking spoiler in it. A Gem from Homeworld is left on Earth and taken in by the Crystal Gems. Steven attempts to help her see the beauty and worth of the planet, and here is where it seems to start working. I like the simplicity of the ukulele at the beginning, bringing in a more robust orchestration at the bridge, and then splitting up the melody between all of the Crystal Gems at the end. I also love the simplicity of the message. Is there anything that’s worth more than peace and love on the planet Earth? Add some sleigh bells and you’ve got a Christmas song right there.
3. We are the Crystal Gems (Extended Version)– Main Theme
This song was first introduced in the unaired pilot, and when the full version was finally released, it was everywhere– mostly because we got our first look at Yellow Diamond, a new villain. The song itself is a great theme song; it tells you who the main characters are, what they’re going to do on the show, and what their names are. It’s a very 80’s theme song in that way. It came back recently in a promo for season 3, repeating the part where Pearl sings “If you could only know/What we really are” and replacing the backing track with something far more ominous. It throws into question what the Gems are, besides sentient space rocks with solid light projections for bodies.
2. Do It For Her– “Sworn To The Sword”
Aka, “Freudian Slip: The Song”! The “her” in this case, is Steven’s mother Rose Quartz, with whom Pearl had a very close relationship. Steven’s friend Connie decides that she wants to learn how to sword fight so that she can help Steven save the world whenever it needs saving. Pearl views the relationship much like a noble and vassal, completely confusing the fact that Steven and Connie are actually friends, and want to fight together. You can see throughout the video that Steven is increasingly uncomfortable with what is happening. For the song itself, I love Pearl and Connie’s counterpoints, and the bridge where we see the flashbacks to the war for Earth’s freedom is definitely the strongest part of the song.
1. Stronger than You– “Jailbreak”
This is actually the song that got me into this show. For a bit of backstory, I follow (on Tumblr) a lot of people who like the webcomic Homestuck. Homestuck has a large crossover with Steven Universe (as does the video game Undertale, but that’s another matter entirely). So I got a lot of Steven Universe stuff on my dashboard. I know I’ve said this before, but everyone was talking about this episode. It was the season 1 finale, and some major things had been revealed. Basically Garnet is actually [spoiler] and this is revealed because Steven [spoiler] who is next to him on the space ship. [Spoiler] then takes off to find someone else, and a bit later (after a conversation with Lapis) Steven runs into [spoiler] who takes him to [spoiler] and then [lesbian spoiler]. It was really cool, and not something you’d think would happen, which made it even better. Then there’s the song itself, sung by Estelle, Garnet’s voice actress and a Afro-Briton R&B singer of some renown. She’s on top of her game in this song, and the animation steps up to match. The only disappointment that fans had was that Peridot didn’t have a rap verse in the middle. Which they promptly fixed.
Yeah. The Steven Universe fandom can be pretty creative sometimes.
Have any favorites that I missed? Have any thoughts on “It’s Over, Isn’t It?” or “Mr. Greg” in general? Let me know in comments!