WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Steven Universe: The Movie
After watching the Steven Universe movie, I immediately went to check if the soundtrack was on iTunes. And I was very happy to find that it was. The movie is far from flawless but I thoroughly enjoyed what it offered, and I think we can all agree that its songs are undeniably good, though I wasn’t expecting it to have so many of them (which, in hindsight, is really silly of me considering it was being advertised as a musical). I also wasn’t expecting to fall in love with many of them. I had previously written about my favourite songs from the show and I’m really glad I did that list before the movie came out because a lot of the movie’s songs would’ve ended up on there.
But while the soundtrack is overall great, which ones am I rather indifferent towards (because there are NO bad songs here) and which ones are my new absolute favourites? Well, to find out, let’s subject them to a Random Ranking!
First, some quick notes:
- I will be judging the songs not just on the music and singing but also on how they’re incorporated into the movie, how they progress the plot, how the characters are portrayed and the accompanying visuals
- This is not a definitive ranking; purely a personal one
Now, let’s get on with the show!
16. Isn’t It Love?
This one is easily the weakest song on the list. It’s got a perfectly nice tune, some pretty visuals, and you can’t go wrong with Estelle’s vocals, but it feels so… redundant. While it is nice to see the amnesiac Ruby and Sapphire fall in love with each other all over again (Sapphire saving Ruby this time being a particularly nice touch), it’s a song that covers a topic the audience is already very familiar with.
We’ve seen Ruby and Sapphire’s relationship grow and develop throughout the show. Garnet is a literal walking representation of that. This isn’t new anymore, and we’ve had better songs that highlight these characters. One of the big criticisms I have with the movie is that, with the Crystal Gems losing their memories, it becomes a highlight reel of the entire show and results in the characters needing to go through the same character development again, and Isn’t It Love? is arguably emblematic of that problem.
If I’ve come across as a bit harsh, let me remind you – there are no bad songs in this movie. This one is simply the least best. It’s all uphill from here.
Man, I actually feel bad having this song so low in the ranking considering what it’s about. Steven has learnt of Spinel’s history and, realising that she’s another victim of Pink Diamond’s mistakes, offers her a chance to make a new life for herself; an offer that Spinel gradually comes to accept over the course of the song. It’s really sweet, so why don’t I like it all that much?
Well, firstly, I find it a tad too short and slow for its own good. There’s no “hook” to it, if that makes sense. There’s nothing wrong with having a slower-paced song and it certainly suits the tone of the scene, but it ultimately means I don’t find it all that memorable. Secondly, it comes almost immediately after Drift Away, which (spoiler alert) I love a hell of a lot more. And thirdly, it kind of gets undermined only a couple of scenes later when Spinel relapses. That’s not to say that it makes the song pointless, though, since on repeated viewings, you realise that Spinel isn’t getting the help she actually needs during this song – she simply replaces her unhealthy obsession with Pink with an over-attachment to Steven, as evidenced by how she follows him and keeps her eyes locked on him.
It’s simultaneously heartwarming and tragic, but it just feels kind of lacking to me, and the fact that we get a better version of it later on doesn’t help.
14. True Kinda Love
Isn’t it hilarious how this was the song that was in the advertising and was clearly being pushed as the main song of the movie? Coz the Internet certainly disagrees. I’ve not seen many covers of this one, and that’s because it’s honestly one of the weaker ones. I mean, it feels like we’ve had so many songs from Garnet about love by this point. Get a new thing!
That being said, it’s main chorus is incredibly catchy and it’s got a really relaxing vibe to it. Plus, it’s got some good visuals to accompany it. The Crystal Gems reuniting, them managing to overcome Spinel through their teamwork (the complete opposite of their first encounter), them helping evacuate the townsfolk, and Steven singing the song to himself as he struggles to climb the injector, motivating himself to keep on so he can stop Spinel.
While certainly a fine song, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for picking it as their favourite, it feels like a bit of a retread and isn’t anything particularly new.
13. Independent Together
I don’t know why but I can imagine putting this song in the bottom half of the ranking coming across as “controversial.” I will admit, it’s got a lot going for it – the inclusion of Steg, (the Steven/Greg fusion I never knew I wanted), Deedee Magno Hall’s singing (which you should know I am incredibly biased towards) and Opal getting to sing for the first time in five years. But, for whatever reason, I’m not that big of a fan of it.
Maybe it’s because I don’t find it as catchy or memorable as some of the other songs. A lot of the later tracks I found myself listening to on a regular basis, as opposed to this which I’m content to play once in a while. I also don’t find myself gravitating towards Steg’s singing as much as Pearl’s. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not calling his actor, Ted Leo, a bad singer. He’s good… and that’s about it. Though it is really cool that he and Opal’s actor, Aimee Mann, are part of a band called The Both and get to perform a duet together. That’s a nice touch that’s greatly appreciated.
I’ll happily listen to this song if it pops up when I pick Shuffle on my iPod, but it’s not one I’ll actively go out of my way to listen to.
A part of me feels a bit disappointed that the song that ends the movie isn’t even in the top half of the ranking. This should be one of the best ones on the soundtrack but I must tragically deem it guilty of being only decent. Ridiculous hyperbole aside, I find it to be a less good version of Happily Ever After. There’s nothing wrong with re-using the song (I love recurring themes and leitmotifs), but it lacks the same bombastic energy that Happily Ever After has.
It’s not without positives, though. The message behind the song is great, since Steven has realised that his “happily ever after” technically doesn’t exist, since life is always moving forward and there’s new things to experience and deal with in the future. But, at the same time, as long as Steven is with his family and friends, he’ll always have his “happily ever after.”
Aside from that, you’ve got Steven segueing into Change at one point, a bunch of other characters joining in the song, and that last scene where it turns into a Broadway musical, with Steven and co. dressed in dapper outfits on a stage, complete with Greg giving his son a bouquet. If I’m being honest, that final shot almost makes me wish that’s where the show ended (though I’m still hyped for Steven Universe Future).
It may not end the movie with the kind of bang I was hoping for, but it’s still a good way to bring the story to a close. Though weirdly enough, I think I prefer how the story began.
11. The Tale of Steven
I don’t know about the rest of you but I think the way the movie opened was kind of perfect. It felt like one of those old animated Disney movies (which I’m pretty sure was intentional), with the credits shown first across some lovely background images, leading to a literal storybook that tells a very fairy tale-like version of the plot of the show.
But the best part is, of course, the song that plays. Primarily because, god damn, the Diamonds have phenomenal singing voices. We had heard Yellow sing before but this is our first time hearing all three and they are not only fantastic, but they harmonise with each other beautifully. And it also immediately highlights how much they have changed.
Before, they were so distant from one another, especially White, and now here they are together, thanks to Steven, and their song is a celebration of him, an expression of gratitude towards him, and them displaying how they’ve accepted him for him and not because they think he’s Pink. This song immediately tells you that the Diamonds are in a far better place and that Steven truly has managed to improve things for everyone, setting up the optimistic tone for the movie’s opening scenes.
So if this song’s so great, why is it not even in the top half of the ranking? Because from this point onward, the songs start to get really good.
10. Let Us Adore You
This one’s pretty short, lasting only a minute, but it spends that minute so well. Once again, we get to enjoy the Diamonds’ singing voices and I like the general melody of it, but it’s also kind of hilarious. These three were our primary antagonists for so long, and now here they are basically fawning over Steven, trying desperately to convince him to live with them. They’re like overly affectionate grandmas that don’t want their baby boy to grow up and move out.
The best part isn’t even the singing; it’s the part where they explain all the changes they made and try to use that to essentially guilt Steven into staying. “We’re decent people now so why can’t we be entitled to you giving up your life on Earth and living with us?” Steven admonishing White for her “lower life forms” comment will never stop making me giggle.
It is legitimately sweet, though, for the Diamonds to directly acknowledge that he isn’t Pink and they’re not just trying to replace her with Steven. If anything, the song further highlights that, while they’ve still got some lengths to go, they have changed and are slowly trying to improve themselves. Again, them even being all together and on the same wavelength is a big deal. As much as I like this song, though, I find the reprise it gets at the end of the movie to be even better.
9. Let Us Adore You [Reprise]
This one’s more or less exactly the same as the first time it’s sung, with the major difference being that it’s directed at Spinel instead of Steven, but then it seamlessly segues into Found, and like I said earlier, it’s a lot better here. This time, rather than sounding forlorn and desperate, the song’s much more enthusiastic and hopeful, as evidenced by Spinel’s singing and actions, where she’s practically bouncing along to the song as well.
I can’t imagine having two songs play at the same time and making them still sound good is an easy thing to do so kudos to whoever managed to pull it off. And then it gets better when Spinel and the Diamonds swap songs, with Spinel acknowledging, just like how the Diamonds aren’t replacing Pink with her, that they are not a replacement either. The reason why Spinel is drawn to them isn’t just because they remind her of Pink, but because they know exactly how Spinel feels and vice-versa. It’s actually kind of sweet that, even after what Pink did to her, it’s implied that Spinel does seem to still hold some affection towards her and doesn’t have jaded thoughts on the good times they had together.
While all four of them still have a ways to go, this song genuinely makes you think that they’ll figure it out together and that they’ve already taken that first step to change themselves. It’s the happy ending Spinel deserved, finding people who she can entertain and will love and accept her for who she is (notice that the Diamonds don’t critique her new look), and seeing her bidding farewell to Steven with a grateful smile makes me think that her and the Diamonds will make a better life for themselves.
Alright, we’re in the top eight now and, if I’m being honest, the reason this song is pretty high up in the ranking is not because of its plot relevance, its visuals, or how it progresses the story – it’s only because it’s an absolute banger.
With it being performed by Sadie Killer and the Suspects, it makes sense for it to sound like a bunch of angry teens discontent with the establishment yelling into microphones, with the loud, reverberating guitars and the chorus especially nailing that vibe. You didn’t even need Steven explaining that it’s all about quitting a crap job; the lyrics alone are enough to tell you that, and anyone who’s had to work in retail will find the song instantly relatable.
There’s not much else I can really say. Disobedient‘s just a great punk-rock song that’s perfect for banging your head to and acts as great stress-relief after a bad day.
7. No Matter What
I feel like an argument could be made that this song gets too repetitive, since the beat never really changes throughout, but I’ve noticed that I tend to enjoy songs that others deem repetitive anyway and my love for this song comes less from the actual music but the message behind it.
The whole point of it is Steven trying to restore Amethyst’s memories and remind her of who she is by re-living all of the experiences that made her. It makes so much sense for her to be the first one Steven was able to help because the two of them were very much alike and Steven witnessed all her major character development first-hand. He knows her like a sister and it’s lovely hearing him sing about how he’ll always be there for her.
The best part, though, is Amethyst starting to simply parrot Steven’s singing like she’s a newborn, and then gradually start to act more and more like herself and sing along with Steven, at one point overtaking him and saying things herself, showing that Steven is managing to break through to her.
Steven and Amethyst’s relationship was never one of the highlights of the show for me, but this is a catchy, sweet song that re-affirms said relationship and shows how, even with no memories, these two will always be close.
6. system/BOOT.PearlFinal (3).Info
Here we have a song I’m kind of surprised broke into the top half of the ranking, though considering it’s primarily a Deedee Magno Hall number, I guess it makes sense why I placed it pretty high (I just love her singing so much!). But I do have other reasons.
For starters, I like the general melody of the song, coming across like some sort of educational preschool jingle to try and help teach children, which makes sense considering it’s the reformatted Pearl explaining all of the Gems’ functions. I think its simplicity is why I find it so easy to remember. And while the situation is pretty dire, with the Gems having lost their memories, there is some hilarity to be found from Pearl’s comments and attitude. Her sudden subservience to Greg is uncomfortable but it is also played for laughs at times, especially with her referring to him as Um Greg Universe.
I also like the bit near the end when Spinel reforms as her original self, since the music becomes somewhat distorted. It matches Spinel’s leitmotif and adds to the sheer confusion and discomfort that Steven is feeling, since the Gem that tried to murder him less that ten minutes ago is now happily bouncing about and calling him her best friend. Not to mention it’s some fantastic foreshadowing to Spinel’s backstory.
My one complaint – that title. I get why it’s called that but it means that I’m never going to refer to this song by its actual name.
5. Who We Are
Bismuth isn’t one of my all time faves but, damn, was it nice to finally hear her sing. Funnily enough, I don’t think I was that big of a fan of this song when I first heard it, but I found myself loving it on repeated listens.
The song starts off with a more melancholy version of Happily Ever After, with Steven now exhausted and pensive. He thought things were finally over and he and his friends could rest, only for Spinel to ruin everything and make more problems for him to fix. But the mournful tune is quickly replaced with this techno beat that’s both heavy and comforting; a perfect fit for Bismuth, who sings about how things have always been tough for them but that she knows Steven is strong enough to pull through and help restore the Gems’ memories.
Uzo Aduba goes all in with this song and it’s hard not to also feel pumped up by her words, especially when she transitions into her own version of the show’s main theme; the melody gradually picking up to become slightly more intense and triumphant. I wish Peridot and Lapis contributed more but them joining in at the end was still great, and it further cements how far these three Gems have come since their debuts. Bismuth, Lapis and Peridot were all, at one point, Steven’s enemy, but Steven’s kindness and encouragement helped them make new lives for themselves and form new friendships. And now they have an opportunity to pay him back and support him in his time of need. Not gonna lie, that makes my heart swell.
I had originally placed this below Disobedient but, after listening to it again while writing this up, I knew I had to push it further up into the top five.
4. Drift Away
Oh lord, we’re at this one now. Since I haven’t said it yet, I need to clarify that Spinel is easily my favourite character in the movie, possibly my favourite character in the whole show and definitely one of my new favourite antagonists ever. So, naturally, I love both of her signature songs.
I don’t know what I can really say about this one, though, because if you’ve watched the movie, you already know why I love it. It’s just so sad, spending less than three minutes to fully explain Spinel’s backstory and why she arrived on Earth. It’s a far-cry from her first song, where all her manic energy is replaced with heartbreak and despair.
I’ve mentioned before that I love it when singers act at the same time and Sarah Stiles pulls it off beautifully. When she begins to remember, she’s blissful in her reminiscence and genuinely happy remembering the good times she had with Pink. But as the song progresses and we see her isolation, the doubt and despair creep in, initially blaming herself for why Pink wasn’t coming back. And when she sees Steven’s message, it’s hard not to cry with her when it finally sinks in that she was abandoned and forgotten. I love how her voice cracks in that last chorus.
It’s actually impressive how, in such a short amount of time, this song changes your perception of Spinel and not only explains her emotions but completely justifies them too. She’s no longer a threat, but a traumatised victim in dire need of help. Look, if you don’t know what I mean, just watch the video and you’ll see why I’m not bothering to explain it in complete detail.
This is another song that took a few listens to fall in love with and I’m almost baffled that I initially thought it was just “okay.” This song is easily one of the highlights of the movie and not just because it accompanies Steven’s final showdown with Spinel. I already found Zach Callison to be an amazing singer, but ageing Steven up so he could use his normal voice was one of the best decisions this show’s made because it means he gets to go all out with his singing. Like, seriously, I can’t get over how good he is. And he can still hit those high notes!
The actual music’s great too, since it has a sort of “final boss” feel to it that matches the tension and drama of the fight, but takes on a more uplifting tone towards the end as Steven’s hope and message start to break through to Spinel. As short as it is, the whole scene is fantastic from start to finish, as we get to Steven, now at full power again, able to completely tank everything Spinel throws at him.
Throughout the fight, he never throws a single punch, perfectly blocking Spinel’s hits as he tries to reach her and get her to stand down. I know a lot of us were eager to see Steven finally encounter an enemy he couldn’t help, but it’s rather inspiring seeing him not have to sacrifice his morals or what he believes in and manage to save Spinel. And as relentless as she is with her attacks, you can tell that a part of her wants to believe what he’s saying.
Spinel says that you can’t make things better by singing some stupid song. Change proves her wrong.
2. Happily Ever After
Now this was an instant favourite. The moment I heard it, I knew it was going to be one of my favourite songs in the whole movie. I’ve noticed that most of Steven Universe‘s song numbers tend to be quite short, which personally bugs me a little bit since it feels like I’m not getting enough time to fully enjoy them. This one, though, is over five minutes and I love every second of it.
While it is essentially a recap song, covering all of the main characters’ histories and how they got to where they are, it’s a satisfying round-up for any long-time fans who’ve been with the show since the beginning. We’re reminded of all the hardships these characters have faced, and now they get to enjoy their happy endings; endings that at one point they may have considered unreachable.
Steven and the Crystal Gems all get a moment to themselves, with the instrumentation changing to match the character, like Pearl getting some bass that she herself is providing (maybe representing her independence and freedom) and Garnet getting the smooth R&B. And then it ends with all four coming together and delivering a rousing and fulfilling send-off.
It truly feels like a celebration of these characters and the show itself. Honestly, I want this song to be how the series truly ends, and I’m thrilled that it’ll be the new opening theme for Steven Universe Future.
1. Other Friends
Okay, be honest, you’re not surprised that this song’s at number one. The moment I started planning this article, I already knew Other Friends would be at the top. The show has never really had “villain” songs before (with maybe one exception), so that already helps it stand out, but the music itself is something I don’t think the show’s tackled before.
The electric-swing is perfect for Spinel; the second you hear it, you already know what kind of character to expect – mad-cap, weird, and very dangerous. I especially love how distorted the music is when she first appears, highlighting how deranged she is and making her all the more ominous and intimidating.
I think what I love the most about it is, while a bit more of a “traditional” villain song in terms of the overall vibe it has, on a first listen, it’s kind of nonsensical. The lyrics only make sense to Spinel. The viewer and the characters have no idea what she’s talking about and I found it so fascinating and intriguing. I remember trying to decipher what she meant as she sung, but I couldn’t fully concentrate because I was also witnessing her flawlessly taking on the Crystal Gems without taking a single hit. It’s such a fantastic way of introducing an antagonist. And then when you learn about her backstory, you immediately understand the meaning behind her song. What amazing foreshadowing.
I love the second half of the song too, when Steven asks who Spinel even is, and you can practically hear her mind snap upon learning that her targets don’t even know her. While the first half has this odd playfulness to it as she stretches around and basically toys with the heroes, the second half has some slight ferocity to it, probably because any reservations that Spinel may have had are out the window and she’s primed to kill. It’s a very little thing, but switching “meet her other friends” to “beat her other friends” gives me chills every time.
Add in Sarah Stiles’ amazing singing, managing to switch between goofy, sinister, bitter and enraged seamlessly throughout the song, her demented movement, and her managing to defeat the Crystal Gems flawlessly, and it’s no surprise why this is the song that got all the fan covers on YouTube, or why I found myself listening to it on loop for days.