This article contains spoilers.
Given that the good folks responsible for the incredible animated series Steven Universe are performing live at a San Diego Comic-Con panel today, it seems like as good a time as any to share with the world the absolute best songs from the show.
Good music is good music regardless of where it comes from, but the fact that Steven Universe also happens to be filled with it is just a bonus. The show quietly subverting expectations for what exactly constitutes a cartoon on a network like, uh, Cartoon Network by tackling challenging subject matter in a way that’s digestible for kids (and without resorting to the darkness of, say, Bojack Horseman) is the shining star; the music being real good is just icing on the cake.
It’s worth noting here that only those songs with lyrics are included. The show has an impressive list of instrument tracks to its name, but we had to draw the line somewhere rather than just including every sing tune released so far.
“Stronger Than You”
“Stronger Than You” is the first big Garnet musical number, and it comes during a particularly energetic moment in the show as the Crystal Gems face off against Peridot and Jasper on the hand-shaped spaceship. Not only is this a big win for the Gems in general, but it feels like vindication for Ruby and Sapphire.
Possibly the most emotional arc in the show is that of Pearl and Greg both loving Rose. And yet, Pearl takes care of and just plain cares for Steven, the son of Greg and Rose. (Who is, because of how all this works for Gems, technically also Rose? It’s… complicated.)
“It’s Over” marks the first true solo for Pearl, which is highly symbolic considering how the show has made clear that’s she’s often defined herself in relation to others — and mostly Rose. Who is she without Rose? That’s something she’s clearly still struggling with, but comes out of the episode a little better than worse.
With so much sadness inherent to several of the show’s songs, sometimes it’s nice to just have a goofy number. “Mr. Greg” is an earlier song from the episode of the same name — which also includes “It’s Over” — that explores what it’s like for Greg to have a whole mess of cash and nothing to do with it.
“Comet” is a look back at Greg in his prime as a fledgling rock star, and it’s also the reason Greg and Rose met in the first place. It’s a very ‘80s tune, which is perfect for young Greg and his luxurious hair. In short, “Comet” is a space-faring anthem that truly rocks. Who doesn’t want to take a space train to the cosmos?
“Do It For Her”
Another song that focuses on how Pearl relates to others, “Do It For Her” is notable for being ostensibly about teaching Connie to wield a sword in order to protect Steven better. But in reality, it’s mostly about how Pearl managed to show her love for Rose through sacrifice.
“What Can I Do”
Ah, Pearl. “What Can I Do” has Pearl at her most petty, but it’s also a sweet music video for young Greg which features a duet with Rose and the rest of the Gems forming his band. Generally speaking, any song that explores Pearl/Rose/Greg is a song worth listening to over and over.
“Lapis Lazuli” and “Wailing Stone”
“Lapis Lazuli” and “Wailing Stone” are two sides of the same musical coin, and not just because they share a number of artistic similarities like basic melody and progression. Both are from the episode titled “The Message” — about Lapis reaching out to warn Steven about an impending invasion.
Each song speaks to the perceptions of certain characters by others. Lapis is someone that’s only, at this point, connected with Steven, and the rest of the Crystal Gems regularly look down on Greg. He’s just a human, after all, and there’s varying levels of resentment for him from each of them. These two songs belong together.