Cartoon Network has had many good shows, but Steven Universe is certainly among the elite tier of cartoons. The show has gained a massive (somewhat rabid) fanbase, a movie, and a limited sequel series. And for good reason. The show’s messages, characters, themes, and storylines are all intricately crafted, and while at times it’s messy, it’s never wholly unsatisfying. Likewise, it is a landmark cartoon for LGBTQ representation, in that the characters’ identities and orientations are critical to the show, influencing their decisions and who they are. It goes beyond surface-level representation or a cheap twist. It’s not something that can be wiped away or avoided, it’s an integral part of the show at every step.
Among the best things the production has to offer is another integral part of the show: its music. Rebecca Sugar has many talents, music composition among them (as seen in Adventure Time), so it was only natural that Steven Universe would be riddled with good music. Here are 10 of the best songs in the show’s run, including the film, based on music and on relevance to the story and characters.
10 Do It For Her
Perhaps the most Pearl-centric song there could possibly be, “Do It For Her” comes when Pearl decides to take Connie on as a sword-fighting student to better protect Steven in missions. Obviously, with Steven being the new host of his mother’s gem, and with his mother, Rose, being Pearl’s ex, there are a lot of personal feelings going into the training.
The song works to showcase Connie’s evolution into a fighter through montage, Pearl’s unhealthy obsession to protect Rose/Steven, and Steven’s growing awareness of the situation. The song also comes back a few episodes later when Pearl sings the chorus briefly in a phone call with Connie, pretty much confirming Steven Universe‘s music is diegetic.
9 Peace And Love On The Planet Earth
The Peridot redemption story is one of the most heartwarming and hilarious plotlines in Steven Universe‘s run. While the song is very humble and brief, all of the Crystal Gems manage to get a line in, including Peridot, hinting at her gradual redemption.
She is shy, nervous, and inquisitive as to why she should sing, but when she does, it’s endearing. The simple plucks from the ukelele and simplistic lyrics are a nice breather from the end of the world stakes the plot rests on.
8 Happily Ever After
Steven Universe: The Movie was a great addition to Cartoon Network’s original movies. It boasted an impressive array of songs in its relatively short runtime, and as it was a musical, the need to move the plot forward effectively was critical.
“Happily Ever After” does an incredible job summarizing the show’s plot for new viewers, reminiscing on the nostalgic past for fans, and showcasing the two-year time-jump from the original series. It’s a standout in a movie full of strong musical numbers.
7 Other Friends
Speaking of Steven Universe: The Movie, it followed an animated cartoon tradition of giving the villain a boppin’ song and dance number.
The introduction to the film’s antagonist, Spinel, is a blast. Spinel goes full Harman-Ising in her animation style, defeating the rusty Crystal Gems with ease, and hitting some very high notes while doing so to an electro-swing beat. Her eccentric and playful nature, along with her murderous tendencies, serve as a solid introduction to the film’s villain.
6 Here Comes A Thought
Somehow, the self-proclaimed “Crew-niverse” of the show managed to consistently nab unexpected, overlooked, or unknown voice talents, all of whom brought their A-game when they jumped on the show. Patti LuPone, Lisa Hannigan, Christine Ebersole, Susan Egan, AJ Michalka, and even Nicki Minaj all make (vocal) appearances throughout the show.
But the most impressive feat might have been nabbing Estelle as a main character, in the form of Garnet. Estelle has talent, and she knows it, so virtually every Garnet song gets massive positive reception. “Here Comes A Thought” is no exception, a song dealing with anxiety and destructive thinking, and overcoming those negativities. It’s a fantastic song with impressive vocals and is so vague in its lyrics that it could soothe virtually any situation, or be played on a radio station.
5 That Distant Shore
Lapis Lazuli is one of Steven Universe‘s most intriguing and complicated characters. She suffers from PTSD and her trauma often influences her to make impulsive decisions and isolate herself from the people who care for her most.
It’s highly suiting, seeing as the character was first introduced as a magical mirror that could recall any event. And sadly, Lapis has a solid memory of the events that caused her so much pain. When she finally gets her own song, it’s a tear-jerker. Her song essentially functions like cognitive therapy as she opens up to Steven about her mindset and her desire, yet inability, to stay in a happy situation.
4 Change Your Mind
The show’s season 5 finale is the proto-series finale, the ending Rebecca Sugar had in mind when writing the show. Hence, “Change Your Mind” ends on the iconic shot of the Crystal Gems and Steven sitting on the beach, as seen in every opening to each episode.
The song is another simple ukelele song sung wonderfully by Steven (Zach Callison). It’s representative of the entire thesis of the series, the understanding/acceptance of LGBTQ individuals, and has a vulnerability and genuine nature to its lyrics.
3 It’s Over, Isn’t It
Before Steven Universe: The Movie, there was “Mr. Greg”, the musical episode of Steven Universe. In the episode, Greg and Pearl have an awkward go of things, as both of them were in love with Rose at one point. It boils over when Pearl has a realization that even though Rose ceased to exist when she took Steven’s form, she chose Greg as her lover beforehand.
Pearl was in such heavy denial over being rejected that she lied to herself for years and figured it was just a phase, but “It’s Over, Isn’t It” confirms that she did in fact, lose in the long term. Just like Greg, she never stopped loving Rose, but Rose did choose Greg over her.
2 Stronger Than You
Garnet’s big reveal (that of being a fusion) was followed by, arguably, the most iconic song the series produced. It was the big cap to wrap up season 1, and Estelle’s vocals go hard. The song asserts that Garnet is essentially the physical representation of Ruby and Sapphire’s love when they fuse, and likewise, shows Garnet’s intense second round with Jasper.
Garnet’s charisma, prowess, and love are on full display, all while she holds off Jasper for the other Gems to escape the ship they are trapped on. It’s a highly satisfying moment, and anyone who didn’t continue watching the show after that point probably just had bad taste.
1 No Matter What
Steven Universe: The Movie essentially functioned like Avengers: Endgame. The characters have big stakes and must go through a walk down memory lane to undo the chaos handed to them. Major fans would rejoice as they relieved classic moments, and the characters would also have time to reflect on how far they’ve come. In “No Matter What”, Steven has to undo the amnesia Amythest suffers after an attack from Spinel’s scythe weapon, and he does so in a manner that strikes to the show’s core.
He reminds Amythest of all the great things and bad things they’ve gone through, and does so while having fun. Their relationship is a very special one, and the song is incredibly easy to memorize, very catchy, and displays Steven’s neverending drive to help others through hard situations. It would be good with Pearl or Garnet, but it’s absolutely perfect with Amythest, seeing as both she and Steven were seen as underdogs and consistently underestimated. Likewise, they were both foodies with a massive knack for puns. Seeing how far the two have come is indicative of how far the entire show has come.
NEXT: Steven Universe: The 10 Most Emotional Moments, Ranked