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‘Steven Universe Soundtrack Volume 1’ Is Diverse, Twee, and Strong in the Right Way (review)

There are many things that Steven Universe fans love about the animated series: the anime style, the jokes, the lore, the cosplay appeal, its inclusive attitude and content, the heartwarming tweeness of it all.

And key to Steven Universe’s charm are the songs. Oh, the songs! So charming, so light, so silly, so packed with character. It’s tough to love Steven Universe and not show similar affection for its music, even for the crusty-hearted, musical theater-averse viewer of Rebecca Sugar’s Emmy-nominated hit series.

After five seasons tons of fan demand since the show’s debut in 2013, Cartoon Network released Steven Universe Soundtrack Volume 1 as a digital album on June 2. It’s sure to enliven every Steventhusiast’s spirits.

The album kicks right off with the theme song, “We Are The Crystal Gems.” It sets the tone of Steven Universe right off the bat, with its cheery harmonies, ukelele, 8-bit video game sounds, and that exuberant “And Stephen!”

All the songs are here from the creative minds of Rebecca Sugar and the incredible Steven Crewniverse, or at least it feels that way. But it’s not enough for the soundtrack to indulge completists by grabbing material from across the series 120-plus episodes.

The digital album features a deep roster of re-mastered songs handpicked by Sugar and performed by the series voice cast, including Zach Callison (Steven), Estelle (Garnet), Deedee Magno Hall (Pearl), Michaela Dietz (Amethyst) and Tom Scharpling (Greg); as well as special performances by guests and Sugar herself.

“I am so excited about this album that I hardly have the words,” Sugar said. “We poured our hearts into these songs and now they’re finally collected and stunningly re-mastered by our composers Aivi & Surasshu.”

And the songs – whether 35 seconds long like “Destiny” or going over three minutes like “I Think I Need A Little (Change)” – sound great, both clear and sharp.

Furthermore, listening to the 37 (!) tracks as a whole really showcases how the Steven Universe’s musical range is as expansive as the show itself. The music goes from style to style: twee, kids’ music-style lessons, musical theater, cabaret, garage rock, and R&B.

Deedee Magno Hall shines brightest on the album in torchsong laments such as “It’s Over Isn’t It,” as Pearl’s buttoned-up emotions lend themselves best to expressive storytelling lyrics. Tom Scharpling’s performance as Greg Universe show more artistry and talent that you expect, much like Greg the character.

Zach Collison’s performance as Steven always does a balancing act of boyhood sweetness, wonder and yearning for more. Listening to the songs alone, I laugh even harder at his full-powered imagination such as on “Cookie Cat,” a frozen snack about an space alien refugee, in which Steven exclaims, “He left his family behind!”

Some of the songs don’t work so well in retrospect. “Stronger Than You” has clunky lyrics and Estelle is too grounded in performing Garnet to let her voice fly the way I know it does. But it doesn’t matter as my mind goes back to the pivotal episode “Jail Break,” as Garnet fights Jasper, the Gems’ plot is revealed, and we find out Garnet herself is a fusion.

And that’s the chief fun of soundtracks, to take you back into the show close to your heart. In that regard, Steven Universe Soundtrack Volume 1 excels on all levels.

Sugar herself knows this. “Please blast them!” she said about the songs. “Please sing along! That’s what these are for! If the music of Steven Universe has been a tiny piece of the score of your life, please know that I am so honored. I hope you’ll love this album as much as we loved making it.”

 

Steven Universe Soundtrack: Volume 1 is available now for purchase
in digital music stores, as well as on all major streaming platforms.

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