When discussing Steven Universe, the topics most often brought up are its central theme of love and acceptance, the positive feminist and LGBTQ representation, and the music. With dozens of songs spread throughout the show, it was a shoo-in for Cartoon Network to concoct an album. The result is sublime.
My initial fears that the soundtrack would be a mere “Best of” comprised of maybe 10-12 tracks (with the “Vol. 1” slapped on to serve as a presumptuous cruel tease to shell out more possible “Best ofs” in the future) was put to rest the moment I read the extensive track list. Steven Universe’s first album houses an impressive thirty-seven tracks in total, which includes nearly every major song you’ve heard so far, helpfully organized in the proper episodic order. The only songs missing are the minor tuneless jingles (sorry folks, no clear rendition of Steven’s adorable “Hey, Mr. Postman” ditty) or the licensed music from “Last One Out of Beach City.” Depending on how much of a completist you are, this might be a little annoying, but the album goes above and beyond to cram as many ballads in as possible. Dollars to donuts, your favorite song will be in here.
Steven Universe pays close attention to its music, enough that each character has a specific musical genre that is evident in the album. For example, Pearl’s themes are classy piano scores to befit her elegance; Steven’s songs are bouncy and often enveloped with pleasant ukulele strings; Greg employs rock as a nod to his status as a has-been musician; and Garnet is R & B/Pop to compliment her voice actor, professional pop singer Estelle. The beauty is how each of these musical genres come together as a whole; the background score employs piano, ukulele, and synth/chiptunes to further compliment its cast and integrate itself into the greater narrative. One of the cleverest intermingling of music and story centers on the ending theme song “Love Like You,” a melody that reveals itself in fragments throughout the show before it unwraps in full in a latter episode.
Steven Universe’s songs are emotionally powerful, unafraid to explore the root of each character’s problems, but they’re often just as therapeutic. Both “Stronger Than You” and “Something Entirely New” are empowering validation of love between two Gem ladies. “Here Comes a Thought” tells you that your fears are normal and you can take all the time you need to deal with them in a healthy manner (as someone who suffers anxiety disorder, it has become a meditative opus for me). And I’d be remiss if I did not talk about “It’s Over Isn’t It,” a heart-wrenching song by Pearl over the tribulations of heartbreak. Just as often as the show does through speech, it expresses its sincerity through song, telling us that it’s alright to be flawed and that in time, you can cope and move on.
Each song has been enhanced to ensure the highest quality and let me tell you, this digital album handily beats the all the available alternatives. Steven Universe Album: Vol. 1 is a must-have for any fans. The wide selection of songs and the inspiring messages behind each one ensures it a stay on your playlist.