Here at Polygon, we’re pretty big fans of the adorable, tuneful Steven Universe. When Cartoon Network announced that an album of the show’s original music will hit digital storefronts and streaming platforms on June 2, we were stoked.
What Cartoon Network still hasn’t done is reveal which songs will be included on Steven Universe Soundtrack: Volume 1. The network said that a full list of tracks is forthcoming, though we can be sure it will span the breadth of the series’ 120-plus episodes thus far.
We’ve wanted an album of Steven Universe’s unforgettable songs since a few episodes into its first season, so this is great news. With so many to choose from, we came up with some suggestions of songs that Cartoon Network would be silly not to throw onto the soundtrack.
Steven Universe has a voice cast full of talented singers across the board, so it’s hard to pick favorites. We’re partial to Pearl, a character we’re often ambivalent about when she’s not singing. “Strong in the Real Way” comes from an early season one episode — which also happened to guest star Nicki Minaj, who lent her chops to a song — and it’s one of Pearl’s first big numbers. It’s important to the story, but it’s also a dramatic diva moment that wouldn’t be out of place on Broadway. (We mean that in the best way possible.)
“Do It For Her” is another Pearl track, although she splits vocals with Steven’s best friend, Connie. Connie makes a nice, fierce complement to Pearl here, but the Crystal Gem owns this song. It’s another perfect example of how the show uses music to let characters be vulnerable and open where they otherwise would not. This time, Pearl all but admits that her love for Steven’s mother, a powerful hero who passed away upon his birth, is what continues to motivate her in everything she does.
A more recent jam gives another character a chance to try out lead vocals. Peridot is a recent, begrudging addition to the tight-knit Crystal Gem squad, and “Peace and Love (On Planet Earth)” is the tune that cements her as part of the crew. Steven helps her along through her first musical number with loving patience and encouragement. Though her screechy little voice isn’t the most pleasant on its own, Peridot really comes into her own by the short tune’s end. It’s a masterful musical moment ... and man, it’s catchy.
You may be seeing a lot of Pearl in this list, and that’s in good portion because of the vocal talents of Deedee Magno, Pearl’s voice actress and a broadway veteran. “It’s Over, Isn’t It” might be the best song Steven Universe has ever given her, a beautiful tragic ballad with accompaniment only from piano. In it, Pearl finally owns up to the fact that — though she spends almost every day with Greg Universe and her beloved Steven — she still hasn’t gotten over the fact that Rose Quartz chose to love Greg instead of her, and chose to die to create Steven.
Estelle is an acclaimed R&B and pop star who also happens to moonlight as the voice of Garnet, the coolest Crystal Gem. It’s no surprise that her songs are the ones that would sound most appropriate on an actual radio station. It’s also no surprise that her songs are among the best the show has to offer.
“Stronger Than You” marked a turning point for Steven Universe. It’s fresh as hell, unlike any of the jams we’d heard on the show up to that point. It also highlights one of the show’s core relationships: the queer couple that fused together to create Garnet. That was a huge reveal for the show, still then in its first season. Fans will likely point to this as their favorite song as a result.
“Here Comes a Thought” came much later in the show’s life, and it’s got a similar backstory as “Stronger Than You.” Garnet sings this song about love and relationships alongside Stevonnie, the fusion super-human formed from Steven and Connie. What you need to know is: Estelle is awesome; Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar is a brilliant songwriter; “Here Comes a Thought” is the best damn song on this whole list by any objective measure.
Swooping back to the beginning of the show, “Giant Woman” was one of Steven Universe’s first examples of characters actually bursting into musical-style song, rather than repeating a jingle or putting on a CD. It’s a perfect encapsulation of Steven’s comfortable attitude towards feminine power — and, also, it’s just so freakin catchy.
Is Dad Rock a genre? Because Greg Universe has got to be one of its biggest stars. Although it’s not immediately clear when you hear this track in Steven Universe’s second episode, this ode was clearly penned during the washed-up musician’s heyday, as an ode to his burgeoning relationship with Rose Quartz. “I know I’m not that tall,” he says. Rose was, indeed, quite tall.
Also, fun fact: You can quite easily sing “Let Me Drive My Van (Into Your Heart)” over the chord progression of “Giant Woman.” Whether intentional or not, it’s a fabulous link between Greg and Steven’s relationships with Rose and the Crystal Gems.
Finally, appropriately, we have “Love Like You,” a song that played in short, out-of-order snippets over the end credits of Steven Universe over multiple seasons, a new snippet for a new major story arc. Rebecca Sugar herself sings the melody. The only way to listen to the whole thing is to seek out fan-made compilations that stitch all of those snippets together, like the above. Hopefully, with the release of a soundtrack, fans will have one legitimate way to get their hands on it as well.
We called these tracks mere suggestions before, but we’d like to offer an addendum. If Cartoon Network doesn’t include all of the above among the soundtrack’s first volume of hits, we better be getting a follow-up album that does include these and then some as soon as possible.