Because the situation really is a lot more nuanced than that.
Strange as this may seem, there aren’t actually that many shows which Chris and I watch together, and even fewer that we try to watch at the same time. (For example, I’m ahead of Chris on The Americans, while he’s left me for dust where Please Like Me is concerned.) And while Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is one of those shows where I’m still playing catch-up, we’ve now reached the point where we’ve both completed season one, so of course we had to rank all of the songs and then blog about them, because that is what we do for fun around here.
Before we get into this, I’ll just explain how we worked it all out: we individually ranked all 42 songs from the first season and allocated points accordingly (42 points for first place, 41 points for second place etc), then combined those scores to work out our overall ranking for the songs. If two songs received the same score, then we pulled each other’s hair had a civilised debate until we reached agreement on which one deserved to be higher on the list. We also didn’t count reprises as individual songs for the purposes of this list, except for ‘Don’t Settle For Me’, which we did count as a separate song because (spoiler) we liked it more than the song it was reprising.
Right then, here we go.
42. ‘Angry Mad’ (Steve – 42nd place / Chris – 42nd place)
(Sung by Vincent Rodriguez III in S01E17: ‘Why Is Josh In A Bad Mood?’)
Steve: This was one of only three songs in the entire countdown where Chris and I were in total agreement on where they belonged. For me, I can appreciate the role this song plays in the episode – it’s pretty much the only chance we get in the entire season to see what Josh is thinking, as opposed to seeing him through Rebecca’s eyes, and of course it’s a chance for Vincent Rodriguez III to remind us that he has got some moves – but while an 80s-movie training montage blended with a melody that constantly flirts with being a Jim Steinman homage sounds like it should be perfect for me in theory, this one didn’t work for me in practice. It just feels too rushed, like they were still working on it when the guy from the network came to pick the episode up (yes, I know this is not how broadcast television works) and just had to hand over their demo version instead.
Chris: I’m just going to throw in my “I’ve seen Season 2 and Steve hasn’t nee nurr nee nurr” card in here as rationale from the start just so you can get all used to it – the fact that the show ultimately finds several much more developed and interesting ways to show Josh Chan as emotionally inarticulate (and for Vincent Rodriguez to both act and sing it) makes this collection of grunts and synthy beep-boops that much less interesting. Also it’s been ages since I’ve seen the Karate Kid but I’m fairly sure this is actually supposed to be a Survivor/Joe Esposito parody and…well…this aired in *2015*.
41. ‘His Status Is Preferred’ (Steve – 41st place / Chris – 39th place)
(Sung by Donna Lynne Champlin in S01E07: ‘I’m So Happy That Josh Is So Happy!’)
Chris: Donna Lynne Champlin is absolutely my MVP amongst the show’s supporting cast. In terms of acting (which we probably won’t cover here much) she brings Paula Proctor’s off-kilter blend of sassy secretary and deranged mother-bear to life in every scene she so much as stands in the background of, and in her singing performances she’s both technically on point and also a chameleon, tackling genres from jazz to nu-metal to Broadway to 80s power ballad as naturally as putting on an English accent or heisting up a bakery at midnight . Which is why she deserves so much better than this, which sounds like it was written for an advert. By Apprentice USA contestants. NON-CELEBRITY Apprentice USA contestants. I’ll never hate a DLC song completely just because…that voice, but the central concept (a Fabulous Baker Boys torch song about how erotic and amazing the various minor hotel perks her potential lover can get are) doesn’t really go anywhere and actually comes across kind of mean-spirited. Paula may be small time and working class but a whole song about how googly eyed she gets over someone being well travelled “…domestically” feels like it’s laying it on a bit thick. Especially given the lack of real jokes beyond Paula having very small horizons.
Steve: I agree – I think Paula as a character is very well-served by the songs she gets because they generally give real insight into her character and advance her development in some way, but this one doesn’t really give us anything apart from playing the relative mundanity of Paula’s ambitions for laughs (which feels at odds with the way Paula is treated by the show the rest of the time) and melodically is just an underuse of Donna Lynne Champlin’s considerable talents.
40. ‘Clean Up On Aisle Four’ (Steve – 39th place / Chris – 38th place)
(Sung by Hunter Stiebel in S01E16: ‘Josh’s Sister Is Getting Married!’)
Steve: Chris laughed at me when he realised that I had to start the discussion on this one, but actually I think it’s fairly easy to make the case for why it’s so low – it’s a parody of the overly-sincere man-ballad (a genre that’s fairly close to self-parody at the best of times), performed by a character we don’t really have any investment in, about a love story that only exists as a one-episode B-plot. It’s a very disposable song, in other words. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its amusing moments (“I’m the pimento to your olive / I wanna be inside of you”, and the part where Marty has to explain to poor Rick that he doesn’t need an actual clean-up), but as fun as it is to see Greg playing at being Paula for an afternoon by meddling ineptly in someone else’s lovelife, ultimately nothing that happens in this song can hold a candle to Grocery Clerk With Half An Eyelid doing cartwheels, so I guess its critical flaw in the real world is the same one it suffers in-universe.
Chris: I mean this was quite cute but Steve’s write-up there already lasts about 4 times as long as the “song” so…not much more to say. I like the weirdly nasal Jeff Mangum meets J. Mascis vocal style I guess?
39. ‘Sexy French Depression’ (Steve – 40th place / Chris – 34th place)
(Sung by Rachel Bloom in S01E07: ‘I’m So Happy That Josh Is So Happy!’)
Chris: So there’s no avoiding the fact that the show has “crazy” in the title and yes indeed Rebecca Bunch has actual mental health problems. The show so far hasn’t settled on an exact DSM V diagnosis but it involves actual factual meds (that go straight down the sink in episode 1) and seems to manifest as elements of depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder. This is probably (other than arguably “You Stupid Bitch”) the closest the show comes to addressing said problems directly in song, albeit via a joke about how depression looks and sounds a lot more glamorous whilst it’s being done in French and filmed like À bout de souffle than it actually is in real life. It contains a few decent jokes (particularly Rachel Bloom growling “my bed smells like a tampon” in her best outrageous ‘Allo ‘Allo! accent) but the “mundane things sound glamorous when said in a sexy foreign language” angle would land better if so much of the French used and relayed back to us in subtitles wasn’t already very close to the same in English (“John Wayne Gacy online” translating into French as “John Wayne Gacy online”). I can’t help feel that the original idea for the song (a Lana Del Ray parody) might have come across a little fresher.
Steve: It says a lot about the overall quality of the songs on this show that we’re only four places off the bottom of this countdown and I’ve already reached the point of “it’s not that this song is bad, I just didn’t like it as much as I liked the other ones.” I enjoyed this song, I giggled a few times, but the main reason it’s this low is that the biggest laugh it gave me was nothing to do with the song itself; it was the Netflix subtitlers just completely giving up halfway through the French-language section.
38. ‘Dear Joshua Felix Chan’ (Steve – 36th place / Chris – 37th place)
(Sung by Rebecca Bloom in S01E10: ‘I’m Back At Camp With Josh!’)
Steve: Not so much a song as a “songlet” according to the official commentary, but to its credit it does pack quite a lot into its 60-second runtime. As a former intense teenager I can very much relate to this song, and it absolutely nails the absurdly flowery language that’s so popular with pretentious teens (“all your moles a constellation on your chest”, “we’re like Tristan and Isolde, ancient lovers rotting desperately in the forest” and bonus points for rhyming “frolic” with “hyperbolic”), but I think I actually relate to it so much that it makes me slightly uncomfortable, so I marked it down as a way of admonishing myself 20 years ago.
Chris: I was…not a poetic soul as a teenager to put it mildly, so I maybe can’t relate quite so hard but the song does what it’s supposed to do (establish clearly that even as supposedly lovestruck teenagers at summer camp Josh was way less into Rebecca than vice versa) and is genuinely quite sweet. Like a lot of entries in this bottom half though, it isn’t quite a song.
37. ‘The Sexy Getting Ready Song’ (Steve – 31st place / Chris – 41st place)
(Sung by Rebecca Bloom in S01E01: ‘Josh Just Happens To Live Here!’)
Chris: So ‘The Sexy Getting Ready Song’ is both the most virally spread and successful song from the show (based on YouTube hits, natch) and also one of the two songs Steve used to try to get me into the show, so OF course I have to be a massive contrarian and not really like it. It’s a catchy hook, and I can see why people would repurpose it for dancing around their own bathrooms to but the central joke (“the process of getting ready, for a woman, is not actually sexy”) is shown rather than told and the bit where a random stereotypical rapper wanders in to wibble about “patriarchy and bitches and shit FO REAL” actively makes me cringe. I almost placed it a little higher just for the amazing callback in (yes) Season 2, but Crazy Ex Girlfriend contains so many songs that pack so much into 90 I can’t in good conscience give more points to something that barely does one thing with 150.
Steve: I’m going to be contrarian here myself and say that I think the “I gotta apologise to some bitches” bit saves this song – particularly the callback right before the credits of that episode where you actually see him making good on the promise. My problem with this one is that I liked it a lot when I’d only seen it on YouTube, but the more I watched of the series, the more I realised that this isn’t really representative of the show at all. Watching it now, it feels very much like something they made when they were still figuring out the tone of the show and weren’t 100 per cent sure where they were going. It still works perfectly well as a parody of “going out to the club tonight” songs, but other tracks in the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend canon end up doing that better later in the series. Still, I will always have love for any song that gets the backing singers to trill “ass blood!”.
36. ‘Settle For Me’ (Steve – 34th place / Chris – 36th place)
(Sung by Santino Fontana in S01E04: ‘I’m Going On A Date With Josh’s Friend!’)
Steve: I’ll be honest, I’m anticipating a fair bit of pushback on this one, and that’s fine. Before I’d watched any of the series, I’d seen this cropping up in a lot of people’s “best of…” song lists, so I freely admit I went in with fairly high expectations and perhaps that’s why I was left feeling underwhelmed. Or maybe it was the fact that I’m not really a big fan of the type of musical theatre staple this is parodying. Or maybe it was the fact that at this point in the series I wasn’t really on the Greg train at all. Or maybe it was the fact that the whole thing just goes on for a bit too long. One of the strengths of the music on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for me is that most of the time it makes its point fairly quickly and succinctly, and on the occasions where a song does run a little longer than the others, it’s because it has a story arc of its own to cover (‘Where’s The Bathroom?’ is one example of this). ‘Settle For Me’, on the other hand, is just three-and-a-half minutes of Greg’s rampant insecurity and wounded pride, and I can appreciate that at this early stage in the series it was important to establish those key character traits clearly, but I’m not sure they merited quite so much time. Especially since ‘Don’t Settle For Me’ (which we’ll get to in due course) does similar work for Heather in a fraction of the time.
Chris: I think my major problem with this is that it doesn’t really sound like the musical theatre staple it’s parodying. It sounds more like swing/Rat Pack crooning being done with an MT voice and tails on. That and it mixes up its metaphors (quick : how is Solange : Beyonce as Plan B : Broken Condom?) constantly. I think it’s an important song to fit in to the narrative to establish from the off that Greg is definitively not endgame for Rebecca, because lord knows tv fans will ship “snarky doughy white misanthropic B-tier character” with the lead over “dumb buff Filipino jock A-tier character” 9 times out of 10 unless told definitively not to, but it doesn’t really do it for me either.
35. ‘Flooded With Justice’ (Steve – 38th place / Chris – 32nd place)
(Sung by the ensemble cast in S01E13: ‘Josh And I Go To Los Angeles!’)
Chris: I mean, it’s “for no reason here’s a Les Mis parody”. It sounds a lot like every other parody of “Do You Hear The People Sing?” you’ve ever heard (I have no idea if that’s a lot, but trust me, one is enough). There’s good bits (the extended riff about how Hollywood types are stealing the water of poor West Covinans to make party drugs and Oscars and run BJ Novak’s ecstasy factory, the “slow clap-slow clap-slow clap” in the reprise) and bad bits (the repeated attempts to make “Raging Waters” a beloved running gag, BJ Novak actually turning up dressed like Breaking Bad) but…Les Mis parody. You know what you’re getting.
Steve: Exactly. I enjoy a good Les Mis send-up as much as the next person (although for my money Popular did it better 16 years earlier because their version was about infecting a science teacher with e.coli because she cancelled Sophomore Skip Day) but from the very first bar my reaction to this one was “oh here’s the obligatory Les Misérables bit” and it never really elevated itself above that. I did like the random BJ Novak appearance though.
34. ‘Textmergency’ (Steve – 24th place / Chris – 40th place)
(Sung by Jeff Hiller, Briga Heelan, Ivan Hernandez and Ester Dean in S01E11: ‘That Text Was Not Meant For Josh!’)
Steve: Well, here we are: the first song where Chris and I clearly had a serious disagreement. Since I was the one who actually quite liked the song, it makes sense for me to start this one: first of all, I love 80s hair-metal so much that no karaoke evening is complete for me without it, so I was already on side for this one from the first power-chord. I also think it’s easy to underrate how effectively this song shorthands the episode’s major plot and allows Rebecca to get from “in the office realising she sent a text to Josh by accident” to “breaking into Josh’s apartment” in under three minutes while still finding time for a visit from the ghost of Steve Jobs (which is easily the weakest part of the song, not least because people were sending texts to the wrong recipient YEARS before Apple got involved in the mobile phone business, but let’s not dwell on that). Plus, as will inevitably be covered when we get to ‘Group Hang’ later, one of my favourite musical comedy tropes is the singer getting distracted mid-song and taking the entire thing off down a narrative cul-de-sac, so I really enjoyed the band drifting away from Rebecca’s quest to argue amongst themselves about the relative neological merits of “textmergency” versus “textastrophe” (and “textcuse” versus “textplanation”). I’m totally team “textastrophe”, if anyone cares. Anyway, now here’s Chris to tell you why it sucks!
Chris: It’s a mess. The plot it covers is “Rebecca drives her car from her office to Josh’s apartment”. It doesn’t have a chorus and then it never stops having a chorus, like some sort of shitty Alt-Universe “Biology” by Girls Aloud. “I am the ghost of Steve Jobs” is the closest I’ve come to turning this show off. The blonde female lawyer’s hair bothers me.
33. ‘Oh My God I Think I Like You’ (Steve – 30th place / Chris – 30th place)
(Sung by Rachel Bloom in S01E17: ‘Why Is Josh In A Bad Mood?’)
Chris: By contrast Steve and I have this at the same place, so our comments on it will be a model of peace and harmony. For me I think about ‘Oh My God I Think I Like You’ more or less the same way I feel about ‘Settle For Me’ – it’s important in terms of the plot of Greg and Rebecca (incidentally by completely writing over the top of ‘Settle For Me’, and making Gregbecca a plausible endgame just in time for Greg to have an alcoholic blackout at Josh’s sister’s wedding and ruin everything in the next episode) (Greg <3) but I'm not a huge fan of it as a song. Rebecca's slow realisation that Greg is screwing feelings into her heart makes for some good visual jokes, but the verbals lean a bit too heavily on Rebecca randomly speaking like an Instgram teen from 2011 (forcing herself vocally into having "the feeeeeeeeeeels" and randomly saying "bidniss" like Top Cat would) and it only really gets going thematically at the end. I have it this high for two reasons – a) Rebecca has a shower curtain with a map of the world on and b) I adore the electronic percussion/strings on it. So cheap sounding yet so expansive. Also wasted opportunity of having Greg have his top off and have it constantly covered by a sheet let's be honest. Also his sleeping unnerves me, he appears to be actually not breathing at all. I spend the whole video wanting to give him the kiss of life. Steven?
Steve: Yep, broadly in agreement here – I think this song’s greatest strengths are in the visual gags that accompany it (by which I mostly mean Rachel Bloom’s facial expressions), but the main reason it appeals to me is that chunks of it really capture that “pop song sung in the style of musical theatre” performance mould so beloved of the BBC’s Andrew Lloyd Webber talent shows before he ruined it by running off to ITV and then the BBC also ruined it by getting Gary Barlow involved. Also is there a better run-on sentence in this entire show than “is there an IUD that can stop the image of you and me getting married on a hillside surrounded by ducks and then we get into a rowboat”, no there is not.
32. ‘Women Gotta Stick Together’ (Steve – 33rd place / Chris – 25th place)
(Sung by Gabrielle Ruiz in S01E09: ‘I’m Going To The Beach With Josh And His Friends!’)
Chris: Now Crazy Ex-Girlfriend as a show has strong feminist credentials. It’s a show about a woman, principally written by women, with numerous strong female characters, a defiantly upfront approach to women’s bodies and sex, containing songs about boobs and periods and vaginal orgasms, and which repeatedly questions popular culture’s portrayal of women with mental health problems. Which makes it feel a bit odd to suddenly be presented midway through the run with a song that consists entirely of gratuitously nasty anti-female gendered slurs about women’s appearances and sexual appetites. But WHAT nasty gendered slurs! “Women gotta stick together, all across this land / Except Denise Martinez, that bitch I cannot stand” AND “Some girls are born tall and thin, and some are short and fat / This girl smells like sausages but there’s nothing wrong with that!” is possibly the greatest back to back set of rhyming couplet insults this show deploys all season, and there’s something about the raw incessant nastiness of the song that’s really bracing, especially in an episode that’s more about Rebecca’s isolation and loneliness than any other in the run. It might be a little misogynist, but I figure the show had built up enough points by this point to balance out the cheap laughs. (Originally I had this song lower, just because Valencia even bothering to slap a patina of kumbaya “girl power” over the top of cutting other women down didn’t seem to fit with the character as written, but OOPS she has a complete personality transplant about 4 episodes into (YES) Season 2 anyway, so that seems less important in retrospect.)
Steve: Not since Daphne & Celeste’s ‘U.G.L.Y.’ has a song so thoroughly mean-spirited been so effortlessly catchy. I’m a big fan of both the couplets Chris mentioned above but would also like to give a special commendation to “Together we can clear these hurdles / Except Marissa ‘cos she’s 4ft8 / We can climb ev’ry mountain / If the rope can support Haley’s weight”. SAVAGE.
31. ‘Don’t Settle For Me’ (Steve – 26th place / Chris – 31st place)
(Sung by Vella Lovell and Santino Fontana in S01E13: ‘Josh And I Go To Los Angeles!’)
Steve: If I have one criticism of season one of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, it’s that we don’t get enough of Heather – for someone who’s apparently important enough to be featured in the opening credits, she has a habit of disappearing for several episodes at a time. And because Heather’s not around that much, it inevitably means we don’t hear her sing much either, though it does at least make sense for her character – as someone who seldom feels highs or lows, she’s just not as likely to passionately burst into song as the others, so apart from one throwaway line in ‘California Christmastime’, this is all we get from Heather musically in season one. It’s interesting to see this one referred to as a reprise of ‘Settle For Me’ (even Heather herself refers to it that way, which is kind of weird considering she wasn’t around when Greg sang it to Rebecca) when I’ve always viewed it more as a counterpoint: where Greg’s song was about a desperation for affection and a tragic lack of self-worth, Heather’s take on it is to assert that both she and Greg deserve better than a relationship where one of them isn’t fully committed. It’s a typically level-headed and Heather-esque perspective, and Vella Lovell’s languorous delivery serves it well, but what I really like about this song is the extra layer it gives Heather when it turns out in the next episode that this was all bluster to disguise the fact that she really liked Greg and was genuinely upset he didn’t feel the same way about her. Aww.
Chris: So yeah, Steve has stronger feelings on this than me, clearly. It’s “Settle For Me” elevated a bit by being a cute idea for a reprise, turning the original meaning of the song on its head, and then brought down a bit again by the fact that Vella Lovell isn’t really the strongest singer. (I do slightly regret that she and Rebecca weren’t friends in time for her to feature in ‘I Have Friends’. She would have brought more to it than Mrs Hernandez.)
30. ‘I Love My Daughter (But Not In A Creepy Way)’ (Steve – 32nd place / Chris – 24th place)
(Sung by Pete Gardner in S01E05: ‘Josh And I Are Good People!’)
Steve: I have a slight problem here because since compiling this ranking, I have continued to listen to the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend soundtrack repeatedly and that has given me a new appreciation for songs that I didn’t particularly rate that highly first time around – and this is one of them. So I’m probably going to give this a more positive write-up than my personal positioning of it suggests, but it’s not like anyone’s even looking that closely at those, right? I think possibly the reason it washed over me at first was because the style of song it’s parodying – creepy paternalistic country – isn’t actually that prevalent over here, so I just had to sort of take the show’s word for it that there are a lot of non piss-takey versions of this song out there. But even coming in blind to the wider cultural significance here, I can’t help but love Pete Gardner’s performance – he perfectly captures Darryl’s genuine attempt to convey what a proud papa he is while getting anxiously wrapped up in all of the unfortunate implications of what he’s saying. In the early part of the season, solo numbers for the supporting cast were generally used to help establish character, and this song is quintessential Darryl: sweet, guileless and constantly second-guessing himself. The more he panics, the funnier it gets, with lines like “I’m very careful where I tickle my daughter, never inappropriately” and especially “I can see it now, she’ll look just like her mom / …granted, I *did* have sex with her mom”. The only problem I have with it now is that having gone to great pains to establish Darryl’s daughter as the centre of his life in the early episodes…does he even mention her again after he starts dating White Josh? Or did she fall victim to Ben-from-Friends syndrome?
Chris: She appears again a couple of times in (YOU GUESSED IT) Season 2, but yes, I think Madison’s ever-growing menagerie of popstar snails get more play over the course of the series than she does generally. According to the soundtrack commentary the original draft of this song wasn’t meant for use in the show, and was a lot more explicit in terms of…well the paedophile angle, so this end-result is the product of a lot of paring back and editing. In places they maybe went a little too far (do people think the concept of “giving your daughter away” and little girls dancing with their feet on top of their dad’s shoes are really that “suspicious” outside of first-year sociology seminars?) but the flustering and panic that his innocent love of his daughter sounds…wrong, is indeed quintessential Darryl Whitefeather and the random shot of an incredibly confused-looking horse in the video always makes me laugh.
29. ‘Where Is The Rock?’ (Steve – 35th place / Chris – 20th place)
(Sung by Jeff Hiller, Briga Heelan, Ivan Hernandez and Ester Dean in S01E11: ‘That Text Was Not Meant For Josh!’)
Chris: I unapologetically love all 45 seconds of “Where Is The Rock?”. It’s absolutely one of, if not the most, minor songs in the CEG canon but it serves its purpose excellently – simultaneously laying out narratively exactly how Paula and Scott have screwed up Rebecca’s plan to get Josh into her house to white knight her in her hour of need and exploiting the actual discovery for Rebecca’s maximum discomfort by dragging it out via song (also possibly mirroring how long it takes “not the brightest” Josh to work out that Rebecca had her own window smashed to fake a burglery). I think my favourite part is Ester Dean getting right up in Rebecca’s face to rub it in via Rolling Stone backing singer soul voice that whatever story she’s going to have to come up with to cover the discovery “WOULD BE A SUPER WEIRD CRI-IME”. In short, Rebecca is doomed, and to compound the discovery she’s going to have a bunch of bar rock singers tell her so whilst that shitty wig the blonde lawyer/singer’s wearing tickles under her nose (seriously that WIG).
Steve: I, on the other hand, frequently forget this song exists unless actively reminded so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
28. ‘A Boy Band Made Up Of Four Joshes’ (Steve – 27th place / Chris – 27th place)
(Sung by Vincent Rodriguez III in S01E03: ‘I Hope Josh Comes To My Party!’)
Steve: In order for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend to function at all, it doesn’t just need to get us to empathise with Rebecca, it has to get us to understand why she’s so obsessed with Josh, specifically. Over the course of the early episodes we get to see that he’s a sweet guy, that he’s thoughtful, and that he’s generally nicer to Rebecca than most people are, and of course Vincent Rodriguez III flashes his guns as often as possible. This song, however, is the clincher, as we go completely inside Rebecca’s head and see that as far as she’s concerned, Josh isn’t just nice, he’s perfect and the answer to all of her problems – so not only does that explain her obsession, but it also makes it very clear that Rebecca’s setting herself up for a whole world of hurt if/when she realises that Josh is a regular person and not a magical solution, which is pretty decent world-building for a show that was only three episodes old by this point. Vincent Rodriguez III ably rises to the challenge of playing a dream come true here, effortly exuding boyband charm four times over, and also subtly playing each of the four Joshes as a different boyband archetype, both vocally and physically. Two other things elevate this song to the level of art: the choreography where the Joshes ‘hang themselves’ with stethoscopes during the lyric about “all those nightmares in which you tend to die”, and Rachel Bloom’s pitch-perfect scream of hormone-fuelled ecstasy from the crowd.
Chris: I think the key is not only that Josh is perfect, but that Rebecca’s crush on him is something that lodged there when she was 14 and has never changed in the slightest – this is the first really strong sign, but her behaviour in the episode where they return to summer camp and she starts physically carrying herself like a teenager and tries to seduce Jossh using a love poem she wrote as a child seals it. Never mind the fact that ultimately their love is consumated to a Disney ballad with no concessions to realism or the sort of cynicism that permeates the rest of the show at all. (Compare : the songs about Josh and Rebecca to the songs about Greg & Rebecca, as a whole) So it makes sense that Rebecca greets Josh turning up to her flop party in the same way she probably saw 98 Degrees or O Town back when she was Young Rebecca. With unquestioning squealing. As a song, I like the verses a lot but the chorus gimmick – where Josh lists off his pseudo-psych credentials to cure all Rebecca’s neuorses, at length, monotonously, in robot voice, just grates. It’s rare the show doesn’t lose a little when it delivers the jokes in its songs by speak-singing them or breaking the song’s established rhythm for effect, and this is no exception.
27. ‘Gettin’ Bi’ (Steve – 25th place / Chris – 29th place)
(Sung by Pete Gardner in S01E14: ‘Josh Is Going To Hawaii!’)
Chris: I have a number of problems with ‘Gettin’ Bi’. The tone is *incredibly* didactic, and comes across entirely as a “woke” straight person writing a song about things bisexuals don’t like being said about them (in kind of a Hilary Duff PSA about not saying “that’s so gay!” sort of a way). “Someone comes out ostentatiously and nobody cares” is a joke that’s been done to death. It sees the start of Darryl and Maya running the overworked US sitcom trope “an otherwise utterly benign character is mean to a c-tier character for no reason” storyline that never really works. I (brace yourselves) think the Darryl/White Josh relationship is poorly-written and unconvincing. But again this is an instance of Pete Gardner taking lemons and making lemonade. It’s just impossible to resist his stupid phlegmy growl vowels, manic air-punching, hideous Huey Lewis & The News blazer, constant running in and out of the doorway for no reason and brilliantly corny forced rhymes. It just IS. As a package I don’t think the Darryl Songs are anybody’s favourites, but Pete’s hamming up means they always go down smooth. LIKE A BI PERSON WOULD. (*finger guns*)
Steve: Look, I just really like Huey Lewis & The News okay, don’t question me. And I may have boosted this several places purely for Donna Lynne Champlin’s exquisite reading of “please make him stop”. (Don’t worry everyone, I will fight Chris to defend the honour of Darryl and White Josh on your behalves.)
26. ‘Heavy Boobs’ (Steve – 20th place / Chris – 33rd place)
(Sung by Rachel Bloom in S01E16: ‘Josh’s Sister Is Getting Married!’)
Steve: Without wishing to crack an obvious pun, I find myself swinging back and forth on ‘Heavy Boobs’. It has some of my favourite in-song jokes of the entire series, including “I got them heavy boobs, heavy boobs / I can’t run real far”, “they each have their own memoirs” and “not bitchin’ ’bout my boobies, they look super-fly in shirts / But if I swung them in your face you’d be like ‘oh my god, that hurts'”, and I absolutely love the sheer feminist trolling of taking a concept that should be premium wank-fodder for whatever heterosexual men may have ended up watching this show (getting a load of large-breasted women to jump around in tight tops with no bras on), and making it as deliberately unsexy as possible by driving the refrain “they’re just sacks of yellow fat” straight into your cerebral cortex. I also like the fact that in-universe the song springs from a rare genuine selfless attempt on Rebecca’s part to make Valencia feel better about her own body insecurities by demonstrating why having big jugs isn’t necessarily all that. The other side of the coin, however, is that it doesn’t feel like it springs organically from a specific moment in the way that this show’s best songs do, and as a result comes across more like Rachel Bloom’s thoughts on big boobs as opposed to Rebecca Bunch’s. Plus, as Chris pointed out in his write-up for ‘A Boy Band Made Up Of Four Joshes’, songs on this show tend to run aground when the writers deviate too much from the rhythm in order to shoehorn the jokes in, and this to me is one of the biggest offenders on that score. I think the positives outweigh the negatives because when all’s said and done I find this song really funny and you should never underestimate just how much value I place on anatomy-based jokes, but I just wish it wasn’t quite so melodically all over the place.
Chris: Yes, I find myself wishing I’d ranked this a little higher, just because it’s good for more than a few laughs (oddly enough the parts where I giggle hardest aren’t the punchlines – it’s Rachel’s deliveries of both “AHM SUIN’ YOU AND YOUR HEAVY BOOBIES!” and the clapping song rhythm of “here-is-a-list-of-all of-the things-I-can-fit-under-my boobs”) but as a gay man I think I subconsciously resist any song or joke where a large part of the punchline is “women’s bodies are gross” lest I become a massive unpleasant stereotype. Bless you for thinking that straight men couldn’t wank to this though, get real. You’re right that it’s a total staple gun cut-and-shut hodge podge of discordant elements though. That lecture segment in the middle, eesh.
25. ‘I’m The Villain In My Own Story’ (Steve – 17th place / Chris – 35th place)
(Sung by Rachel Bloom in S01E14: ‘Josh Is Going To Hawaii!’)
Chris: This I have no regrets about ranking this low incidentally and it’s the last song on this countdown that I don’t really like. HOORAY. I think ‘I’m The Villain In My Own Story’ suffers horribly for coming only a few episodes after ‘You Stupid Bitch’, the show’s tour de force torch song hurricane of self-loathing and recrimination where Rebecca slams herself repeatedly for well…we’ll cover that in the show’s write up for sure but suffice it to say Rebecca upbraids herself for being the worst person alive. And then a few episodes later she comes to a gentle realisation that she’s a bit like a Disney villain but spends more time telling the song’s composer off for making the orchestration “ridunkulously sinister”. I appreciate that the nature of depression is cyclical but it doesn’t excuse the same ground being tilled so soon afterwards, less well. Also the song is confused conceptually (is Rebecca the villain in her OWN story, or someone else? Because most of the song sounds like it’s the latter so someone should tell the title) and worst of all, it’s no fun. I’m a connoisseur of the Disney Villain Song and say what you will, from ‘Cruella De Vil’ to ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ via ‘Mother Knows Best’, ‘Be Prepared’, ‘Hellfire’, ‘Friends On The Other Side’ and ‘Gaston’ they’re A LAUGH. Where’s the melodrama? Where’s the flames? Where’s the goosestepping hyenas? Where’s the BIG FINISH? I swear the only reason this isn’t dead last is the excellent work down by Gabrielle Ruiz as Princess Valencia in the spoken word bit in the middle. SHE’S KATE HUDSON.
Steve: Counterpoint: ‘You Stupid Bitch’ is Rebecca’s lament at realising she’s the architect of her own unhappiness because of her disingenuous behaviour, whereas ‘I’m The Villain In My Own Story’ is about Rebecca realising the effect that her actions have on other people, and how she’s been hurting Valencia by trying to steal her boyfriend. I agree that it’s thematically similar ground, but I think the situations are distinct enough that the two songs don’t encroach on each other that much. In fact, I disagree with you on this one quite a lot: I like the fact that they abandoned their original pitch for a Disney Villain Song (which was to have Valencia sing a song about how much she hates other women, which eventually took on a very different form and manifested as ‘Women Gotta Stick Together’) because it was too on-the-nose and realised that it would be much more interesting to have that particular moment be Rebecca’s. I think there are a lot of really strong aspects to this song, including how deeply ingrained it is in the episode it appears in – both the “I’m terrible with money” line and the whole Kate Hudson exchange made a lot more sense when I saw them in context as opposed to just viewing the song in isolation on YouTube. And you know what? I also dispute your claim that it’s no fun: I love the subtle look to the camera Rachel gives during “I’m the bad guy in my TV show”, and hell, this song taught me about the cinematic advertising trope of “the bitch in the corner of the poster” which I wasn’t even previously aware of but am now totally obsessed with. Don’t look at the way they’ve styled Rebecca in that mock romcom poster and tell me this song is no fun. I won’t hear it. I do agree that it just sort of ends, though, I’ll give you that one.
24. ‘Having A Few People Over’ (Steve – 23rd place / Chris – 26th place)
(Sung by Pete Gardner in S01E10: ‘I’m Back At Camp With Josh!’)
Steve: By fluke rather than by design, we’ve ended up having to write about two of the shortest songs of the whole season in the same update, so forgive us if that means this particular entry isn’t perhaps as extensive as some of the others. ‘Having A Few People Over’, though, is all the sweeter for its succinctness – in fact it helps ensure that a one-joke song doesn’t outstay its welcome. The core gag of having the show’s squarest character perform an EDM number is a solid one, and the ever-reliable Pete Gardner delivers with some suitably dorky dance moves that – perhaps thanks to the dim lighting – still somehow seem to fit the track. And you know what? Honestly, this video totally sells me on the idea that Darryl is a first-rate host, and I would definitely RSVP to one of his parties. (Although if you can see him being referred to as “king of the spread” and not snigger in the wake of his relationship with White Josh, you’re a better person than I am.)
Chris: I mean, Steve has said pretty much all there is to say about this one and we have about the same opinion of it, so shrug. FROMAGE.
23. ‘Romantic Moments’ (Steve – 29th place / Chris – 18th place)
(Sung by Nina Zeitlin in S01E12: ‘Josh And I Work On A Case!’)
Chris: I really like this one because it’s a model of parsimony. It’s only 24 seconds but it captures perfectly the awkward confusing feeling of not knowing whether your secret crush is feeling the UST in any given situation, or whether you’re just a crazy stalker, whilst sounding like a sanitary pad commercial, and then it gets out again leaving behind the just vague memory of an implied anal visual gag. *kisses fingers*
Steve: Yeah…there really wasn’t much need for secondary comments tonight, was there? What he said.
22. ‘What’ll It Be’ (Steve – 37th place / Chris – 10th place)
(Sung by Santino Fontana in S01E06: ‘My First Thanksgiving With Josh!’)
Chris: So this is the biggest discrepancy between mine and Steve’s rankings on this list, which I’m putting principally down to my unrelenting stanning for Greg songs, character songs generally, and also songs that aren’t necessarily haha funny. Because even though this isn’t Greg’s first song, it’s definitely his entire character in one song. Bitter, thwarted, glib, playing a parody of old Billy Joel music to an uninterested audience of one “sunburnt milf”, getting progressively more sarcastic and angry until the final chorus where Santino Fontana nails the emotion behind the song so exactly that I almost tear up a bit (although not quite, stop looking at me like that). Greg so badly wants to be a romantic, sarcastic, flippantly cynical Bukowski/Rick Blaine figure but the bar he works at is for 12 year olds and their bored mothers rather than intriguing flotsam from the city’s underbelly, is co-staffed by his much cooler girlfriend, and is run by a cheery understanding boss rather than The Man. In less capable hands the whole scenario could be played for much broader comedy than it is, but this song lays out a convincing case that it, and Greg, are just straight up tragedy. Of all the characters on the show he’s the only one clear-sighted and self-aware enough to know exactly what his problem is (it’s West Covina, California) but also the only one too lazy and fatalistic to do anything about it.
Steve: Actually this is probably my biggest post-ranking regret, I should have put this one much higher. Blame my low placing of it on the fact that I spent half of the series really not liking Greg at all, and therefore hating any song that had him at the front sheerly on principle. Thanks to Spotify, I have listened to this quite a lot since initially watching the episode and unlike Chris I actually *have* cried listening to it SHUT UP STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT IS IT TIME FOR THE NEXT SONG YET.
21. ‘I’m So Good At Yoga’ (Steve – 28th place / Chris – 13th place)
(Sung by Gabrielle Ruiz in S01E02: ‘Josh’s Girlfriend Is Really Cool!’
Steve: One of the things that’s very interesting to me about this show is who is allowed to sing and the constraints that they’re given when they do. If you consider Paula and Darryl’s first solo numbers, both songs serve to underline the character’s main traits and overall drive. Valencia’s first solo, on the other hand, tells us literally nothing about Valencia because it’s all taking place inside Rebecca’s head – which, incidentally, is also true of Josh’s first big solo number. In other words, there are some characters who were intended to remain, at least in the first half of the season, something of a mystery. But while it doesn’t necessarily serve Valencia the character that well, this song a great calling card for Gabrielle Ruiz and establishes her as a triple threat – I would classify this as one of the harder songs to sing, and that choreography looks like a killer. This is also one of a handful of tracks to get the luxury of an uncensored “explicit” version posted exclusively on Rachel Bloom’s YouTube channel, but for the most part I think the bowdlerised lines are funnier: “hoo-hah” > “pussy”, and “butt stuff” > “anal”, though I will concede that Gabrielle’s delivery of “I come vaginally” makes it funnier than “I orgasm instantly”. The best bit of the whole song though? Valencia establishing her superiority over Rebecca because “I’m not afraid of clowns and trains”. So delightfully random.
Chris: Oh, I never kept track of what songs are supposed to be “real” representations of other characters and which are “in Rebecca’s head” because really, if that’s supposed to be a distinction it’s incredibly vague (whose perspective is ‘Settle For Me’ supposed to be from if it’s not reliable narrative? Greg’s? Rebecca’s? Is it a Folie A Deux?). Besides, nothing about Valencia’s personality as subsequently represented on the show is that different from how she is here – self-obsessed, superior, hyper-sexual, and vindictive. As opposed to Number 25 on this list, it’s an actual no holds barred Villain Song, and a damned good one in terms of establishing Valencia (at least initially) as an uncomplicated roadblock antagonist (and thereby making it even funnier and more tragic that Rebecca spends the entirety of the rest of the episode crushing on her and trying to make her be her friend). In terms of the explicit version I will throw down hard for “greet each day/namaste/fuck you/you’re fat” as incredibly funny in its directness, especially due to Gabrielle Ruiz’s delicious strangulated delivery of “fuuUUuuUUUuuuCK” (her “screw” is a little more basic). I do think it loses something around the tattoo segment and pussy is INDEED less funny than “hoo-hah” though. (Also the absolute Casio preset inauthenticity of the Bollywood track here is apparently deliberate so I’m adding bonus points for the cultural commentary on California yoga classes.)
20. ‘Cold Showers’ (Steve – 19th place / Chris – 21st place)
(Sung by Rachel Bloom, Donna Lynne Champlin and Pete Gardner in S01E12: ‘Josh And I Work On A Case!’)
Steve: ‘Cold Showers’ probably has the toughest job of any song in season one, being a parody of a song that has already been parodied to perfection by The Simpsons. Go on, listen to ‘Cold Showers’ and try to resist the urge to chant “monorail!” along with it – it’s hard, isn’t it? But Crazy Ex-Girlfriend wisely decides to not to try to play The Simpsons at its own game and instead takes the song back to its Music Man roots, throwing in lots of references to the original song ‘(Ya Got) Trouble’ that will quite possibly at first fly right over the head of anybody (ie. me) who had never encountered this melody before Lyle Lanley rolled into Springfield. It’s testament to the show’s versatility that something as straight-up musical theatre as this fits so well into a universe where the songs tend to have at least a little bit of a pop sensibility, and it’s the little touches that really elevate it: the deranged-but-traceable logic of Rebecca’s insistence that cold showers are “a gateway drug to crack”, the apartment block residents getting swept up in the rhythm without bothering to question it (and indeed affirming that “this makes sense!”), the look of delight on Donna Lynne Champlin’s face throughout that suggests this is the most fun Paula has had all week, the fact that it’s a man who recoils in horror at Rebecca’s suggestion that “your husband’s probably having an affair”, “just like the movie I Am Legend / but not like that at all”, the part where Rebecca/Rachel clearly isn’t wearing the right sort of footwear to comfortably launch herself onto a lilo, and the part where they hold the final shot just slightly too long as Rebecca starts to drift away awkwardly, which I like to think is where they got the inspiration for the season two title sequence.
Chris: You can pretty much take what I said for ‘Flooded With Justice’ and replace all the reference to Les Mis to The Music Man. I like it a little more because it’s dealing with more fertile ground and has more pep and life to it, although on the other hand a little less again because some of the references are so specific as to feel a little self-indulgent. Still… POOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!
19. ‘California Christmastime’ (Steve – 21st place / Chris – 15th place)
(Sung by the ensemble cast in S01E08: ‘My Mom, Greg’s Mom And Josh’s Sweet Dance Moves!’)
Chris: So Fun Fact: when I watched Crazy Ex-Girlfriend originally I did it more or less to the US schedule, in that I watched the first 8 episodes over the course of a few weeks, then waited a few months, and watched the back 10. Which really drove in what a great precursor to a midseason break ‘California Christmastime’ is. It’s epically pointless, having no connection to the plot at all, cheerfully festive, insanely catchy, brings the entire main cast together, has its own “play along at home” dance routine, and best of all it’s really cheap round the edges. Whether it’s the “sod it, we have to go to tape soon” rhyme of “high rates of skin cancer” and “HANG 10, RUDOLPH AND PRANCER!”, or how the big closing group dance routine is filmed so sloppily that you can practically see the boom mics (what IS Greg doing for his solo? He looks like when Homer Simpson pretended to be a sperm), or what the HELL they were thinking when it came time to record “Carol”’ vocal cameo, the whole thing is really reminiscent of the best kind of cheesy-and-cheerful Christmas special from tv of old, and leaves you with a sense of “big finish” closure but also wanting more in a way that a more predictable forced cliffhanger or a major plot revelation just wouldn’t do.
Steve: Aargh, once again Chris has beaten me to pretty much everything I wanted to say. I love the lingering aroma of “will this do?” around the whole thing, which I choose to believe is a meta-comment on the naked cynicism of most commercial Christmas songs, and I love that the aforementioned “hang 10, Rudolph and Prancer” is probably the worst lyric in the entire series but everyone just shrugs and grins and goes with it anyway like “I actually can’t believe we’re getting away with this”. Its determination to give the entire main cast at least one line to sing is admirable, even though Donna Lynne Champlin, Pete Gardner, Santino Fontana and Vella Lovell could’ve pretty much gone off for their Christmas holidays a few hours early and just patched their lines in via videoconference. And one final aspect of this that I reckon is worth mentioning: the part at the very end of the song, where everyone else has given up and left and a slightly exhausted Rebecca is the only one left singing, is the first indication we get (later confirmed in the flashbacks during ‘Josh Has No Idea Where I Am!’) that in “real life” Rebecca’s not actually that much of a singer. It’s a nice little touch in an otherwise entirely throwaway song.
18. ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Theme Song’ (Steve – 5th place / Chris – 28th place)
(Sung by Rachel Bloom across the whole series)
Steve: I love a good title sequence. That period during the early 2000s when every show’s title sequence was a brief flash of a card with the show’s name on it was agony for me (thanks for nothing, Lost). As far as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend itself goes, unsurprisingly I’ve tried to talk a lot of people into watching this show, but it’s not always the easiest pitch to make: sometimes the title puts people off from the outset, sometimes people go “ugh, it’s a musical?”, sometimes they just think the whole thing sounds a bit rubbish, to be honest. So if I don’t manage to win people over on the first attempt, what I usually do is point them in the direction of the season one theme song and suggest they watch it, because it only takes 30 seconds of your life and in those 30 seconds you get a pretty good sample of the plot, the music and the show’s sense of humour. (Sidebar: it was seeing the titles in this AV Club article that made me realise I should be watching the show in the first place.) I’ve watched this sequence over and over again, and I’m constantly blown away by the breezy delivery and the economy of language: “one day I was crying a lot and so I decided to move to West Covina, California” tells you so much about Rebecca Bunch, as does “it happens to be where Josh lives / but that’s not why I’m HEEEERREEE”. It also does a great job of pre-empting the obvious criticisms of its own subject matter (“that’s a sexist term!”, “the situation’s a lot more nuanced than that”). But probably the best thing about it is the show’s playfulness when it comes to incorporating it, particularly that run of episodes early on where the cold open would inevitably end with one character asking Rebecca some variation on “just what is your deal, anyway?” and leaving the titles to answer that question – and its versatility was demonstrated in the episode where they dispensed with the melody entirely and got Paula and Scott to do a spoken-word version instead. The only real drawback is that being so relevant to Rebecca’s position at the start of the series made it obsolete when the second season rolled around, but that’s fine because the second season theme song is great too.
Chris: The intros to the song I like, because the intros to the songs are much more palatable and fun than the song itself, which is fucking grating. I get that that part of the point is that it’s to a degree sending up perky sitcom theme tunes, but they’re not really a thing in this country and God so grating. The first half is fun in its flippancy about Rebecca’s parlous mental state but by the time we’ve got to the cartoon sun and the jiggling cartoon figures I’m out.
17. ‘Group Hang’ (Steve – 13th place / Chris – 19th place)
(Sung by Rachel Bloom, Erick Lopez, David Hull, Devere Rogers and Harvey Guillen in S01E12: ‘Josh And I Work On A Case!’)
Chris: OK so, obviously this is probably a little too high and I’ve been a little too generous with it but I do have a lot of affection for ‘Group Hang’. It’s not reinventing the wheel, and its best punchline (“I’m so afraid of horses!”) is just a weaker retread of the best punchline in ‘I’m So Good At Yoga’ but it’s damn catchy (I will get the whole of “Spanish Spanish Spanish Spanish Español Arriba (x3), Guadalajara Sicily” stuck in my several times a day) and it’s a nice case of form fitting function, as Rebecca increasingly complainins to herself about cultural appropriation as everyone else amongst Josh’s friendship group ignores her to get on with talking amongst themselves about how their other friend “sprooshed” (whatever that means) and gorging on the free nachos. Plotwise it also marks the creeping start of an ever-increasingly present Josh plotline – his avoidant behaviour, especially with women. There are more obvious examples to come (ditching Valencia on his sister’s wedding day for one) but the plausible deniability of him converting a one-on-one “friend date” to a mass group outing (on Rebecca’s dime) is a good place to start.
Steve: When we compiled this list and looked at where everything ended up, Chris said to me “I hope you’ve got a good defence prepared for ‘Group Hang’, because everyone hates that one.” And he totally had a point, but I’m not even going to entertain the idea that this song isn’t thoroughly deserving of a place in the top 20. As Chris pointed out, it is ridiculously catchy and I still keep putting it on repeat even now. (It’s probably also my favourite Crazy Ex-Girlfriend song to sing in the shower, with the possible exception of ‘Face Your Fears’.) Beyond that, I think “it makes me so sexy-sad!” is an incredibly underrated joke, Rachel Bloom’s scandalised delivery of “el cheque” is one of my top five line readings of the entire series, and I love the meta-joke of Rebecca using a parody of a song by a Colombian singer to get on her soapbox about the bastardisation of Mexican culture. That sort of well-intentioned tone-deafness is a perfect piece of characterisation. (Unless everybody involved in the creation of this song just thought Shakira was Mexican, but if that’s the case, shut up and leave me alone, ‘Group Hang’ is still great.)
16. ‘One Indescribable Instant’ (Steve – 22nd place / Chris – 9th place)
(Sung by Lea Salonga in S01E18: ‘Paula Needs To Get Over Josh!’)
Chris: ‘One Indescribable Instant’ is probably the most straightforward song in the first series of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. There’s no jokes, no wry subversion, no winks to the camera or breaks of rhythm to randomly talk like a valley girl. It’s sung by a guest star, playing an unimportant character, with no relevance outside of singing this one song. It’s a straightforward love song, right out of a Disney film crossed with Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrically pretty uninspired and melodically pretty rote. It is, on the face of it, at first glance, pretty unremarkable. And yet it marks the point where the show officially goes insane. As the song goes on the sentiments get more and more overblown (without tipping ever over into actual comedy), Lea Salonga (Lea EFFING Salonga people) starts belting at hurricane force, and everyone’s clothes fall off and they start getting busy. In Rebecca’s head, in a series ending montage, the song represents her getting everything she’s ever dreamed of, making out with Josh Chan unencumbered in the most unbelievably romantic moment of her life as fireworks go off and an American Idol is crowned. In reality, take two steps back, get some perspective, and she’s getting porked in the back seat of a car because her actual intended date had an alcoholic blackout because of his toxic jealousy and someone else at a wedding suddenly got commitment issues and an urge for consequence-free sex and was happy to step in. Rebecca loses it a few times in Season 1, but the rampant unironic happpiness of ‘One Indescribable Instant’, matching up with what is clearly an entirely ironic mistake on the half of her and Josh, coupled up with the inevitable resolution (BUT NOT) of a season ending musical number, makes for one hell of a climax. From the song you could buy it, if you’re as naive as Rebecca. From the presented facts…well bring on Season 2. (Also White Josh and Darryl holding hands is cute, my general disdain for that storyline aside)
Steve: Fun fact: the first time I heard ‘One Indescribable Instant’ I was in floods of tears before I’d even made it to the one-minute mark. This probably has something to do with the fact that I was finishing up season one in the week leading up to my wedding, I’d spent the past three days barely leaving my kitchen because I was baking enough cakes to feed around 80 people for the reception, and I was, as they say, ‘tired and emotional’ and excessively vulnerable to sweeping Disney ballads about the transformative power of love. I ranked this one fairly low because frankly I’ve been too scared to play it much since. LEA EFFING SALONGA, though, guys.
15. ‘West Covina’ (Steve – 8th place / Chris – 22nd place)
(Sung by Rachel Bloom in S01E01: ‘Josh Just Happens To Live Here!’)
Steve: As the first musical number in the show’s history, ‘West Covina’ has a lot to prove. After all, if you promise people a serialised musical comedy and then the first number doesn’t deliver, a significant chunk of your viewership isn’t going to stick around long enough to ever hear ‘The Sexy Getting Ready Song’. As a result, the show throws everything plus a middle-school marching band at this song to create the biggest production number they can (and retrospectively gives us an idea of how the show might have looked if they’d had Showtime money for the entire series) as a sort of proof-of-concept. It’s unashamedly musical theatre and a great segue from the rigidity of Rebecca’s starchy New York corporate life in the first five minutes or so of the pilot to the more fantastical aspects of her new life in West Covina, while also delivering a substantial mood whiplash midway-through as Rebecca drifts from suddenly finding joy in the relative mundanity of giant pretzels and anime wigs, to suddenly attempting to rationalise her behaviour to realtors and movers (“I didn’t move here for Josh, I just needed a change / ‘cos to move here for Josh, now that’d be strange […] yes I heard of West Covina from Josh, but I didn’t move here because of Josh, do you get those things are different?”), thereby neatly setting up the kind of chaotic world we’re about to be moved into. It also lays the groundwork for Rebecca’s “weird, right?” catchphrase, not to mention giving us a leitmotif that is going to feature significantly in the next 18 episodes and setting up not one but two future reprises, so basically what I’m saying is that, love it or hate it, without ‘West Covina’ the entire show loses its backbone.
Chris: I do like how ‘West Covina’ serves as a base for the score of the entire series, but it’s just that. It’s a base. It’s a sofrito. It’s something that’s endlessly built on and reoriented and played with but in and as of itself it’s not really something I’d revisit in its own right that often.
14. ‘I Have Friends’ (Steve – 15th place / Chris – 14th place)
(Sung by Ava Acres and Rachel Bloom in S01E03: ‘I Hope Josh Comes To My Party!’)
Steve: If we were scoring these songs purely on earworminess, this would’ve been number one. Unanimously. This song has burrowed into my brain to such an extent that any time I hear someone say “I [verb] [noun]s”, I burst out with “I definitely [verb] [noun]s”, no matter how little sense that sentence might actually make. ‘I Have Friends’ is one of the best examples of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s ability to do a lot with very little, and also of the sheer glee Adam Schlesinger takes in being able to make songs sound as deliberately shitty as possible as he Casio-demos his way through this ode to Rebecca’s attempts to persuade herself that she’s not just desperate and lonely. Ava Acres as the young Rebecca is an absolute find, effortlessly exuding the precocious confidence that the character had before life (and Audra Levine, perhaps) knocked it all out of her. And we mustn’t forget this song’s excellent assortment of walk-on guest characters who are surprisingly well-rounded for people who might as well be Pokémon considering they don’t get to say much beyond their own names: overly-ingratiating Patty, Luann who is not comfortable on camera (MY FAVOURITE), the overly-gregarious Lady Who Hit Your Car, the reluctant Friend Of Friend From Law School, and of course Grocery Clerk With Half An Eyelid, who became so popular that he managed to return as the unlikely lothario of the supermarket. I was actually outraged when we compiled this list and I realised ‘I Have Friends’ wasn’t in the overall top 10, until I realised that a) I hadn’t even put it in my individual top 10, and b) there wasn’t a song I could single out that deserved to be demoted in order to boost this one. We’re into top-tier territory at this point, is what I’m saying.
Chris: And you didn’t even include the part where both Adult Rebecca and Child Rebecca get pizza thrown at them! I love this a lot, but the fact that the Mrs Hernandes part doesn’t in any way scan with the rhythm manages to bother me every time. Also Mrs Hernandes kind of sucks. Shout out to the janitor who lives in an RV behind the school though.
13. ‘Put Yourself First’ (Steve – 16th place / Chris – 12th place)
(Sung by Lulu Antariksa, Jazz Raycole and Marisa Davila in S01E10: ‘I’m Back At Camp With Josh!)
Chris: The “Summer Camp” episode isn’t my favourite installment of Crazy Ex Girlfriend by any means. Rebecca’s behaviour is a little too cartoonish and over the top, the Greg-related B-plot goes nowhere (bonus points if you can even remember what it is), and for the most part the songs are fun but very short and shallow. ‘Put Yourself First’ makes it worth it though. For the whole episode the po-faced fussy feminism of Rebecca (representing the older end of the Millennial generation) is in conflict with the more flexible and vaguely defined feminism of the campers she’s in charge of (representing the older end of Generation Z) and ‘Put Yourself First’ represents the point where Rebecca finally gives in and lets them give her a (terrible) makeover to make the subtext of the episode text: she’s regressed to teenagehood again. Via a song and dance routine transparently sniping at Fifth Harmony, complete with ridiculously pneumatic dance-routine, muddy lyrics about putting yourself first but IN A SEXY WAY, and an eerily convincing Terry Richardson impersonator. It’s not reinventing the wheel in terms of sociological critique, but as a takedown of a particular type of modern thinking it’s astute, and even more funny for the fact that by this point in the episode Rebecca is too beaten down to offer more than token resistance. Kudos also for the casting department filling all three US girlband niches with their choice of the three members of the ersatz girl group – The Forceful Black One, The Awkwardly Goofy White One, and The One Who Looks Like She’s Come As A Chaperone.
Steve: For my money the Terry Richardson/Male Gaze bit is surplus to requirements because I think by that point we already get it, but other than that, I find it hard to fault ‘Put Yourself First’. It’s one of the reasons we ended up ranking ‘The Sexy Getting Ready Song’ so low, because ‘Put Yourself First’ covers similar ground but with ruthless efficiency and an absolute barrage of great gags. I love the fact that, like ‘Cold Showers’, it even develops its own strange internal logic after a while (“don’t think about it too hard, too too hard / It’s a wormhole, it’s a Möbius strip / It’s snake-eats-tail, it’s the infinity sign / Get a tattoo of the infinity sign, on your lower back / Just for yourself!”) and, as Chris said, it’s one of the cases where the specificity of what it’s parodying really works in its favour: I was out shopping the other day and Fifth Harmony’s ‘Worth It’ was playing in one of the shops and without even realising I started singing ‘Put Yourself First’ over the top of it. Also, Marisa Davila’s commitment to her role as The Kooky One at all times, even when she’s barely in the shot, is truly admirable. A star is born.
12. ‘You Stupid Bitch’ (Steve – 4th place / Chris – 23rd place)
(Sung by Rachel Bloom in S01E11: ‘That Text Was Not Meant For Josh!’)
Steve: Hoo boy. I don’t even know if I can be objective about this one, nor do I know if I should even try. But hey, I’ve overshared about my mental health on this blog before, so there’s not much point in holding back now. As someone with a fair amount of experience in the arena of “depression-fuelled interior monologues that mercilessly tell you how awful you are”, nothing I’ve ever seen in popular culture has ever captured how that feels quite like ‘You Stupid Bitch’ does (though I must admit the crowd aren’t generally so encouraging in my version). I find this song quite interesting to view along ‘Where’s The Bathroom?’ (which we’ll cover in more detail later), where Rebecca is on the receiving end of a thousand random pinpricks of negging courtesy of her mother, which leave her exhausted but still standing, whereas ‘You Stupid Bitch’ sees Rebecca delivering herself a solid whack with around 10 well-chosen two-by-fours that completely shatter her will. It captures how your inner critic can usually be more hurtful than anyone externally can, without even being particularly articulate, which is why I like the bit where Rebecca casually calls herself a “poopy little slut”, and of course the part where she cruelly chucks in “and lose some weight” despite that having no relation to the rest of the song. On an unrelated note, I would also like to throw in that my absentminded rendition of this while walking around Gatwick Airport last year was the moment when I realised that very few Crazy Ex-Girlfriend songs are suited to being sung out loud in public, particularly if you’re male. And especially not this one, because it really does invite a lot of questions that you won’t want to have to answer.
Chris: I…think the “poopy little slut” line ends up sounding really fatally weak. I mean, I get the rationale, but in the context of the musical score of the show generally, and how other songs are worked to fit airing on the CW, it just comes across as trying to dodge the censor. I think this is one of the areas where the show might have been stronger and felt less compromised if Showtime had picked it up. Also the second verse makes absolutely no sense, even in a bad teenage poetry way. I think the song has a really strong concept (and I love the staging) but I think parts of it needed a second polish before it hit the air.
11. ‘JAP Battle’ (Steve – 10th place / Chris – 16th place)
(Sung by Rachel Grate and Rachel Bloom in S01E13: ‘Josh And I Go To Los Angeles!’)
Chris: One thing that Crazy Ex-Girlfriend does well that could easily go horribly wrong is the “Comedy Rap”, especially given that both attempts at the genre in Series 1 highlight that Rebecca Bunch is a) a white upper-middle-class Jewish New Yorker and b) deeply deeply square. So easily the show could have slumped into sub-Weird Al cartoonish dorkishness, or ended up like one of those awful 6:30pm Radio 4 “comedies” where “Prince Charles” “hilariously” “raps” about Brexit. Instead, whilst clearly neither Rachel singing is actually a rapper, there’s a nice bounce and flow to everything, and best of all it’s absolutely jam-packed through with Jewish jokes, which really are my favourite jokes in the whole world. Whether it’s self-consciously mocking progressive Jews with hardline views on Israel, referencing predominantly Jewish New York neighbourhoods, or just spooling out Yiddish. Shondeh! Sheket Bevaka! SHTETL! The show uses Rebecca and Audra Levine’s shared background and heritage and priorities as a way to jam-pack the rap with vicious insults whilst (mostly) avoiding the usual fat jokes and slut jokes. The only reason it’s not higher is that, in a move becoming her as a person, Rachel Bunch has given up literally all the good lines bar one (“You mean, because you minored in Urban Planning?”) to her scene partner. Sure it establishes Rebecca’s high school nemesis as a worthy Villain Of The Week and Rachel Grate bites down on every mocking line with almost hypnotic brio, but the battle might land a bit better if it wasn’t such a complete curb-stomp.
Steve: I’m so glad Chris had to take the lead on this one, because if it had been left to me it would have just been a list of all my favourite lines. Ah, what the hell, let’s just do that anyway:
“I put the O.G. in 5.0 GPA”
“Speaking of which, are you AP-graded? Cause these days you look a bit heavily-weighted”
“Think your verse is tight? Then you’re trippin’ like Birthright”
“That word is racist, someone oughta tell you / Like me, I belong to the ACLU”
“We were egged on like Seder plates” (this one is particularly fantastic imagery)
And of course rhyming “sea, word” with “C-word”. *kisses fingertips*
10. ‘I Could If I Wanted To’ (Steve – 18th place / Chris – 7th place)
(Sung by Santino Fontana in S01E16: ‘Josh’s Sister Is Getting Married!’)
Chris: One of the things I like about Crazy Ex Girlfriend is that it doesn’t just coast on subverting the usual genres in its song choices. Sure you’ve got your musical theatre parodies, your comedy raps, your subbverted girl pop anthems, and lots of 80s hairband take-offs but then suddenly *wham* Nada Surf. I’ve already said I’m here to stan for Greg songs, because I wub him, but this free-roaming, ever spiralling, defensive, bitter, ranting, ridiculous, borderline embarassing two minute opus about how academic success, satisfying family bonds, career satisfaction, and indeed life itself are all so overrated but also really easy if you’re as super smart and together as Greg definitely is, so easy that he needn’t even bother is probably his finest hour as a solo character in and as of himself and particularly funny because it all springs out of him getting a C on a night school pop quiz. I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate wardrobe on its greatest accomplishment in all of Season 1, even greater than Valencia’s ridiculous beachwear – consistently dressing Santino Fontana to make him look like a murky dark blue blob in mom jeans. I guess dressing himself is another thing that Greg could do if he wanted to.
Steve: If you’re wondering why, after scoring Greg’s solo numbers fairly harshly in the past, I ended up putting this particular song in my top 20, it’s because the song where Greg does nothing but sneer bitterly for two minutes about how everything is so pathetic and beneath him is also the point where I suddenly found Greg incredibly attractive, because I am an absolute garbage human being. Sorry everyone.
9. ‘Sex With A Stranger’ (Steve – 6th place / Chris – 17th place)
(Sung by Rachel Bloom in S01E04: ‘I’m Going On A Date With Josh’s Friend!’)
Steve: As a general rule, when Crazy Ex-Girlfriend attempts to send up a famous song, I find it’s most successful when it specifically parodies another track (‘Put Yourself First’, ‘Cold Showers’, ‘Feelin’ Kinda Naughty’) than when it tries to use an original composition to spoof an entire genre at once (‘Angry Mad’, ‘The Sexy Getting Ready Song’, ‘Women Gotta Stick Together’). ‘Sex With A Stranger’, however, is my inevitable exception to the rule. It exists broadly as a lampoon of all of those generic female R&B tracks about going to the club and gettin’ it on with some guy you just met that night, only filtered through a very Rebecca Bunch lens where the eroticism is frequently punctured with fretting about murderers, STI screenings and malodorous testicles. This is, admittedly, one of those songs that’s heavily reliant on the accompanying visuals for its comedy, because the sight of Rachel Bloom gamely rolling around in (and spilling out of) a skintight tiger-print catsuit and deliberately trying to look as utterly ridiculous as possible is never not funny, but there are some lyrical masterstrokes here, particularly “Have you been tested for STDs (STDs, tell me please, STDs) / Then waited a three-month window / And got tested again, just makin’ sure / Most people don’t know about the window”, delivered masterfully in a tone of rising panic. The overly-anxious but still sexually-active among us were long overdue our own ode to one-night stands, but in ‘Sex With A Stranger’, I feel we finally got the track we deserve.
Chris: Everything about ‘Sex With A Stranger’ is perfect (the song, I hasten to add) other than that one lyric that goes “don’t give me that incredulous face, I saw a movie like that on Lifetime”, which is so clumsy it drops this 10 places. At least. Sorry not sorry these songs exist on a knife-edge. (Kudos especially for managing a sudden stop right at the end, which is a hard thing to get right.)
8. ‘After Everything I’ve Done For You (That You Didn’t Ask For)’ (Steve – 9th place / Chris – 11th place)
(Sung by Donna Lynne Champlin in S01E18: ‘Paula Needs To Get Over Josh!’)
Steve: I can just imagine that on the storyboard for the final episode of the season, they reached the gap where this musical number was going to be inserted and just wrote “PAULA’S TURN!!!!!!!” with considerable glee. This Gypsy pastiche is basically a love letter to Donna Lynne Champlin, a gift for all of her hard work over the course of the season, giving her a chance to unleash one last powerhouse vocal performance and usher us all into the summer hiatus utterly secure in the knowledge that she is the show’s secret weapon. But its strength isn’t just in showing off DLC’s pipes, it’s also in showing off her considerable acting chops as she channels Paula’s unbridled rage at this point. One of the really fun things about this show is its delight in playing with romcom tropes, and in Paula they’ve taken the chance to explore how the stock “supportive best friend” character can, through the right lens, actually be seen as an over-invested meddler whose unquestioning validation of the heroine’s terrible life decisions can be destructive for everyone involved – and this song is the culmination of that. The fact that Paula enables Rebecca’s obsession with Josh because it makes Paula’s own life more bearable isn’t exactly subtext, it’s been stated outright several times over the course of the season, but this is the first time where Paula makes it explicitly clear to Rebecca, in a way she absolutely cannot ignore, overlook or disregard, that this was never just her obsession, it was their obsession – and Rebecca is not entitled to let go of it without giving her a vote. What truly lifts this song up for me, though, is something entirely external: Donna Lynne Champlin mentioned in an interview that the time you get to rehearse a musical number on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is significantly less than the time you get to rehearse a musical number on Broadway, and she turned up to film this number with an elaborate choreographed routine all ready to be put into play, only to discover that the floor was impossibly shiny and she couldn’t take more than about two steps without falling over. So now when I watch it, it reads as equal parts rage at Rebecca and rage at whichever bozo on the design team didn’t think to actually build a stage she could dance on. She’s a triple threat, dammit! The people need to know!
Chris: What I love about this song is that it clears up all sorts of little questions that weren’t quite plot-holes, but which are enhanced by resolution. Why exactly did Josh’s sister want Rebecca, who she barely knows, to be her bridesmaid, over any of her actual friends? How was Rebecca so clued in constructing a job application for Josh when she’s been out of his life for a decade? How was Valencia so frequently conveniently unavailable such that Rebecca could swoop in and take advantage of Josh being at a loose end socially? Oh right, it was all because Paula is a goddamn ninja. There are a few weak points – Paula’s (convincing) case that Rebecca’s disapproval of her meddling is…inconsistently applied at best was already made the episode before; the song’s making it text that Paula sees herself as Rebecca’s mother is a little clumsily worked in; Donna Lynne Champlin’s vocals sometimes slide past Ethel Merman and collide with Al Jolson – but I am always here for a song that references Gypsy liberally, and for the most part Donna Lynne Champlin nails the big brassy Misunderstood Villain turn.
7. ‘I Give Good Parent’ (Steve – 14th place / Chris – 6th place)
(Sung by Rachel Bloom and Amy Hill in S01E06: ‘My First Thanksgiving With Josh!’)
Chris: Despite her generally manic, hapless, accidentally setting things on fire, day-to-day demeanour, Rebecca Bunch is undoubtedly proficient in two areas. She’s a great lawyer and, perhaps more importantly, she’s a weapon’s grade suck-up. ‘I Give Good Parent’, the season’s first comedy rap, is a great representation of how Rebecca puts on a strong facade for prospective in-laws, for the purposes of getting in ever deeper with Josh. But the kicker is that the whole time underneath it all she’s groaning internally with a Nicki Minaj sneer about draining scrotums and drenched vaginas, because we’re not to forget that this *is* a facade and Rebecca’s motives are more to do with getting boned than making friends. She loves Neil Diamond! She casually bigs up her Harvard/Yale credentials! Her uncle is in radiology! She has good hygiene (written on her leotarded, booty-popping, video-ho outfit (COMPLETE WITH THANKSGIVING TURKEY BRA) ass)! The song very neatly counterpoints Rebecca’s skill at navigating repressed suburban living rooms with the horniness underneath whilst *also* making a neat joke about the sort of woman who works parents so hard it seems more like she’s trying to seduce them than their prospective husbands. Major bonus points are also given for Amy Hill, bedecked with silver grill, pronouncing “parent” in *the* most bizarre way, and providing the perfect “ha ha!” outro. (I also love how Rebecca meets Greg’s dad in Season 2, tries more or less exactly the same act, and he hates her immediately. As is so often the case, Rebecca often over-estimates how skilled she is at appearing…regular.)
Steve: I think it’s very interesting that this song comes just one episode after ‘I’m A Good Person’, where Rebecca was genuinely trying to convince us of her wholesomeness of her intentions, but here she’s admitting that, at least on some level, she knows that she’s full of shit a considerable amount of the time. Chris has pretty comprehensively covered most of the great things about the song, so I’m just going to chuck in a couple of other random things I enjoyed: Gabrielle Ruiz standing there and not reacting like a champ while Rachel Bloom flails around in front of her (see the season one blooper reel for an example of what happens when that goes wrong), and the rhyming of “drain a scrotum” with “thank-you note ’em”. The only criticisms I have are regarding the distinctions between the clean and explicit versions of this song: that occasionally the bowdlerised version is so transparently a patch for what they wanted to say that it’s actively distracting (“to be clear, your parents want to have sex with me”), and that each version has at least one great line that doesn’t appear in the other. Obviously I get why the CW broadcast couldn’t include “praise the hardwood, compliment the china / Give them hard wood and a drenched vagina”, but why was “I’m DTF but understand me, it means I’m dazzling the family” cut from the explicit version when it’s a) one of the funniest lines in the entire song and b) the absolute apex of Rachel Bloom’s Nicki Minaj impression? I’ve lost sleep over that.
6. ‘I Gave You A UTI’ (Steve – 12th place / Chris – 5th place)
(Sung by Santino Fontana in S01E17: ‘Why Is Josh In A Bad Mood?’)
Steve: We’ve mentioned several times already on this countdown what a great job Crazy Ex-Girlfriend does with Greg’s solo songs and how they’re always fascinating little character studies of West Covina’s resident underachieving try-hard cynic. ‘I Gave You A UTI’ is also a great character song for Greg, but entirely from the other side of his personality, because this is what Greg looks like when he’s happy and it’s…kind of terrifying, actually? It makes total sense for someone like Greg, whose arc across the season has been his overwhelming sense of failure in every aspect of his life, to get entirely carried away with anything that sounds even remotely like a personal endorsement – Rebecca getting a UTI during their fling must mean he’s fantastic in bed! – and even though Rebecca is sat there facepalming throughout the entire number and indeed trying to clarify to him that her condition was caused by the frequency of the lovemaking and not necessarily the quality, not only does Greg refuse to acknowledge it but he even tries to drag her into a call-and-response section, and when she doesn’t play ball, he just does it all by himself. It’s basically an entire season’s worth of happiness condensed into one track. Songs like this and ‘After Everything I’ve Done For You (That You Didn’t Ask For)’ take full advantage of their position in the season’s running order; they work so well precisely because of everything we know about the characters by that point. And not only is the song grounded in 17 episodes’ worth of considerable character (non-)development, it’s also bursting with brilliant, ridiculous lyrics (particularly “One night with me is pure ecstasy cause I know just what you like / But you should know for a week or so you won’t be able to ride a bike”) and a truly fantastic performance from Santino Fontana, wringing every last drop of potential from the idea of Giddily Triumphant Greg – just look at his happy little face in the still that they use for the video up there! Or the bit where he mimes giving himself a manicure with Rebecca’s kitchen utensils! And of course the fact that this all falls just one episode before his relationship with Rebecca disintegrates, primarily for reasons of self-sabotage, just makes it even more perfect.
Chris: Sod the dark undertones, I think I actually like this primarily because of how cute Greg and Rebecca are as a couple during it! Of course it’s not terribly deep or romantic that it’s an entire song built around nearly nothing but corny penis jokes (and I think a parody of New Jack Swing? Maybe? It’s hard to pin down which genre we’re in here), where the mise-en-scene is Greg preening post-coitally around Rebecca’s kitchen because they’ve had a lot of sex and Rebecca has implied his dick is so big it’s inadvertantly caused her internal damage but damnit it’s adorable! Obviously Greg and Rebecca were never meant to be endgame but there’s something about this whole routine, with the teasing and the wriggly bashful awkwardness that makes it feel like they could be, in some alternate universe, where he’s not a self-destructive alcoholic and she’s not already emotionally attached to somebody else. Also? Catchy.
5. ‘Dream Ghost’ (Steve – 11th place / Chris – 4th place)
(Sung by Michael Hyatt, Ricki Lake and Amber Riley in S01E15: ‘Josh Has No Idea Where I Am!’)
Chris: Dr Akopian is one of those thankless roles that women so often end up with in American prestige tv. The protagonist’s therapist/psychologist who exists mostly to serve as an audience surrogate, telling said protagonist they’re on the wrong track in a way that is doomed never to be listened to, and softly interrogating them to prompt out loud self-reflection in a seemingly naturalistic way. So thank God for Midlands Goddess Michael Hyatt that she got her own theme tune, and thank God for the rest of us that she attacks it like a mountain lion downing a water buffalo. No syllable is left unchewed, no facial expression is left ungurned, no note is left unbelted. Rebecca manifesting her therapist as a benign Motown spirit guiding her mystically through her subconscious trauma whilst she’s fast asleep on a plane (or as the song repeatedly lampshades “whatever the fuck is going on here, we’re not really sure, just go with it, it’s a bottle episode you enjoy those right?”) could be an awkward device, but Michael (who I was simultaneously watching as a ruthless gang matriarch in the season of The Wire I was also catching up on at the time, which was some dramatic whiplash I can tell you) sells it so hard that it becomes the most flat-out joyous routine of the series. The part where she endlessly appears and disappears and reappears outside of Rebecca’s window to cheerily wave at her and really drive home that she’s MAGICAL could have gone on forever as far as I’m concerned, as could her hammy pronounciation of both “trope” and “having predicaments”. And we’ve not even covered Amber Riley cameo’ing to bellow-and-beam her way through one line about how her dream client is pondering whether to TERMINATE A PREGNANCY!!!!!!! (Although the less said about Ricki Lake, who appears to have arrived on set direct from waking up on a 24 hour Xanax bender face down in a dumpster, the better) (other than she gets comprehensively out-performed by my favourite Minor Character Of Series 1 : Extra Awkwardly Blinking In Back Of Shot Behind Man Wondering Whether He Should Leave His Wife). Also dance routine! Also minor thread about how part-time work in the caring and therapeutic industry is inherently gendered and discriminatory! What more could you ask for?
Steve: I love that by this stage in its life Crazy Ex-Girlfriend felt confident enough to lampshade and deconstruct the TROPE (sorry, I can’t stop saying that word in that loud, deep way that Michael Hyatt sings it) of the Possibly Magical Black Person Who Helps A White Person Resolve A Big Problem, and that it does so by making Dream Ghost Dr Akopian clearly a very different person from Practical Professional Dr Akopian but also by winking so hard at the audience that it almost has a seizure. It would’ve been nice if Ricki Lake had looked like she had any idea what show she was on at any point (apparently she was a superfan who was delighted to be there but it doesn’t come across at all), but stuntcasting is always a lottery, isn’t it? (Also could the mindless vandal in the CW’s YouTube division who edited off the “Mondays at 8!” sting off the end of this after the show moved to Fridays at 9pm please go back and re-edit it so that it has got the fucking end of the song on it please?)
4. ‘I’m A Good Person’ (Steve – 3rd place / Chris – 8th place)
(Sung by Rachel Bloom in S01E05: ‘Josh And I Are Good People!’)
Steve: I can’t think of a song that defied my expectations more than ‘I’m A Good Person’. Going into it I knew exactly what it was going to be – a one-joke song where Rebecca acts like a giant asshole to everyone around her while simultaneously detailing her own wholesomeness – and when it was over I thought it was a fun little song that was ultimately disposable. And yet somehow I just kept going back to it on YouTube, playing it over and over again, and it became one of my favourite songs in the whole show. I haven’t subsequently found any great depth or complexity in it, but what I have realised is that it is the one-joke song as artform, where every line is a keeper, every visual is perfect and absolutely nothing is wasted. Whether it’s Rebecca humblebragging that “[her] nickname is Mother Teresa Luther King”, literally mic-dropping in a way that probably destroys a valuable piece of the bar’s AV equipment or holding a knife to a man’s throat until his wife compliments her (complete with ragingly insincere “aw, thankYOOOOUUUUU” <3), the whole song is a glorious tribute to dickishness. Not only that, but in a world where we're faced with endless "prestige TV" dramas about morally ambiguous middle-aged dudes yet female characters always have to be "likeable" lest they drive the audience away, it made my heart sing to consider how confident this show was in its vision that they were quite happy to have the heroine casually insulting a troupe of girl scouts and then leaving a man to choke, five episodes into the season. One last Columbo-style thing: this song also single-handedly validates the existence of the explicit versions of some tracks because the uncensored lyrics here are so much funnier than the broadcast edit, and "newsflash, fuckwads: I'm a good person" is probably the most I've laughed at anything over the past year.
Chris: Prestige dramas with unlikeable female leads? Is this where I relentlessly plug Enlightened until my eyes pop? Again? (And I guess Girls, to an extent, although not to a degree that invites any of yous to give me blowback for it because I DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT #marnieforever) Anyway, I like this song for all the reason outlined above, but chiefly for the swears. There’s something really infectious about the sheer level of self-righteous vulgar aggression that Rachel Bloom brings to the number, and I only wish the extras were vibing off it a little bit more because collectively they’re a little flat. THAT’S RIGHT GIRL SCOUTS, STEP IT UP. (Not you Santino Fontana, you’re good)
3. ‘Where’s The Bathroom?’ (Steve – 7th place / Chris – 3rd place)
(Sung by Tovah Feldshuh in S01E08: ‘My Mom, Greg’s Mom And Josh’s Sweet Dance Moves!’)
Chris: I feel like I’m being a bit repetitive after spending all of the write up for ‘Dream Ghost’ last night extolling the virtue of a guest star seizing their one opportunity to make a massive impact but good grief Tovah Feldshuh. The whipping off of those sunglasses, the aggressive combing and fluffing of her hair (to. the. beat), the constant pick pick picking with her fingers, the BIG gestures, the BIG notes, the EMOTIONAL ABUSE…it’s all spot on. For sure she can probably do “Overbearing Jewish Mother” in her sleep at this point, and sure her face doesn’t really move all that much but this was the perfect way to properly and indelibly introduce a character who had up until this point only lurked on the peripheries of the narrative, bursting through the door, demanding 50 things a second and judging everything twice as fast. Mrs Bunch has to carry the responsibility for a good proportion of her daughter’s neuroses, with her constant nitpicking, pushiness and complete lack of boundaries when it comes to Rebecca’s body, but there’s always time to break off from torturing her to give us a fun anecdote about an anti-semitic Wisconsinite bishop and the cheddar cheese boycott she’s launched into in response. Given that my own mother is the very opposite of pushy, I can’t say that I can relate, but it’s fun to occasionally take a holiday into a world of forceful condemnation of my lacking a bathmat (WHO DOESN’T HAVE A BATHMAT?) or someone wondering if I’m gay because I don’t own any vases. As a song, ‘Where’s The Bathroom?’ also does some fun creative things with the time it’s given to fill (the aforementioned complete change of tack midway through the third verse; the brief calm period of silence where Mrs Bunch is off…peeing and Rebecca is at blissful peace) and…well it’s a patter song. I love a good patter song. Now let’s give Josh’s mum her own song.
Steve: Absolutely – the expectations for Naomi Bunch when we’ve only seen her briefly in flashbacks and phone calls are high, and ‘Where’s The Bathroom?’ absolutely delivers. There aren’t a lot of things about this song that Chris hasn’t already covered, but I would just like to point out that as formidable as Tovah Feldshuh is in this sequence, Rachel Bloom is no slouch either. She only has three lines amid a three-minute onslaught of patter, but she does such a good job of physically registering the affect that Naomi’s presence has on Rebecca: the way she instantly tenses up, how she reacts to the verbal blows almost like she’s genuinely being punched, and how utterly exhausted she looks by the time they get to the bedroom. Also, I tip my hat to whoever made the brilliant decision to mimic the Jaws theme when Naomi goes to the bathroom and Rebecca briefly thinks she’s safe before realising nope.
2. ‘Feelin’ Kinda Naughty’ (Steve – 1st place / Chris – 2nd place)
(Sung by Rachel Bloom in S01E02: ‘Josh’s Girlfriend Is Really Cool!’)
Steve: And so we reached a rather awkward point, where Chris and I had exactly the same two songs in the top two spots, but in completely the opposite order. Inevitably we had to decide amongst ourselves which one would take precedence (because we thought that dragging out a countdown for this long only to have a tie for first place would probably not be well-received), and even more inevitably, Chris won. We’ll get on to why ‘Face Your Fears’ ultimately triumphed in a sec, but first let me state my case for why I felt ‘Feelin’ Kinda Naughty’ deserved to win. First of all, it came along at a time when Katy Perry’s ‘I Kissed A Girl’ had already been spoofed ad nauseam and most of us thought there really was nothing new to say on that front, only for ‘Feelin’ Kinda Naughty’ to immediately knock all the other pretenders out of the way and establish itself as the parody of that song, because it is utterly merciless in its skewering of Perry’s comically cartoonish and thoroughly unconvincing attempt at edgy sexuality (“Gonna tell you what I wanna do to you – tee hee hee!” is perhaps the most devastating burn in all of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s parody canon). Second of all, it isn’t simply happy to be a straight-forward parody but quickly carves out its own space as a reimagining of what ‘I Kissed A Girl’ might have been if it had attempted any sort of emotional honesty. This isn’t a chaste closed-mouth kissing session at a frat party with your drunk boyfriend cheering you on, this is an aggressive and unabashedly sinister account of a crush that became an obsession and swings between tenderness and, frankly, violence. (That the working title for the song back when it was being developed for Showtime was ‘I Want To Fuck You With My Jealousy Dick’ tells you everything you need to know on that score.) Third of all, it’s arguably one of the most emotionally complex songs Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has pulled off because it needs to capture everything that Rebecca is feeling towards Valencia at this point – attraction, repulsion, envy, fear, admiration, inferiority – and on the whole I think it carries it off, particularly in the way that “I wanna lock you in a basement with soundproof walls and take over your identity” becomes “I wanna lock you in a basement but in that basement you would also be my personal trainer” for the second verse. And I feel like a broken record for saying this so soon after ‘I Give Good Parent’, but Gabrielle Ruiz really is this show’s MVP when it comes to standing or gyrating obliviously while Rebecca’s insanity escalates in a musical number right in front of her face. So, to sum up: it’s an inspired parody that transcends its parodic origins and becomes a brutally honest song about that kind of crazy jealous-stalker-crush that most of us have experienced at least once in our lives, it’s absolutely impeccably delivered – and it does that all in under two minutes. Come on Chris, remind me why this isn’t number one again?
Chris: Nothing that was at any point in its life called ‘I Want To Fuck You With My Jealousy Dick’ should be winning anything, for a start. But seriously, I like this, I had it second, I’m not going to slam on it. For me, it’s tapping in to something that already exists in ‘I Kissed A Girl’ rather than something it’s adding though. Between the incredibly heavy synths, Katy Perry’s voice being distorted and deepened so much she sounds like a serial killer in an 80s transploitation slasher flick, and that whole break down in the middle where she starts rambling on about how women are MAGICAL CREATURES WITH SPECIAL SKIN or whatever, the original rides the edge of disturbing the entire time, so it’s fun to see the show tip it over into explicit madness, whilst still maintaining a level of goofiness that allows for “LIKE THAT FILM WITH LIBERACE!” (complete with full costume).
1. ‘Face Your Fears’ (Steve – 2nd place / Chris – 1st place)
(Sung by Donna Lynne Champlin in S01E03: ‘I Hope Josh Comes To My Party!’)
Chris: *cracks knuckles* So clearly the relationship between Paula and Rebecca is the most emotionally complicated, nuanced, and satisfying in the show. Two intelligent capable women, one a 20something upper-middle-class New York lawyer, the other a 40something working class paralegal, both with massive jugs, locked together in joint symbiotic pursuit of Josh Chan, with added lashings of Electra Complex and maternal transference. AND PIPES. And ‘Face Your Fears’ is the bedrock being laid for their joint venture of romantic pursuit : Paula is over-invested, bombastic, full of (often bad) advice and Rebecca is neurotic, uncertain, cynical, and more practically minded. Paula wants a party, Rebecca wants to hide under a blanket unless forced to haul out the chips and dips. But beyond the importance to character and plot, ‘Face Your Fears’ is just a damned well-constructed song. Like a human musical Facebook inspirational shitpost, ‘Face Your Fears’ moves seemlessly from opening platitudes, through advice that sounds like it might be feasible, in a “if attacked by a crocodile punch it on the nose” sort of way, right to when it explodes into insanity via the sudden appearance of a children’s choir ACTUALLY RUNNING WITH GIANT SCISSORS THROUGH REBECCA’S LIVING ROOM, WHILST PAULA YELLS INSPIRATIONALLY ABOUT THROWING YOURSELF OFF A BUILDING AND JOINING THE MARINES AND SWIMMING RIGHT AFTER EATING! It’s perfect escalation, right down to the part where the whole thing drops out for the last few seconds so Donna Lynne Champlin can just show off her vocal prowess. And speaking of Donna Lynne Champlin, what an absolute agent’s showreel showcase of a performance. I could go on and on but here, chronologically, are my top 5 Donna Lynne Champlin ‘Face Your Fears’ Moments :
1. 1:15 to 1:20 – the Buddy Christ faces as the inspirational glow coming from outside reaches terrifying levels of saturation
2. 1:53 : quite literally feeling the power of the Lord at its most intense here
3. 2:02 : the power behind the head toss as she STARES AT THE SUN
4. 2:18-2:23 : that insouciant finger-snap into actually saluting as she compels you to JOIN THE MARINES
5. 2:50-2:52 : facial and nasal twitching that would put both Frankie Howerd and Kenneth Williams to shame
And that’s not even going into the vocals, just a constantly on point, perfect channelling of inspirational White Lady Gospel On Tape whilst at the same time conveying that Paula’s advice may be terrible, but the only reason she’s so over the top is that she genuinely does love Rebecca and think she’s amazing. Which, when you get down to it, amidst the disastrous romantic entanglements, overbearing mothers, venomous but sexually compelling love rivals, and Audra Levineseseses, is really the heart of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, I rest my case your honour.
Steve: Yeah, I think the argument that Chris made when we were discussing this that won me over is that while ‘Feelin’ Kinda Naughty’ is a superb parody, ‘Face Your Fears’ springs entirely out of nowhere as a fully-realised masterpiece. It’s probably the most perfectly-paced song of the entire first season, it’s endlessly quotable (I can’t count how many times I’ve shrilled “JOIN THE MARINES!” out of nowhere) and it is, I think, the point where Crazy Ex-Girlfriend made good on its promise to deliver genuine musical theatre on television in a way that Glee or Smash never quite pulled off. And there just aren’t enough superlatives in the world for Donna Lynne Champlin’s performance, and the fact that fucking ‘Settle For Me’ was nominated for an Emmy over this just goes to show how the entire awards show system is in serious need of an overhaul.
So, there we have it. We hope you enjoyed reading this, that you found our opinions interesting (even if not persuasive), and you’re more than welcome to call us all sorts of names in the comments if you feel we’ve been unfair to your favo. We will probably get around to ranking the songs of season two at some point, but Steve has to actually watch it first so it’ll be a while.