Steven Universe, the brainchild of animator, writer and musician Rebecca Sugar, is one of the most iconic, diverse, inclusive shows on the air right now, and its devoted fanbase (the "Crewniverse") proves it. If you've never seen the show before, the original music included in each episode is an essential part of its appeal. As such, Cartoon Network has announced the first-ever collection of songs from the Emmy-nominated series, Steven Universe Soundtrack: Volume 1, releasing this Friday, June 2. The songs were curated by Sugar and performed by the voice cast, including Zach Callison (Steven), Estelle (Garnet), Deedee Magno Hall (Pearl), Michaela Dietz (Amethyst) and Tom Scharpling (Greg).
We caught up with Sugar herself for the lowdown on what to expect from the set of remixed and remastered tracks. Read on to learn more!
FUSE: Congrats on the soundtrack! What’s the most exciting part of it all for you?
Thank you! This is all the songs in their purest, most honest form. We tried to include as many songs as we possibly could and made it so you could feel the same progression that we had in the show—How the songs changed and evolved as we got deeper and deeper in the series.
I was curious how difficult it must have been to curate the songs. I'm sure you wanted to include them all!
We got to include almost all of them! The one that really stands out is the song that plays over the credits ["Love Like You"]. It's an omnipresent theme, so we ended up putting it at the very end.
For those new to Steven Universe, is there a song they should listen to first?
The extended theme song ["We Are The Crystal Gems"] is a nice place to start. Even the extended theme has elements of the show we don’t introduce at first. The soundtrack (and show) starts simple and progresses into more complex topics.
“We really lean into the optimism that can exist even if it's just a glimmer on the surface of a difficult feeling.”
How are you able to express some of the tougher themes of the show in these songs without making it too heavy?
Sometimes something is a very simple, relatable feeling, but when you say it out loud it's really complicated—especially when it comes to themes of loss and grieving. But there's a part of those feelings that is love and longing and deep respect. I think it's easy to say that so much better through music. There's a beauty you can express through music that you can't by just saying how you feel. We really lean into the optimism that can exist [in those feelings] even if it's just a glimmer on the surface of a difficult feeling.
That’s amazing. How much did the voice actors got to play a part in collaborating?
Whenever I get a chance to collab with them I do. I got a ton of advice from Estelle when I wrote "Stronger Than You." I said, I really wanna write a victory song and a fight song and a love song all at the same time... what would that be? Is there anything that can feel calm but also feel like it has forward momentum? Can a calm and relaxing song be fast and have a heartbeat? She had all these ideas to help with that, and I really tried to let that inform the demo track. She introduced me to a lot of work I’d never heard before. I always love to find out what music they [the actors] like and I wanna write music that my team wants to sing.
What was the biggest challenge for you in compiling these songs?
[Composers Aivi Tran and Steven “Surasshu” Velema] told me that working on some of the older songs was very surreal. It’s the nature of TV animation that things are done at an incredibly fast speed and this finally gave us an opportunity to revisit. And we talked about songs we always wanted to go back over, which we finally got to do.
What would people be surprised to learn about making music for an animated show?
It’s a mad dash always. There's no time carved out for stuff like that. I'll be writing all the time whenever I can: at night, in the morning, in the shower, in the car—whenever I have a second, I'm trying to write. During the day I'm working on the show, so every time I get to make music it’s a miracle.
Any one place where you feel more inspired to write than others?
Whenever I find myself in a new place I've never been before that helps me write a song. I went to Joshua tree and that’s when I wrote "Strong in the Real Way" and I couldn’t have written it anywhere else.
What will surprise fans about Steven Universe Soundtrack: Volume 1?
I hope that the album will be like a new batch of wonderful comfort food. Because things will be so familiar but brought to them in a new way.
For the first time we're releasing "Love Like Me" [the song that plays in the end credits] and it's such an emotional song for me. I'm so proud of it, and it's a true collaboration for me and Aivi and Surasshu. I don't know if I'll have another opportunity to write a song that spans so much of my lifetime. I'm very flattered they wanted me to sing on it.
What's the best way listen to the soundtrack?
Pick your favorite song and sing along. Or, start from the beginning: It’s a chronological account of all we've done as a team. I hope this will be a part of someone's life and that they can have the best version of these songs they’ve ever had.
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