Season Two of the CW's darkly funny musical comedy series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend just ended, and it falls to me the doughty task of ranking, with a rigorous, resolute and clear-eyed empiricism, the numerous musical numbers contained in those thirteen episodes.
I shouldered this same burden for the show's first season, last year. The exacting scientific analysis I undertook produced this prohibitively, nay! forbiddingly objective ranking.
It has been twelve months since that listing was published; naturally I take the Nobel committee's (irksomely lengthy, it must be said) silence to be one of awe. Or perhaps they're tied up in protracted legal disputes over prize-giving jurisdiction with the Pulitzer and Peabody people. But that's fine, I can wait. I don't do this for the awards, I do it for the glory and acclaim that come with the awards.
To the matter at hand: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Season Two.
The same caveats hold true, as ever: No reprises were included in this analysis, because reprises, as any decent Musical Comedy Epidemiologist will tell you, make the data noisy. Thus, Rebecca's Medley, from tonight's Season Two finale, is not included.
Also: In some cases, both broadcast and explicit versions of these songs exist. The explicit versions are always, always, always better, and they're what were considered for ranking herein.
Oh, and one last one: A reminder that these songs were written, orchestrated, choreographed, performed and recorded on a TV production schedule, which means over the course of a matter of weeks, even days. This remains flatly remarkable, simply as a feat of tuneful logistics. Thus a song's position at or near the bottom of this chart does not mean it's bad — it means it simply did not make its case, did not do what it set out to do, quite as adroitly as others.
28. "Man Nap"
Look, forget the visual, okay? These rankings judge musical merit alone.
... No, yeah, I get it, it's great how they found a hair-metal wig for Pete Gardner that matches the Darryl mustache. He looks great, he sells it, he's funny. He's downright Bon Jovial.
And yes, metal as a genre traffics in cartoonishly performative (read: adolescent) notions of masculinity (much as drag is all about femininity in extremis), so it's funny that the song contains all that soft, cuddly baby imagery. But the mere presence of that dichotomy just doesn't supply enough oomph to send this song higher up the chart.
27. "Makey Makeover"
The second the beat kicks in, you're looking around for Toni Basil. So, success on that score — it nails the pastiche. But to earn a high ranking, a given song has to do something with its pastiche — inflect it, invert it, get it off starting position — which reflects the show's specific sensibility. And simply shouting out glitter doesn't get there.
I do like that Bloom sings Process! Process! in such a heavily processed baby-voice. And she does give the song's kicker (I had a stroke/I had a stroke) a nice spin. But this is a classic book number which wasn't asked to do much besides underscore the visuals. Which it does, dutifully.
It's always great when Vincent Rodriguez III gets a number — dude's a true performer, and his "Boy Band Made Up of Four Joshes" was a Season One highlight.
This song, which pokes gentle fun (and then, somewhat-less-than-gentle fun) at how slow Josh can be on the uptake (read: glacially, tectonically) is a straight-ahead Chainsmokers riff, and much of the humor derives from how closely its production matches "Closer" and other stuff you're hearing on Top 40 radio right now.
Solid, well-performed, well-produced; it does what it does, it just doesn't do much.
25. "Santa Ana Winds"
Nice work here from Eric Michael Roy, who played a Jersey Boy on Broadway, bringing that artisanal falsetto to bear on this prankster/kind-of-a-narrator number, which has plenty of good lines (I bring whimsy and forest fires/When I blow there's magic in the air/And a high risk of suic-i-yi-yi-yi-yi-yide) and of course that callback to the Season One's standout "You Stupid Bitch."
It's all good, it's orchestrated perfectly, and the only reason it's languishing down here amid the other book numbers is its sheer pileup of verses. Five, to be exact. Which, yes, is the joke — the persistence of the wind, its inescapable nature — but as a listening experience, the song can't help but wear out its welcome.
24. "George's Turn"
He gets cut off.
Yes, it's a cheap joke. But it's a good joke. And as will be made plain over the course of this list, I like hearing from the show's background players/chorus. And as George, Danny Jolles got old-school pipes.
23. "Period Sex"
This song, teased all season long, arrived at last, and when it did, it didn't necessarily land with the splash many expected. Oh sure, there's some good lines (Think of it/As just Mother Nature's juice cleanse), it flows nicely, and the I-Love-the-80s production is spot-on, but it's just too light to earn a higher berth.
22. "We Should Definitely Not Have Sex Right Now"
Speaking of the 1980s: those chimes! That alto sax! Someone quick fetch me a Peabo! Bryson, preferably!
Seriously, this song picks you up and deposits you on your childhood living room's shag carpet in front of a TV the size of a industrial freezer, as the opening credits to Moonlighting begin. If that's a thing you're into.
Again, can't fault the production, and the song does progress — but only on a strictly narrative level (We shouldn't/We are/We should stop/We shouldn't do it again). To hurl itself a little higher, it'd need to innovate a bit more.
21. "We Tapped That Ass"
Force yourself to detach the spritely, old-school-musical visuals of this number from the song itself. Without all the happy-tappy (and impressive!) On The Town dance moves, the gleeful, boyish boorishness of it all — which is entirely the song's point — starts to grate. Especially when they whine about her mattress. And imitate her sex-talk. These guys are jerks.
But it is catchy.
20. "Research Me Obsessively"
See now, this could have been another throwaway book number, but it's got plenty of specific, vaguely disquieting detail about fake Instagram accounts and whatnot (Check out every guy I used to date/And deduce who broke up with who/Based upon the hesitation in our smiles) that lends it some real energy. And Brittany Snow really leans into the "sexy-coo" delivery the song demands.
19. "Stuck in the Bathroom"
Let's all agree on a two-part inviolate truth beyond reasonable dispute: Vella Lovell is great on this show, and she needs more to do. More songs, in particular. (See also: David "White Josh" Hull.) Not sure this extended "Trapped in the Closet" slow-jam is the very best use of her gifts — the song could use some sharper, more specific observations like "That's college for 'gym,'" and/or a punchier kicker — but at least her gifts are getting used, and that's a thing all right-thinking people should encourage.
18. "You Go First"
You can't say this show doesn't reflect the zeitgeist. I mean, here we have a number about waiting impatiently to be apologized to. You guys? I think Crazy Ex-Girlfriend just unwittingly wrote the one true Real Housewives theme song.
In retrospect, we should have all seen an Ann and Nancy Wilson pastiche coming from the jump. Rachel Bloom and Donna Lynne Champlin's voices can blend with a pure brightness or a smokier earthiness (that, admittedly, still sounds more "Rocker Chick Goes to Broadway" than anything else) and here, they're all Heart.
Really nice stuff here lyrically, too: (This is almost/Entirely/All my fault here) (So I can say 'oh no no no please'/Just like I rehearsed).
17. "You're My Best Friend (And I Know I'm Not Yours)"
What's gonna be wrong with a tuneful ditty played by on a ukulele by Darryl, the most Would-Definitely-Play-A-Tuneful-Ditty-On-A-Ukulele character on TV? If you think this is too slight to rank this highly, you may be missing the aching soul-sick loneliness this song is inadequately concealing.
Also: I also love the spin Gardner puts on the word "road" in "As long as there's a car on the ro-hooooad." So wonderfully sad.
16. "Love Kernels"
Lyrically smart, but melodically standoffish, this song is tougher to groove to than most. Intentionally so: instead of a bright, catchy hook, a tuneful chorus, we get something more plaintively repetitive, with the meter of an insistent heartbeat. What it's insisting upon, in this case, is that we really listen to the words, which are full of specific observations about relationships and meta-jokes. And, perhaps inevitably, Kazaam.
It's not as strong without its visual components, but it still retains a simple power.
15. "What a Rush to be a Bride"
Well, the visuals really help, but even without them, this full-throated Trent-Reznorization of the vicissitudes of wedding planning is a lot of fun.
Remember how "Man Nap" tried to fuel itself with the disparity between hair metal and nap imagery, but never quite managed to reach escape velocity? Well, here a similar, more energetic disparity: (DARKNESS DARKNESS DARKNESS/Will be avoided with a unity candle), (EVIL EVIL EVIL/If you anagram the letters it spells veil) is enough to put the song over.
14. "Thought Bubbles"
Josh gets his Mraz on, and it works. It's faithfully Mrazzy, it's catchy, it's beautifully sung — and, as Josh grows overtaken by doubts, hilariously performed. Most importantly, it moves. The thoughts in question get darker and darker. (If this song just allowed itself to go a scosh darker — like collect your baby teeth and make them into my new retainer darker — this song'd break the top 5, easily.)
13. "So Maternal"
Yes, it's catchy as hell — why, it's downright uptown-funky! — and it does what songs on this show exist to do, which is to place us so deeply inside Rebecca's delusions that we start to half-believe them.
But I'll be honest. The line "A Carol-Brady-level matriarch" almost single-handedly kicked this number three or four notches up the chart. (The Jamie Denbo cameo (you guys it's Beverly of Ronna and Beverly) also did not hurt.)
12. "Ping Pong Girl"
A Blink-182 riff that lovingly basks in what it's making fun of — and then takes it somewhere. Take a look at the arc described by the song's many bro-y shouted interjections:
Dudes sing these kinds of SONGS!
That's a lot of points!
Let's share a Costco Card!
11. "Who's the New Guy?"
The first time we really get a chance to hear from the Littlefeather chorus (Danny Jolles, Michael McMillian, Esther Povitsky and Stephnie Weir) led by Champlin. Strikes upon the perfect way to do meta-jokes, by tucking them inside a tuneful ditty so they breeze by without stopping the show dead to wink at us.
Who's this new character?/(I mean he's such a character!)
We really need a new guy/This far into the season?/(And by "far into the season"/ I mean it's almost Fall!)
Is this some sort of desperate/Move to help our ratings?/(You mean our terrible ratings/On Legalscores.com?)
10. "I'm Just a Girl in Love"
9. "It Was a S*** Show"
A perfect, bittersweet number with which to send Santino Fontana's Greg, and his pipes, off into the sunset: starts off in crooner mode, but builds into an old-school Broadway farewell. Plus, lines like A play about pieces of feces/Is what we are together and intentionally forced rhyme (I should split, though and ... well. You get it.).
8. "The Math of Love Triangles"
This is just a whole lot of fun, is all. One of the longest numbers of the season, with the most moving parts. Bloom's note-perfect Marilyn breathiness, the increasingly exasperated chorus of nattily dressed gay mathematicians — I mean you gotta respect a classic comedy construction like:
Is this a triangle?
-No, that's a shoe.
Is this a triangle?
-No, that's you.
So I'm a triangle?
1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 3, GO!
(Man, I really love that "WHAT? No!")
This song builds off of Season One's "Settle for Me," which featured a Rebecca distractedly enamored of the trappings of Old Hollywood ("Soooo twirly!") and also underscores the fact that she knows exactly what she's doing ("Thanks for teaching me man-math!")
Oi! Ladies and Gentlemen: the Spoice Guhls!
(Yes, the British accents are terrible. Awful. Execrable. But I think that's kind of the point? Or at least one of them?)
Look past the accents, if you can, and instead see the song for what it is: a gloriously infectious manifesto for a comically dystopic feminist future ruled with an iron, exquisitely manicured fist, zigazow.
The next time you watch Wheel of Fortune and there's that beginning bit where the audience shouts the show's name, see if you can stop yourself from screaming "Czar! Of! Torture!" at the TV.
If you can, you're stronger than I am.
6. "Greg's Drinking Song"
Carves out a cozy space inside the thing it's parodying, and then takes it, in a perfectly calibrated way, further and (I puke on my cat!) further and (no, that was a bush!) further.
Fontana's got such a great voice, too. Much missed. Pour one out for Greg, guys. Or, you know: ten.
(Lots more pee and poop references this season, have you noticed? Greg pees his pants, Nathaniel's whole gastrointestinal business in Episode 12....)
5. "Let's Have Intercourse"
Speaking of Nathaniel. Like the Littlefeather chorus, I was dubious about the addition of Scott Michael Foster this season, but with this perfectly ridiculous but sharply observed Ed Sheeran number, he both defined his character and won me over.
Come on let's quickly have intercourse
So I can move on
With my life
(My busy life)
To be specific, the plaintive, self-important way he sings that "Mah busy life" bit, above, is what won me over.
Also: They're prob'ly straighforward nihhhh-ples.
That, too. Not made of stone, here, people.
4. "(Tell Me I'm Okay) Patrick"
Every so often this show reminds just you how deeply, how consummately, its creators know and love musicals. Plenty of shows do musical episodes that feel dutiful, practiced, but not the product of a deep, lifelong passion for the form.
This classic torch song is different. It doesn't simply check the boxes, though it does do that — it feels lovingly made. Its melody, and its every chord progression, feel not simply imitative but essential, archetypal. You've heard songs like this before, and you will again, but this represents a perfect distillation of all of them.
You know where this song is going — you can predict the next note — but you don't mind, because that means it's vibrating on precisely the frequency that classic Broadway does.
3. "Maybe This Dream"
It's inevitable that this show would eventually return to a Disney-song parody, given the excellence of last season's "The Villain in My Own Story." After all, the whole musical genre, at least as it lives in the current public consciousness, wouldn't exist without animated Disney movies. So once we got a villain song, a princess song couldn't be far behind.
It's interesting to note that this particular princess song is defiantly old-school, back when Disney princesses came with a bit more operetta than they do today. And Champlin, of course, absolutely nails the requisite trills like the pro she is. And also the poop jokes.
Allllll the poop jokes.
(Right? Bird poop and dump cramps and peeing just a little. What is going on over at Crazy Ex-Girlfriend HQ? Do they need to switch craft services providers?)
2. "We'll Never Have Problems Again"
This. Is just. Perfect. Everything about it.
Even before the hand claps — and everyone knows any song with hand claps is a good song, that's just a medical fact — this number represents the show at its finest. Sadness so deeply embedded within its joyousness — and the joyousness here is potent — that you could almost miss it.
Hey look! Another sunset!
1. "Remember That We Suffered"
If this song gave us only Tovah Feldshuh, it would be enough; dayenu!
If it gave us only Tovah Feldshush singing the lyric:
I know, I know/The Holocaust/But the Holocaust/Is a really big deal!
... it would be enough; dayenu!
And if this song gave us only Tova Feldshuh, and that lyric, and Patti Freaking LuPone
... it would be enough; dayenu!
And if this song gave us only Tova Feldshuh, and that lyric, and Patti Freaking LuPone singing Nights like these are filled with glee/Noshing, dancing, singing, whee!/But we sing in a minor key/To remember that we suffered
.... it would be enough; dayenu!
But it didn't.
It gave us all of that — Tovah! Patti! Lyrics!— plus the following exchange, for which I would gladly give over the Peabody this article will surely earn me:
When I say "We," you say "Suffer!"
There's nothing for it but to surrender before the klezmeriffic perfection that is this, indisputably the best number of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Season Two.