The show’s a lot more nuanced than the title suggests – indeed, one of its raisons d'être is to dissect the "crazy ex-girlfriend" stereotype – and the original songs pack a wide range of emotion and comedy into every genre imaginable, as well as pastiches of pop music and musical numbers.
|Rachel Bloom as Rebecca Bunch in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend|
In the interest of showing Crazy Ex-Girlfriend some love, I’ve assembled a list of my favourite songs – some hilarious, some heart wrenching, some both. In the interest of brevity, I’ve limited my list to a top 10, even though I could have easily done 10 more. Here it is (click each song title to watch the video):
10. JAP Battle
In "JAP Battle," two archenemy Jewish lawyers go toe to toe in a rap battle that’s stuffed with Yiddish words and legal jargon. Rachel Grate and Rachel Bloom excel at showing contempt for each other’s characters, and all the hyper-specific terminology is hilarious (even if I did have to look some of it up). One line in particular involving the phrase “sheket bevakashah” – Hebrew for “quiet, please” – is devilishly clever. In the end, Grate gets the last word in "JAP Battle" in the song’s best lines: “You want to get salty like the Dead Sea? Word / But call off the suit or you’re dead, c-word.”
9. Put Yourself First
A send-up of pop culture that tries to offer female empowerment while still appealing to men, “Put Yourself First” tells women to put themselves first… but in a sexy way. The song makes the simple yet crucial point that the beauty industry is rooted in the male gaze and objectifies women. It’s great to see this valuable idea expressed so clearly and in such an amusing fashion in the lyrics and video. The song also happens to be catchier than the song it takes inspiration from (Fifth Harmony's "Worth It").
8. Settle for Me / Don’t Settle for Me
If Cole Porter’s “You’re the Top” achieves flattery at the singer’s expense, then Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s similar “Settle for Me” skips the flattery and jumps right to self-deprecation in a sad attempt at seduction. Settling in love is such a relatable concept, and the song works from the point of view of both the settler (Rebecca, who loves another man) and the settled-upon (Greg, who knows he’s choice number two). Add Santino Fontana’s tap dancing, which ably matches the nimble tread of the feet of Fred Astaire, and you’ve got a classic.
The song’s status is further cemented by its reprise “Don’t Settle for Me,” a cool counter to the original that says simply, “I’m way too badass to be someone you settle for.” Vella Lowell injects so much personality into the 40-second vocal, and her voice deserves way more airtime than it’s received so far on the show.
7. Gettin’ Bi
When Darryl Whitefeather comes out as bisexual, it’s a big deal. To him, anyway, and he calls a staff meeting so his employees can hear all about it.
His song is kind of a big deal, too. “Gettin’ Bi” is an exuberant ode to owning and accepting who you are – and it’s made all the more special by its specificity. Bisexuality is rarely depicted this accurately on TV (as Darryl explains: “It’s not a phase, I’m not confused”) or with so little angst. For me, listening to the song is like taking a huge hit of joy. I mean a metaphorical hit of literal joy, that's not slang for a drug.
6. What’ll it Be?
This was the show's first song in which protagonist Rebecca is nowhere to be seen, as Greg sits down at a piano that has spontaneously manifested and pounds out a song about his feelings. Aside from a brief nod to the situation’s unrealism (“I’ve never played piano before,” which is both funny and matches the idea that he has untapped potential), "What'll it Be?" is a straightforward expression of Greg's inner state: bitter and cynical, but also earnestly yearning for a life that’s more than serving drinks in West Covina. It's a perfect character song.
5. Where’s the Bathroom
After we’ve seen a few glimpses of Rebecca’s mother living in New York and in flashbacks to Rebecca’s childhood, she finally storms onto the show in full force as Tovah Feldshuh delivers a breathless string of nags that builds and builds and builds. Just when you think it’s over, it’s hilariously not – and when the nagging does run out of steam, don’t worry, Rebecca’s mom has a lot to say about the Jewish temple’s boycott of cheddar cheese, too. I’m a big fan of characters and jokes that insist upon themselves, and “Where’s the Bathroom” gets the intro of Rebecca's insistent mother just right.
4. We Tapped That Ass
In this number, Rebecca is haunted by “ghosts” of her ex-boyfriends (played by Santino Fontana and Vincent Rodriguez III), who gleefully bro out over their mutual pastime of banging, nailing and screwing Rebecca on every surface in her apartment.
The song’s core feeling rings true – you can’t escape memories of your past partners – and it’s packaged in wordplay, visual wit, narrowly avoided vulgarity and a cheeky touch of the absurd. In short, "We Tapped That Ass" is peak Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. If you’ve never seen the show and you watch only one song on this list, make it this one.
3. Love Kernels
Too many of us have been there: you love someone more than they love you, so you end up clinging to any scrap, crumb or kernel of validation they will toss you. I’ve never seen this idea expressed better in song than in “Love Kernels,” which sees Rebecca trying to convince herself that a metaphorical bowl of popcorn (or even just a handful – she’ll take what she can get) is all the love she needs.
Rachel Bloom’s line deliveries and facial expressions are perfect at selling this idea as the height of epic romance. If you’ve been there before but no longer settle for crumbs of love, the song is a dark delight; if you’re there right now, maybe it’s a wake up call. Either way, you’re not the only one who's been there, and “Love Kernels” proves it.
2. I Love My Daughter (But Not in a Creepy Way)
No song on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend makes me laugh more than the country music parody "I Love My Daughter." Pete Gardner portrays a sweet, affectionate father who’s trying really hard to express how much he loves his daughter. But all the creepy clichés of patriarchal father-daughter love keep biting him in the ass, and he becomes increasingly defensive as the video piles on sugary stock footage of girls riding horses, playing in fields and dancing with their dads at weddings. Finally, he just drops the whole thing, conceding that having a daughter is weird. (However, it is NOT weird when she helps daddy trim his beard. Let’s just get that straight.)
1. West Covina / West Covina (Second Reprise)
When non-ingénue Rebecca arrives in unglamorous West Covina, California, the first season’s central premise is established: she moved to be with her old summer camp boyfriend, Josh, in an attempt to find happiness… but she won’t admit it to anyone. When I first started watching this show, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But when “West Covina” finished with a crowd of dancers backing Rachel Bloom while she’s hoisted into the air on a giant pretzel, I was completely sold.
However, what really makes “West Covina” my number one Crazy Ex-Girlfriend song is its second reprise, which occurs after Rebecca halfway tells the truth and admits she moved to West Covina to find happiness. Of course, she doesn’t admit that she equates happiness with dating Josh – but in a way, her admission cuts closer to the truth of things. She’s just another complicated, messed up person looking for happiness in her own way.
There is so much happy-sad packed into the amazing second reprise of “West Covina.” Happy because Josh is warm and accepting of the truth; sad because Rebecca hasn’t told the whole truth. Happy because Rebecca has started on the road to happiness; sad because Josh is more likely a roadblock than the destination. Happy because Josh and Rebecca could be good for each other in a healthy friendship; sad because they use each other for selfish romantic validation instead.
Rachel Bloom has said the reprise demonstrates that Rebecca and Josh are both “children who just want to live in the past together.” It's got a sort of Disney sweetness, with sunlight magically flooding into the scene when they sing. But I think the reprise is made far more complex by all the things Josh and Rebecca won’t admit to each other or to themselves. And when you add the contrast between Josh’s bright, clean vocal tone and Rebecca’s beautifully deep vocal tone, and the fact the characters are singing the same words in harmony (“It's not just a coincidence, it isn't just by chance / It's logical, it's obvious, it all makes perfect sense”) while meaning different things with their words… It kills me. Like the show, the reprise is crazy nuanced.