The situation was always more nuanced than the title would imply. That was the center of what made Aline Brosh McKenna and Rachel Bloom’s Crazy Ex Girlfriend so special in its four year run. Well, that and the music. It wasn’t the first TV musical, but it did put enough of a spin on things to feel fresh and vibrant. Bloom and her songwriting team of Adam Schlesinger and Jack Dolgen, worked tirelessly to put together a brilliant song book. At a staggering 157 original melodies, it’s hard not to be impressed. Ranging from Country, Classic Rock, Power Pop, Doo Wop, R&B and Classical Broadway, they’ve slayed the veritable beast of each genre, with great aplomb. A combination of funny, clever and at times quite moving, it’s feat not likely to be replicated for a while.
Fair word of warning, this isn’t a “best songs from Crazy Ex Girlfriend” piece. Theres already a litany of those. Search for “Most Important Songs” and you end up with bupkis. Admittedly, that’s because it’s a more arduous task. Though one that feels in line with the show. Take away the emotional aspect and you’d still have a funny “musical comedy”. You’d just be ripping out the soul, in the process. The center of the show revolved around the story about a woman who gave up everything, to obsessively follow what she thought was true love. Turns out, there were a lot more serious elements in play. As Rebecca Bunch (Bloom) strove make a future for herself, to find happiness, the music reflected that. For the better and worse. So with the series finale upon us (or already passed, depending on when you read this), here’s 10 songs we feel are essential to the show’s emotional core. Minor Spoilers Do Follow
“You Stupid Bitch”
In a more traditional ranking, this would easily be the top spot. This raw and humorous ballad of self loathing and self hating is Crazy Ex-Girlfriend at its best. Equal parts funny and painful, it begs to be sung aloud by everyone around. It’s just that infectious and cathartic. As mean as it is. There’s a fine line to walk here, considering the places Rebecca goes, as the series goes on. Both in terms of growth and mental health, she gets better, yet that nagging feeling is always there. As if the band were ready to strike a reprise of this song. It’s the tightrope walk that too many walk on a daily basis. Making it’s power that much more real.
“Nothing Is Ever Anyone’s Fault”
The flip side to blaming yourself for everything, is blaming everyone else for your problems. With little to no pushing, Rebecca’s won over the Nathaniel’s insane rationale. Even if he does has a small and marked point underneath it all. While this number may not be the best between the duo, it showcases their innate chemist. While also demonstrating while they may be better off (or safer) without the other. The inclusion here highlight’s Rebecca’s willingness to take the easy way out and brush over the underlying issue, when “love” is on the table. They can’t be held accountable for letting their emotions get the better of them. After all, a school teacher probably once told them emotions were a sign off weakness, and now they can’t be held accountable for anything.
“Settle For Me”
Compromise. A word often jokingly attributed to long term relationships or marriage. And a badge Greg is more than willing to wear. The first season Cole Porter-inspired diddy gets more mileage than maybe any other song on the list, or the show in general, with 2 alternate reprises. The proof is in the pudding, so having multiple people finding themselves debating taking the “easier” route with things, doesn’t seem at all surprising. Whereas the drawn-out “uhhhh” at the very end, puts a spin on the expectation. It wouldn’t be a classic Bunch situation, if she didn’t reject logic and reason, in pursuit of what she thought was the “perfect endgame”. The bonus here is Santino Fontana, singing his heart out.
“It Was A S*@#how”
While on the topic of Greg, it’s absolutely essential to cover the number that served as his initial “goodbye”. Fantana did stellar work in his short stint, and you only need to show someone this song, for them to understand. Relationships are hard. Anyone who disagrees is lying. Regardless of compatibility, certain couples just aren’t destined to work out. That was the main problem between this version of Greg and Rebecca. The sex may have been great, they seemed a good pair, but the rest had a toxicity level that threatened those around them. At least, when it came to who they were at that time. The icing on the cake to this song? Omitting the key word from the final line of the song, letting things merely trail off quietly. Sometimes it’s better to just walk away. However painful that may be.
“We’ll Never Have Problems Again”
Love conquers all. That’s what everything tells us. Movies, books, music. It’s embedded into our DNA early on. Things are far from that simple though. No matter how much we try to convince ourselves otherwise. The same issues plague Rebecca and Josh, as they cling to the hope that this time, love can smash every obstacle life will throw at them. With it’s jumpy disco theme, it’s hard not to think maybe they’re right. As usual though it’s Heather who succinctly calls them out, before “Soul Train”-ing her way off screen. Sure, it may be the most literal track included here, but that doesn’t make it any less worthy. Just as the buried theme implies, Rebecca is directly told the opposite, that love isn’t required to be happy or be better, several times, in subsequent episodes.
“The Group Mind Has Decided You’re In Love”
Ah “shipping”. That old candle burning term. The notion that two people should be together, simply because “they’d be so cute together”, feels icky on the surface. And yet we’re all guilty of it. The show even reflects this in some meta winking. The key here, beyond calling out the stigma, is essentially warning viewers not to get too attached to the idea of certain people ridding off into the sunset. Or further, not getting upset when it doesn’t happen, at all. At the end though, WhiJo is involved in a musical number, and that’s all that matters. Plus, the song he eventually leads, ‘Love’s Not A Game”, has direct callback to this song. Showing the writers always had a plan, regardless how much some fans might disagree.
This is it. The moment. The evolution of CXG had been in the works for a bit, but this is where it spilled over, in the best way possible. Rebecca is someone who came with a boatload of baggage, but she was simply content trying to stuff it into the overhead compartment, till it exploded. And explode it did. But here, having a sense of what to tackle or move forward with, in order to get better, she got an answer (even if she didn’t like it at first). It would be an uphill battle, but knowing what to fight, is a win in and of itself. As much as the romance angle had steered the ship, for so very long, the mental health angle became equally front and center.
The bad comes with the good. The dark follows the light. With a diagnosis and hard work comes potential back slides. If ever there were a character who ran that risk, harder than others, it would be the lead here. A times an unchecked time bomb, she slides harder than an avalanche. The difference is that she’s now cognizant of it at the end, to realize it’s a place she doesn’t want to find herself in again. Growth is hard, because it takes effort and time. It’s never flawless, everyone had bad days. Yet making the decisions, on your own, to get better and keep trying, is a victory in itself. Just as much as naming the darkness. Whose name is Tyler. “Yeah, that seems right”
“No One Else Is Singing My Song”
For the large majority of the show’s run, there was a debate as to how the musical numbers were seen in the real world. Was Rebecca daydreaming? Having a dissociative episode? A third thing? Whatever the reason, it spread, like wildfire as the show went on. The side characters became just as important as the lead, to the point where there was a stretch of episodes where Rebecca didn’t sing a lead song. Which is why this song works so well. As much as everyone had grown by this point (even if they don’t acknowledge certain friends here). We all feel so alone, even when we aren’t. If we listen close enough, we may hear people unexpectedly joining in to sing. Yeah, that was schmaltzy, but so is a Brady Bunch-esque stare down, and this song beautifully ends on that point.
“The End Of The Movie”
More than almost any other spot on the list “The End Of The Movie” works for the entirety of the series. Even though it doesn’t show up until early in the 3rd season. That’s ok, because “life is gradual series of revelations, that occur over a period of time”. At times CXG feels mess and jumbled, but again “life doesn’t make narrative sense”. As good as merely regurgitating the lyrics would be, it has to be taken as more than that. Things are never simple. Rebecca (and the others) can’t usually see the forest for the trees. Only madness and confusion, and “it’s a mess and we’re all gonna die”. Ok, ok. You Get the point. Like all the other songs here, there’s a message there resonates with viewers. And that was the key.
For all the silly, goofy and entertaining songs that graced the screen, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was a show whose core was deeply personal, emotional and above all took an important look at the trials and tribulations of life. Specially that of someone with a mental illness. As well as occasionally imparting some sage wisdom, like “never bang your ex-boyfriend’s dad.”