For four seasons, network television series “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” challenged popular misconceptions about women and mental illness through song and dance. While the CW musical comedy never amassed behemoth-size audiences, it inspired passionate fans in droves.
“Crazy Ex Girlfriend” tracks the misadventures of Rebecca Bunch, an ambitious East Coast lawyer who moves to California in order to chase after her childhood ex, Josh Chan. Along the way, Rebecca becomes sidetracked, learning the roots of her obsessive behavior, and she soon becomes obsessed with another task: getting better.
Each episode also features two original songs. The songwriting team was spearheaded by star and showrunner, Rachel Bloom, and songwriters Jack Dolgen and Adam Schlesinger.
A deep dive into Rachel Bloom’s songbook reveals both laughs and clever subversions of musical theatre and pop music conventions. She tinkers with genres, tone and humorous lyrics to create music that is equal parts thought-provoking and hilarious.
While a favorite song is near-impossible to pick, I mustered up some courage and put my ranking skills to the test. With the series finale airing last April, let’s look back at 10 songs from this series that truly encapsulates the series’ manic, book-smart energy.
10. “Hello, Nice to Meet You”
In Season 1, Rebecca meets Greg, a self-loathing bartender who becomes a secondary love interest throughout the series. In Season 4, Rebecca meets Greg again … only this time he looks like an entirely different person.
“Hello, Nice to Meet You” is a sweet, romantic number about looking at a past fling with an entirely new set of eyes. The song makes use of a lengthy catalogue of romantic-comedy conventions to illustrate Rebecca’s rejuvenated interest in Greg.
It is adorable and inventive, and the various “meet-cutes” in the music video demonstrate the two actors’ burgeoning chemistry.
9. “The Math of Love Triangles”
“The Math of Love Triangles” is one of the more direct spoofs of the four seasons. Bloom and company take on “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” and highlight the uncomfortable, sexist implications of Monroe’s character.
Watching the feisty, whip-smart Bloom channel her inner ditzy diva is oodles of good fun. Likewise, the lyrics are outright hilarious, and even those only vaguely familiar with geometry would appreciate the sheer volume of triangle puns in this number.
8. “You Stupid B—h”
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” invites the audience to laugh along at both the highs and lows in Rebecca’s journey to healing. “You Stupid B—h” confronts the latter, the darker sections of Rebecca’s arc.
Like other songs of sadness in the series — for example, “I’m in a Sexy French Depression” and “I’m Not Sad You’re Sad” both explore dark moments for Rebecca — “You Stupid B—h” uses comedy as a vessel for Rebecca to channel her inner sadness.
It is a crushing, harsh aria about self-loathing and self-deprecation. Incidentally, it’s catchy enough that you’ll notice yourself singing along in the shower.
7. “Without Love You Can Save The World”
The series’ 100th music video features the entire cast frolicking in hippie regalia in an idyllic, green orchard. It also touts a particularly anti-hippie message: Love is a distraction preventing one from making the world a better place.
The entire cast belts about more productive, enriching tasks one can be doing when not focusing on romance, from charity to saving the bees. While the message of the song is cynical, witnessing the entire cast share the frame in one glorious music video can warm even the coldest, most love-averse heart.
6. “Gettin’ Bi”
“Gettin’ Bi” is “Crazy Ex Grlfriend” at its most socially conscious. Darryl, Rebecca’s boss, sings about embracing his recently discovered bisexuality.
Just as the series works to destigmatize female sexuality and mental illness, this number in Season 1 explores common misconceptions of bisexuality in the media.
However, instead of letting the song become a public service announcement, Pete Gardner infuses this LGBTQ+ anthem with an ebullient, infectious energy. The saxophone solo alone makes this song a worthy addition to anyone’s Pride playlist.
5. “West Covina”
“West Covina,” the first song in “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” ends with our protagonists suspended mid-air on a giant pretzel. That fact alone warrants its inclusion on this list.
Rebecca sings a grandiose, musical theater-inspired number about moving across the country to her new town, West Covina. She insists to everybody she meets that she did not move across coasts just to chase after her ex, but her excuses are paper-thin.
Who quits their high-paying job in New York to be surrounded by strip malls and pretzel stands? While Rebecca’s delusion is obvious, the song is a comedic romp celebrating everything kitschy and quaint about small-town California.
4. “JAP Battle”
Midway through the series’ first season, Rachel confronts her childhood nemesis, Audra Levine, while working on a case at her law firm. The two headstrong women then square off in a rap battle. What ensues is a rap that deliciously mixes Jewish culture puns with harsh insults.
(A “JAP,” or a Jewish American Princess, is a caricature often used to stereotype Jewish women as uptight or hyper-privileged. Here, the acronym invites the audience to laugh along at the cultural inside jokes.)
3. “Settle for Me”
One of the first songs of the musical series is also one of its most toe-tapping and fun. “Settle For Me” introduces us to Greg, the self-effacing bartender who becomes Rebecca’s secondary love interest during Season 1.
It is a glorious tap number that harkens back to old-school Hollywood duets between Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, complete with tap dancing, tuxedos and ball gowns. The lyrics highlight Greg’s self-awareness that he is the runner-up for Rebecca’s affection.
He sings, “If he’s your broken condom, I’m Plan B!”
2. “Where’s the Bathroom?”
Tovah Feldshuh deserves an Emmy (or a Tony?) for her portrayal of Naomi Bunch. The protagonist’s mother makes quite the entrance into “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” and she captures the audience with the flick of a pashmina shawl.
“Where’s the Bathroom?” samples every negative, naggy conversation anyone has ever had with their parents, and then it sets all the guilt to Klezmer music. It is a manic whirlwind of a number, and Feldshuh sustains her energy to ensure a vocally powerful — and sinisterly funny — performance.
1. A Diagnosis
In live shows, Bloom has commented on the impact “A Diagnosis” has made on her fanbase. Watching the music video, it is easy to imagine how this song could have a strong, uplifting effect.
“A Diagnosis” captures Rebecca’s rejuvenation after a dark, downward spiral in Season 3. Rebecca struts into a mental health hospital to receive a new diagnosis from a psychiatrist. She sings a major-key, Broadway-esque pop song about self-discovery through labelling, and the optimism radiates off her floral yellow sundress.
“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” is about the obsessive side of love. It is also a series that examines the ongoing and often taxing pursuit of self-care. Throughout the series, we watch every character overcome their inner demons. Greg comes to term with his alcoholism. Paula learns to prioritize her family and well-being.
In “A Diagnosis,” we see a similar moment in Rebecca. We watch our heroine crawl back up into the sunlight after her darkest moment in the entire show. Even though Rebecca is partly delusional — learning her diagnosis does not magically fix her flaws — it is the first time in the series we see Rebecca confronting her mental illness head-on.
It is a moment in a sick person’s journey one rarely sees represented on television, let alone in a musical comedy.
Bringing such a sensitive moment to life on the small screen, Bloom and company have demonstrated their own crazy talent. TV snobs, feminists and music aficionados alike better keep an eye out for what these grown-up theater geeks are going to create next.
All four seasons of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” are streaming on American Netflix and are available for streaming on the CW website.