So what is it today? What’s the big event the internet is buzzing about? Well nothing if you’re part of the general public. But to a very specific subculture of people, it’s a very significant day. It marks the five year anniversary since the first episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
Everyone knows about the famous pony toys with brushable manes, that dominated households in the 80s and 90s. Although designed as a gender-neutral toy, they quickly became a hit with little girls. To cash in on this, Hasbro created some movies and TV shows to go along with the toys. Most of them were pretty forgettable…until Lauren Faust came along. Five years ago the former Powerpuff Girls animator was asked to create a new reboot for the franchise. Her intent was to create a show that would appeal to kids and adults, to females and males alike. Five years later boy has she succeeded. The ‘Bronies’ as they’re known, make up a huge community all over the world. They range from average children, to parents of said children, teachers, cops, people with disabilities and even soldiers in the military. Friendship Is Magic has truly swept the world, all down to good writing, lovable characters, important life lessons and music we can’t get enough of. This last point is important; the music composed by Daniel Ingram is one of the most lovable parts of the show. And to celebrate the fifth anniversary, here are my top twenty five songs from the show. Y’know, because 25 is 5×5…
25 “The Laughter Song” – The Elements of Harmony:
It’s only appropriate to start things off with the very first song in the series (aside from the theme that is). Twilight and friends are venturing through the Everfree Forest to find a way to stop Nightmare Moon. After braving cliffs and a pissed-off Manticore, they encounter some demonic-looking trees. Five of the six are scared, but Pinkie Pie isn’t. She starts to sing about a lesson her grandmother taught her: hiding from your fears will do nothing, but laugh in the face of danger and your fear will disappear. The rest of them roll their eyes at her overly cheery attitude, but soon come around. Sort of making this a kind of retroactive parallel to the general public’s attitude towards the show itself. Not too long ago, a story made the rounds on the internet. A young boy who had suffered under an abusive father was reunited with him years later. Almost unable to go through with the meeting, he listened to this song over and over until he had the courage to tell his father off. It’s one of those many lovely stories that can really make you appreciate the effect the show has had on its fans.
24 “Becoming Popular” – Sweet & Elite:
Here’s a song that was actually named by the fans themselves; Daniel Ingram offered them a selection of names for it, and this got the most votes. The episode revolves around Rarity getting a week in Canterlot, where the locals immediately take a shine to her. She’s invited everywhere: to the theatre, the opera, art galleries, garden parties…she’s becoming a true It Girl. And she of course gets a brilliantly bouncy song to celebrate. But all this fun and frivolity causes Rarity to neglect something very important: the dress she had intended to make for Twilight’s birthday. The final part of the song has an exhausted Rarity returning to her room late at night, seeing the bare mannequin and collapsing as she tries to make the dress. The moment where her voice slips conveys so much guilt and shame that it puts you into Mood Whiplash – after hearing such a bouncy song. Huge amounts of credit go to Kazumi Evans for such a performance. The song was even shortlisted for the Emmy Awards, with Daniel Ingram and Meghan McCarthy receiving nominations.
23 “Helping Twilight Win The Crown” – Equestria Girls:
Ah we can’t go through a list like this without mentioning Equestria Girls now. In 2013 Hasbro decided to attempt a spin-off franchise from the show – having Twilight Sparkle go through a portal to an alternate universe. In this universe her pony friends are now humans, and Ponyville is a high school. The movie was met with mixed results, but did well enough to spawn two much superior sequels. The high point of the movie is this catchy little number. Twilight must reclaim the crown that was stolen from Equestria by the evil Sunset Shimmer – but the only way to do that is to be elected Queen of the Fall Formal. So after she reunites her friends in the human world, they decide to rally the rest of the school to vote for her. It proves catchy enough to the listeners to get them to get up and dance with them – in the best High School Musical fashion. This song has proved popular enough that its beat is the official Equestria Girls anthem, appearing in most promotional material for the franchise and getting put into a dance game as the EG Stomp. And there’s a lovely video on the internet of a group of Russian school girls putting on a dance in their auditorium – and the entire school joins in to dance at the end. I personally dare you to not have “jump up, make a sound/stomp your hooves, turn around” stuck in your head after hearing this.
22 “At the Gala” – Best Night Ever:
Although Season 1’s final episode is rather low-key compared to the adventurous and action packed finales of the other seasons, it still has this to make it memorable. Shortly before the episode aired, Daniel Ingram called it his favourite song yet. As the friends prepare to go the prestigious Grand Galloping Gala, they each sing about their own personal goals for the night: Fluttershy to connect with the animals in the palace gardens, Applejack to sell her trademark food, Rainbow Dash to get to talk to her idols the Wonderbolts, Rarity to make a love connection with a prince, Pinkie Pie to entertain the guests and Twilight Sparkle to spend time with the princess. It’s the first time in the series that each pony gets a solo in the one song, and also features backing vocals by a twenty-person choir. The song is a sound-alike to “Ever After” from the critically acclaimed Into The Woods by Steven Sondheim – and marks the point that the music in this show really got everyone talking. The triumphant choir part at the end of the song never fails to give me chills.
21 “This Day Aria” – A Canterlot Wedding:
For those that don’t know, an aria in music can have two meanings: the first is a piece for only one voice, backed by an orchestra. The second is a very emotive piece, that didn’t necessarily need singing. But both meanings ring true for this one in question. And it manages to be both an aria and a duet, if that’s even possible. Twilight and friends are invited to Canterlot to celebrate the wedding of Twilight’s brother Shining Armour and Princess Cadance. Unfortunately Cadance has been kidnapped by an evil changeling called Queen Chrysalis – intending to marry Shining Armour in her place and then let her army conquer the kingdom. So what we have here is a song by both the real Cadance and the impostor. While watching this episode, I swore I’d heard that voice before. It turns out Britt McKillip voiced Sabrina in the very badly done Sabrina’s Secret Life – but she more than redeems herself here. She switches back and forth between Cadance and the impostor effortlessly, creating a fantastic performance. She claims she was drenched in sweat by the time she’d finished recording it. I can definitely believe that. Additionally check out Britt’s band with her sister Carly – One More Girl – both very good singers.
20 “My Past Is Not Today”:
This may be the odd one out in this list, as it’s technically not part of the show or any of the films. It was released as part of a series of shorts after the second Equestria Girls movie. Although Sunset Shimmer gets redeemed in the first and spends the second trying to prove herself, she doesn’t really get a proper introverted reflective sequence. That gets fixed with the song here, where Sunset looks back on her old ways and how hard it was for her to accept friendship from the Humane Six. But she opts to discard her past and vows that “it’s not today” – making this quite similar to a certain song that swept the world by storm. This definitely draws comparisons with “Let It Go” from Frozen and is almost equally as enjoyable to listen to. It’s a wonderful empowerment anthem and one of many reasons that Sunset Shimmer is steadily becoming my favourite character in the franchise. I personally love how Rebecca Shoichet is able to easily distinguish Sunset’s singing voice from the one she uses for Twilight.
19 “Bats” – Bats!:
If the question is ‘how do we make an argument between Applejack and Fluttershy as fun as possible’ then the answer is easily the nineteenth entry on this list. The episode’s plot has a swarm of fruit bats descending on Sweet Apple Orchards. Applejack is all for getting rid of them and saving her trees from being destroyed. Meanwhile Fluttershy wants to find another solution, since the bats still need food. The argument comes to a head in this slightly dark but very cool number. Applejack tries to demonise the bats, while Fluttershy tries to idolise them. The music and animation compliments both points of view very well, and the vocals by Ashleigh Ball and Andrea Libman are nicely done. The third part of the song where the rest of the ponies side with Applejack is especially grand. This entire song indeed sounds like it could slot right in with the soundtrack of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Meghan McCarthy said that Daniel Ingram tapped into his inner Danny Elfman to compose it.
18 “Better Than Ever” – Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks:
I personally think that Rainbow Rocks has the best soundtrack out of all the Equestria Girls movies. It’s not hard, since it also has the most songs. After the events of the first movie, the newly reformed Humane Five decided to form a band. This is the first song of theirs that they perform, just in a private rehearsal. There’s not much to say about it, except that it’s a nice catchy pop rock tune about the importance of friendship. There’s also a hidden bit of brilliance once you think about it: a major plot point in the film has the others annoyed that Rainbow Dash only makes them sing the songs she wrote. So that means she herself wrote this lovely tribute to friendship and togetherness. During the performance we get to see Sunset Shimmer dancing and enjoying the song. After 90% of her movements from the first film involved scowling and glaring, it’s lovely to see her enjoying herself.
17 “Babs Seed” – One Bad Apple:
While Season 3’s “One Bad Apple” got a mixed reaction for its questionable handling of a bullying moral, this song is still held in high regard. There is no way you could dislike anything this catchy, nor even imagine that a song complaining about a bully could be so fun. Apple Bloom’s cousin Babs Seed comes to visit for the week but hooks up with Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon to bully the Cutie Mark Crusaders. This has gone down as one of the catchiest tunes in the Friendship Is Magic anthology; apparently within a week there were already twenty remixes of it made. Daniel Ingram even made a personal remix of it. I can’t really explain the song’s appeal; all you need to do is listen to it and it will get stuck inside your head for days. The chorus especially is a real ear worm.
16 “Big Brother Best Friend Forever” – A Canterlot Wedding:
This one may be short but it’s definitely sweet. It was the second of the Friendship Is Magic songs to make it to my iPod – and got rewound several times on my various walks to the supermarket. This also marks the first Twilight solo. It comes after she gets the news about her brother getting married. Specifically she’s annoyed that the news didn’t come from him personally. This prompts her to remember how close they were in their younger days. It’s one of those songs that teeters on the edge of being sappy but avoids being repulsive. It’s a very old school Disney type feeling where it’s not afraid to be slightly cheesy – and it really works. I always love going to the part where the rest of the Mane Six join in. The dark reprise at the end of the first part is equally effective, composed with a ‘deceptive cadence’ as an inside joke to the plot of the episode.
15 “You’ll Play Your Part” – Twilight’s Kingdom:
I mentioned Disney in the last post. But this is probably the most Disney song out of all the Friendship Is Magic numbers. This comes at the beginning of the Season 4 finale, where Twilight notices that she has the title of princess – but not the responsibility. Her conflict over her purpose in life is one felt by many teenagers and twenty-somethings, which must be why this song was such a hit with me. The other three princesses reassure her that her time will come and she will play her part. They do so absolutely beautiful. I actually didn’t think much of this song at first. But after the second listen, I had to rewind it and listen to it over and over. The haunting arrangement and the way the music builds to a climax is nothing short of brilliant. Nicole Oliver’s singing voice is simply beautiful to listen to. Likewise it’s the first time we get to hear Cadance singing since “This Day Aria”, and the first time that Luna ever sings. I could honestly listen to the last thirty seconds over and over for the rest of eternity. And if you’re one of many young people worrying about what to do with your life, just remember that you too will someday play your part.
14 “Shake Your Tail” – Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks:
And we’ve got another little ditty from Rainbow Rocks. Given that the storyline is a battle of the bands, you’d expect plenty of catchy tunes. This one unfortunately comes at a rather tense moment in the plot. The Sirens have spread their discord amongst the school and have influenced the students to sabotage the Rainbooms’ performance. As such the song gets repeatedly interrupted by Snips and Sails as well as Photo Finish’s posse trying to put the group off. But you get to hear the real song in one of the tie-in shorts released before the film. It’s one of those songs that’s just so incredibly fun and upbeat that you can’t help but dance to. It’s a song that usually puts me in a good mood and hypes me up. Much like “Better Than Ever” it’s a catchy pop rock tune, though considerably faster and allowing for more dancing possibilities. Believe me when I say I take full advantage of those possibilities.
13 “Unleash The Magic” – Equestria Girls: Friendship Games:
The third Equestria Girls movie features the most unlikely antagonist ever – Twilight Sparkle herself. Well, not really; the antagonist is the human world’s version of Twilight, rather than the pony equivalent who crossed over in the first two films. She’s every bit as studious as her unicorn counterpart, though unfortunately without the same knowledge of magic. She’s built a device that keeps accidentally draining the magic from the rest of the Humane Five whenever they ‘pony up’. Right before the final round of the titular games, the villainous Principal Cinch tries to convince Twilight to use the magic to help them win. This song is almost fiendishly dark and effective – with some brilliantly creepy vocals and arrangements. It’s very reminiscent of “Savages” from one of my favourites Pocahontas. It’s so effective as a villain song that I originally had it at a lower spot on this list and just had to move it up higher. Special attention has to go to how Rebecca Shoichet conveys Twilight’s desperation and helplessness as she opens the amulet.
12 “Battle of the Bands” – Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks:
With three Equestria Girls entries in a row, you’d think I’m being paid to plug them or something. But in all seriousness, the soundtrack to the second movie is ridiculously great. The villains in this are this show’s interpretation of the Sirens from Greek mythology. The Sirens are some of my favourite mythical creatures, so I was really happy to see them represented in this way. In this incarnation they were banished from Equestria to the human world. But they still retain their haunting singing voices, which allow them to manipulate people into doing what they want. And that’s exactly what they do with this song here. It’s a brilliant little number to show how effective the Sirens are with their magic. Several fans even noted that the Sirens’ songs sound catchier than the Rainbooms’ – which is arguably the point. For ages I didn’t know that Kazumi Evans also provided the speaking and singing voices for Adagio. She does a fantastic job.
11 “Find A Pet” – May the Best Pet Win:
Everfree Radio noted this to be the point where the production values for the show’s music really started going up. The plot of the episode has Rainbow Dash feeling like the odd one out among her friends for not having a pet. The answer is of course the friend who has wall-to-wall wildlife. Fluttershy brings Rainbow to her menagerie and displays each pet for her. It’s a great duet between the two characters, with some fun vocal performances from Andrea Libman and Ashleigh Ball. Before Rainbow Rocks came out, this marked the most Rainbow Dash had ever sung in the series. Daniel Ingram says the inspiration came from Dr Doolittle of all places. It’s one of those songs very much like “Prince Ali”, “Be Our Guest” or “Under the Sea” in that they don’t do very much for the plot – but they are lots of fun, the singers are clearly having a ball and the production would be far from complete without. Oddly enough Andrea Libman claims she can’t bear to listen to herself sing. I guess that means we’ll just have to listen to her more to make up for that.
10 “Art of the Dress” – Suited For Success:
The show produced a thinly-veiled take that to meddling executives in the middle of the first season (note the line “make sure that it stays within our budget”). The plot of the episode has Rarity getting a flash of inspiration and designing personalised gowns for each of her friends to wear at the Grand Galloping Gala. The first part of the song has Rarity getting very excited as she gets her bursts of inspiration, knowing exactly what is right for each of the others. Unfortunately for her, the friends don’t like them and insist on some really bizarre changes – Applejack wanting galoshes, Pinkie Pie wanting balloons and streamers, and Fluttershy taking the cake by appearing with a bird’s nest on her head. The reprise of the song now has Rarity stressed out about all these outrageous demands. It’s been interpreted as a metaphor for how when too many people interfere in the creative process, it’s no fun for anyone and the result is usually disastrous. This marks Kazumi Evans’s first solo for Rarity and she does not disappoint.
9 “Smile Song” – A Friend In Deed:
I don’t think there’s a character I could love more than Pinkie Pie. Within the first couple of episodes, she had become my favourite. I would get insanely excited if I knew an episode would be about her. I would weep uncontrollably if anything bad ever happened to her. I even popped into a toy store and actually bought a plastic Pinkie Pie toy who now stands guard on my bedside table. I will always be eternally thankful to Andrea Libman and Shannon Chan-Kent for their work in creating this wonderful and amazing character. Indeed there is no better tribute to Pinkie Pie than this song here. She dedicates her time to making her friends happy. And to her, everyone is her friend. The “Smile Song” is one of the longer numbers in the anthology and I personally love every extra minute of it. I even had to hug my Pinkie toy just as I typed this paragraph.
8 “What My Cutie Mark Is Telling Me” – Magical Mystery Cure:
The Season 3 finale was apparently not too well-received but it still had a lot going for it in terms of music. Mainly because it was the first real musical episode – with a whopping seven songs featured. And you know how they say second the best – this is the second song in the episode. Twilight cast a spell not knowing what it would actually do, and ended up swapping around all her friends’ cutie marks. She also had the worst possible luck to put them all in the positions they’re least suited to. Rainbow Dash, probably the least tactful of the ponies, finds herself trying to take care of Fluttershy’s animals. Fluttershy the introvert now has Pinkie’s job of trying to entertain the masses. The fun-loving Pinkie Pie gets stuck with all of Applejack’s chores on the farm. Applejack herself now has to make dresses in Rarity’s boutique, despite her and fashion being like oil and water. Rarity finally has been tasked with Rainbow Dash’s job of controlling the weather. It’s always fun when all of the Mane Six get a song together, and this is a nicely bouncy and catchy one. I’ve also seen numerous fan videos dubbing this over Disney clips, for obvious reasons.
7 “Apples to the Core” – Pinkie Apple Pie:
You know whenever Applejack sings then you’re going to get music with a bit of a country twang to it. Such is the song from Season 4’s episode where Pinkie discovers that she may actually be related to the Apple family. On a trip to see their great aunt Goldie Delicious to confirm this, Applejack rallies her family members to sing about how they’ll always have each other’s backs. Given the banjo theme they went for, you won’t be surprised that this is yet another insanely catchy ditty. I really wish I knew more words because I feel almost tired of saying ‘catchy’ over and over again. But I sure as hell don’t feel tired of listening to the songs in question however. This is a song that Friendship Is Magic does best – catchy yet moving. The second one comes in the reprise at the end of the episode. They don’t get to find out for sure if Pinkie really is an Apple. But that doesn’t matter, because they’ll consider her part of their family anyway. So they triumphantly sing the reprise as Goldie Delicious hangs a group picture of them on her wall. It’s one of those moments that really makes you want to hug someone – which proves difficult when you’re listening to it on a crowded train…
6 “Let The Rainbow Remind You” – Twilight’s Kingdom:
The Season 4 finale was probably one of the most epic episodes the show has ever produced, so darn right its other song gets onto my list. This one closes the episode and has the familiar up-tempo triumph of an episode-ender. It’s a simple anthem about how together anything can be accomplished. It’s accompanied by a wonderful scene of all the key-givers witnessing the rainbow that the Mane Six create. I always get that little warm and fuzzy feeling when the rainbow zips past Discord and he conjures flowers for Celestia. This is a lovely upbeat song that can always put a smile on my face. In particular I first heard it around the time that Ireland passed the law allowing gay marriage. Leading up to that day, I’d personally seen so many people standing up in favour of it – and some who I hadn’t expected to. In that moment all of us who voted in favour of it were united and it was a lovely moment when that goal was achieved. It goes to show that while there are many things that divide us, we are always united as humans. So indeed “let the rainbow remind you that together we will always shine.”
5 “The Pony I Want To Be” – Crusaders of the Lost Mark:
At the time of writing this is the most recent song on the list. In fact you might say that this song is what inspired me to even write this. Today was the fifth anniversary of the show’s premiere, so the episode we got was a little special. It was another musical episode and this was about the second or third song. Shockingly enough this episode decides to sympathise the recurring Alpha Bitch Diamond Tiara. After getting a serious dose of karma in the first five minutes (losing the election by a landslide and being abandoned by her best friend), the Cutie Mark Crusaders follow her home to see if she’s alright. She’s clearly not, as there’s an angry abusive mother there to yell at her for not succeeding. Diamond Tiara then proceeds to sing the single saddest song in the show’s history. I kid you not. I have gotten slightly misty-eyed at some of the moments in the show before. But here is where I actually bawled my eyes out. Inspired by another Tear Jerker of a song “When She Loved Me” from Toy Story 2, this one humanises the cruel bully Diamond Tiara – in a much more effective way than was done with Babs Seed. I always do have a soft spot for villains getting redeemed, and my tears became joyful ones in the reprise when Diamond Tiara gets hers. Massive credit has to go to Chantal Strand’s heart-breaking and then heart-warming performance.
4 “Hearts Strong As Horses” – Flight to the Finish:
Here’s a little something for me to drop: I’ve never actually seen this episode. I’m not sure why. It’s not as if I don’t like the Cutie Mark Crusaders. It’s just that I usually have to be in the right mood to sit down and watch one of their episodes. I heard this song simply from sticking on a S4 soundtrack during a workout. I can’t tell you the actual plot of the episode, but it involves the CMC training to become good enough to represent Ponyville in the Flag Waving competition or something. Whatever the case, this song is pretty much “Eye of the Tiger” meets “I’ll Make A Man Out of You” – and that combination is every bit as winning as you’d expect. I would imagine that the military bronies love this one, and I could easily see a group of soldiers marching to it. This also marks the first time Claire Corlett sings for Sweetie Belle, rather than Michelle Creber doubling up for her and Apple Bloom. You can also check out these nice videos of each pony singing the song individually.
3 “The Failure/Success Song” – The Crystal Empire:
Even though both these songs are two episodes apart and have another number in between them, I feel as if I have to put them together. The plot of the episode has Princess Celestia sending Twilight and friends to the mysterious Crystal Empire. It’s in great danger and it’s up to Twilight to solve this problem. And what better way to let us know how stressed she is than with a song? Part one is a very good solo from Rebecca Shoichet, accompanied by a nice mellow piano tune. Part two is the reprise from the end of the second episode, where the rest of the ponies congratulate Twilight on succeeding. I assure you they do it far more grandly than I just described. Rainbow Dash’s “since when does Twilight Sparkle ever fail?” might just be one of my favourite lines to listen to. I do sometimes jokingly link this song to my friend’s Facebook accounts whenever they post about something stressful etc. It turns out that singing ponies make for quite the motivators.
2 “Welcome to the Show” – Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks:
In case you didn’t guess, I really loved Rainbow Rocks. When preparing for the battle of the bands, the Sirens say to save the big guns for last. And they weren’t kidding. The song opens with the Sirens singing about how they’re now controlling everything. The arrangement and vocals of this particular part are fantastic. Whenever I listen to this one back, I always have to rewind the second verse a good few times – “now you need us, come and heed us, nothing can stop us now” is just brilliantly epic. This then segues into a musical battle between the Sirens and the Rainbooms, the latter countering with a song about singing for the love of it. The musical battle sequence is actually quite thrilling, although if you try to explain it then it doesn’t quite sound that way. The DVD commentary says as much “They’re fighting with rainbows and butterflies and musical notes”. But it becomes an incredibly epic moment when Summer Shimmer picks up the microphone and joins in, not to mention gaining her own pony form too. It’s one of those moments that never fails to make me go “hell yeah”. And you have to applaud Rebecca Shoichet, who’s pretty much doing a duet with herself for the final part. I could watch and listen to his part over and over, which I’ve already done several times.
1 “Winter Wrap Up” – Winter Wrap Up:
I think most people knew this one would be at the top spot. For most of us, this was the first proper musical number we heard from the show. In initial episodes, the singing was only done by Pinkie Pie – in the form of songs that she physically performed, annoying the other characters. This marks the first time the show used a musical number in the more traditional format – representing what’s inside a character’s head and telling us their motivations etc. We can assume it’s more about what the characters intend to do, given that they don’t start the Wrap Up until the next day. But anyway this is an unbelievably fantastic song that I already wanted to rewind and listen to again before I’d gotten past the second verse. It’s the first time we hear all the Mane Six singing together and it’s what I really associate Friendship Is Magic with. I can never grow tired of hearing this song, and I’ll probably never get tired of singing it in the shower. So you can only imagine how unbearable I’ll be when it actually comes to the start of spring…
So there you go. Twenty five of my favourite songs from a show that was originally meant to be watched by little girls – and ended up as a worldwide phenomenon. There are so many amazing stories of the amount of fans this show has. From the abovementioned abusive stepfather story, to a soldier in Iraq getting shot and saved by a Fluttershy toy in his pocket. There’s even a wonderful tale of a girl who was babysat by Lauren Faust years ago – and got reunited with her at a convention. It reminds me very much of the hype surrounding Frozen last year. It seems that in our rather cynical world today, some people would rather embrace a positive attitude and enjoy something idealistic. And they have been doing so for the last five years. It hasn’t been that long for me actually – as I only started sometime in May. But along the way I’ve read, seen and experienced so many amazing stories and fan-related things – all born out of the love for this show. It’s quite stunning to think that a 23-year-old wrestler could be comforted on his bad days by something as simple as six ponies and a baby dragon stopping any kind of evil just through the power of friendship. To Bronies all around the world, of every age, nationality and gender, I salute you. I used to wonder what friendship could be, and they all said “it’s magic” with me.