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KHMoM The Top 50 Songs in Kingdom Hearts (50-41)

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With the release of Melody of Memory somewhere on the 2020 horizon, I got to thinking about the sensational music of the Kingdom Hearts series once again. Yoko Shimomura is one of the great video game composers of our time, and I would like to honor her work through a list: The Top 50 Songs in Kingdom Hearts. Full disclosure, I am far from a music scholar, as you will probably be able to tell from the writing that will follow. However, I do listen to a lot of different styles and have some perspective on when a composition is working … I hope. No matter, here is my list of the very best Kingdom Hearts music.

Note: Until the OST is released, titles that originated in Kingdom Hearts III will be given placeholder titles. I will edit the list to match the actual track titles when that information becomes available.

50. “Forgotten Challenge” (Chain of Memories)

Chain of Memories is my pick for most underrated game in the series, but I’ll concede that the overuse of musical tracks is a bit draining. Nevertheless, the great songs in the game really stand out. Look no further than this first entry on my list, the battle theme for Castle Oblivion’s top floor. It’s a John Carpenter vaudeville show, with a rum-tee-tum back beat reminiscent of other end game themes like “Scherzo Di Notte” and “Fragments of Sorrow.” Throw some Neoshadows into the mix? I’m spooked!

49. Toy Box Jam (Kingdom Hearts III)

I know there’s a contingent of fans out there who aren’t big fans of world themes being on a list like this. After all, they are the biggest ear worms and likely the songs that will annoy you faster. That being said, I love this fun little complement to “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” My favorite bit in the song is when things get soft for a few seconds (complete with a wonky Ringo-esque drum hit), and then launch back into the excitement that the track exudes at large. As you’ll see going forward, I’m a sucker for an upbeat combat theme.

48. “The Silent Forest” (Birth by Sleep)

A dreary little song, this one comes from Enchanted Dominion. There’s an undoubtedly melancholy feel to the world, seeing as Maleficent is in control, and the song fits right in. The best world themes are the ones that accompany the mood of the setting just right, and this one accomplishes just that. Even as the strings rise up for a pleasant end to the loop, things get brought right back to the distressing crux at the heart of “The Silent Forest” when the next wave begins. In a world destined to fall to darkness, there’s no reason to be chipper. Things aren’t going to get any better. 

47. “Roxas” (Kingdom Hearts II)

WHAT? Be not alarmed: “The Other Promise” is on the list. Roxas’s theme is on the list for inspiring the melody of that aforementioned song that comes later in Kingdom Hearts II, and representing the character it is supposed to with a perfect mix of gentleness and despair. These are the themes that haunt Roxas’s story. He misunderstands and is misunderstood. Shimomura knows how to toe the line between two complicated themes and is able to convey the intricate details through perfect little tunes. This one is no exception.

46. “Monstrous Monstro” (Kingdom Hearts)

The 1.5 and 2.5 Remix collections did right by so many tracks from the main title games. One of the best glow ups with the addition of live instrumentation was this combat theme from the belly of Monstro the whale. Everyone loves and remembers that ultimate horn crescendo, but the build up to the musical explosion is filled with anticipation. It’s a better piece of pure music, perhaps, than it is a thematic gem, but it no doubt is a wonderful complement to “A Very Small Wish,” Monstro’s field theme. It’s clear that there was great care taken in making sure there would be an organic fusion each time the Heartless pop up.

45. “La Pace” (Chain of Memories)

Possibly the softest number ever written for a Kingdom Hearts game, “La Pace” hits just right given its peaceful title. Even through the filter of 8-bit magic, there is something very natural about the simple piano taps that give one the illusion of a live performance. Truthfully, this may be the most personal song for me on the entire list. I can distinctly remember holding my GameBoy up to my ear so that I could get a good listen of this song. It’s simple melody has stuck with me ever since. It takes me back to a time gone by, and so I can’t quite separate it from a feeling of nostalgia. Music is subjective, folks.

44. “Neverland’s Scherzo” (Birth by Sleep)

Consider the build up present in “Monstrous Monstro” and crank it up to eleven. A delightful strings arrangement and a playful percussion track partake in a musical tug of war until they eventually work in tandem to deliver a smashing climax of sound. It sounds like what Neverland feels like. There’s a certain feistiness to it that I think fits a world where that douche Peter Pan hangs out. There’s also an especially good callback to the song in the credits of Birth by Sleep. I really appreciate it when Shimomura knows she has a good song on her hands and calls back to it like she does in this case.

43. “The Key” (Birth by Sleep)

At face value, there’s not much to hear in this one. Atmosphere is key, however, and this one is oozing with it. This is easily the creepiest theme to accompany a boss battle in the whole series, as in when Aqua faces off with Vanitas/Ventus in the Keyblade Graveyard. “Dearly Beloved,” the title screen theme of the series and the most oft-used motif in the series’ music, is used in “The Key” to add some flavor to the otherwise droning tones. In addition, there’s a violin that sounds like it’s on its last legs shivering in the background in the first ten seconds. That thing is struggling, and it sounds fantastic. Suddenly that initial face value listen seems inadequate.

42. “Vim and Vigor” (Kingdom Hearts II)

Though the boss themes in the original game were stellar, it was wise not to reuse them for the sequel. Switching up the major tracks from KH1 to KH2 serves the games well, as they each have their own distinct sounds. Enter “Vim and Vigor,” a song that plays along with some of the Disney bosses in Kingdom Hearts II. A simple chime in the background drives the song forward, and that really goes a long way. This is a furious listen that doesn’t need to escalate because it slaps from the very first second. This isn’t the music you listen to while doing homework; this is driving on the highway in a rainstorm stuff.

41. “Deep Drive” (Kingdom Hearts II)

How about that synth? I love that The World That Never Was has a battle track as mechanical and sleek as the world itself. This is another example of the world and its music being in perfect tonal harmony. Like “Vim and Vigor,” “Deep Drive” is a relentless experience, and it makes sense considering the onslaught of Nobodies that the Organization throws at you as you climb your way through their stronghold. Dealing with Sorcerers and Berserkers is a manic exercise in Keyblade strategy that keeps you on your toes. It wouldn’t be right to have a chilled out piece of music to accompany those battles.


For 40-31: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/123516-the-top-50-songs-in-kingdom-hearts-40-31/?tab=comments#comment-2845319

Edited by InnerLight13

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