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InnerLight13

The Top 50 Songs in Kingdom Hearts (30-21)

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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.
 

30. “The 13th Dilemma” (Kingdom Hearts II)

Shimomura loves those strings! Like some of the other boss themes, you can practically hear the battle quotes while you listen. “Dance, water, dance!” “Can you feel it? The moon’s power?” “New backDRAWP!” This type of thing goes a long way in crafting a list like this. You don’t have to think too hard about where “The 13th Dilemma” pops up in the game. It transports you to very distinct moments in time and reminds you of some of the best boss fights in the series. It’s oddly not the best song that uses “13th” in the title, but it is still fantastic.

29. “Daybreak Town” (Union χ [Cross])

Here’s a rather missable song in the Kingdom Hearts and Shimomura catalogue. I can hear groaning from here. Really, dude? The phone game? Yes, the phone game. To be fair, I really got into this dreamy number when I heard it at the Kingdom Hearts Orchestra. It was at that moment I recognized there was something beautifully simple at play. I truly hope that it transcends the phone game and gets a remix on a proper console game so that it may get its due. “Daybreak Town” is the perfect wake up music. An easy-listening, rise and shine piece that contextually is meant to be the sound of a calm before the storm.

28. “Traverse in Trance” (Dream Drop Distance)

I feel like Dream Drop Distance really only goes fully into the world of dreams in Traverse Town and Symphony of Sorcery. The biggest reason for this in the musical choices. In the case of Traverse Town, there is enough new stuff going into this revamped version of the KH1 theme to warrant a separate placement on this list and in the hearts of players. The saxophone part of the song is a welcome surprise, as is the “Part of Your World”-ish build up to the standard Traverse Town sound. The slow-moving pace of “Traverse in Trance” is just right given the tone of the game, and also is a nice juxtaposition when placed next to the hyper, lyrical “The World Ends With You” soundtrack. There’s a lot to unpack with this one, and all of it is a dream come true.

27. “Vector to the Heavens” (358/2 Days)

I can’t ignore the gravity of a song like “Vector to the Heavens.” I recognize it as a consensus favorite, and it isn’t hard to see why that is the case. The Xion-Roxas dynamic is brought to a head with this tune, culminating in an epic battle and a tour of the worlds they’ve been to together to make things hurt even more. And that’s really the deal here: hurting. I don’t find pleasure in listening to it, but I respect how much emotion it exudes. There are other songs that have that effect. Technically brilliant, but difficult to revisit without conjuring up memories of a very sad affair.

26. “Scherzo Di Notte” (Kingdom Hearts)

Get used to hearing a lot of this one. Hollow Bastion is swarming with enemies, so you’ll likely be spending more time hearing “Scherzo Di Notte” than you will the actual world theme. What can be said about it? There’s a bombastic quality to the track, and it’s filled with swelling strings and a wild piano. Underneath it all is a simple but effective drum beat that only briefly disappears to make way for another helping of the most intense noises. The smashing sound of the song will most definitely have you hoping for the Library or Rising Falls. There’s no escape.

25. “Forze Del Male” (Kingdom Hearts)

There’s no fight in the series like that one on one between Sora and Riku in the Grand Hall. This is no ordinary Riku fight, however. There’s a great nod to our friend being possessed being made with the song selection. For the rest of the series, this is basically the Ansem battle theme. So in hindsight, it’s great attention to detail having this play over the first “Ansem” fight. Interestingly, it got used in Chain of Memories as well during the Riku Replica fights, another subtle nod to Riku still being influenced greatly by Ansem. I enjoy that there is seemingly a rhyme and reason to these things.   

24. Epilogue (Kingdom Hearts III)

Watching the Epilogue of Kingdom Hearts III is a moment seared into my brain. What is happening!? Oh… oh my God… is that Travis Willingham? Dad? Songs in Kingdom Hearts that don’t loop are a rare blessing and they are the easiest to return to. The first half of “The Lost Masters” charges forward, giving you basically no time to fully concentrate on what’s going, much like the crazy scene that it works in tandem with. It gracefully slips into a more mellow second wave when the action switches back to the chess board. This is another instance of Shimomura having some incredible feel for a scene and using every instrument in her arsenal to add so much to a moment that is perfect in basically every other regard.

23. “Destiny’s Union” (Birth by Sleep)

So precious. A lovely solo violin (I think) soars throughout the song, starting with a hopeful phrase which soon devolves into the bittersweet. Such is the bitch of destiny, especially for the Wayfinder trio. I absolutely adore Aqua remembering the Disney friends she has made along her journey while strolling through the Realm of Darkness. That remembrance, mixed with the musical choice, provides a glimmer of hope. Even if the Realm of Darkness is the worst place to be, there’s still some hope to be found. Some songs sound like a specific emotion. “Destiny’s Union” is that glimmer of light that says things might be okay. It is the hope that Aqua so desperately needs.

22. “Treasured Memories” (Kingdom Hearts)

A great score should help us to sympathize and understand the characters on a deeper level. If you look up “Treasured Memories” on YouTube, there’s a bunch of people in the comments who are sharing stories of friends and times that are long passed. The trick is that our own treasured memories get brought to the forefront when a song like this pops up. It plays while Sora, Riku and Kairi are in the midst of building their experiences. There’s a tie that binds our own lives to the characters in that instant. It’s a moment we can remember and peer into but can’t have back in reality. It can’t be quantified by notes and beats. Some noises are just special.

21. Stranded Beyond (Kingdom Hearts III)

Overwhelming the player with a grandiose theme song to pair with Kingdom Hearts heaven may have been too sappy. The simplistic opening, I think, suits the watery afterworld just right. The symphonic portion doesn’t overstay its welcome, scaling back to make way for the more subtle little moments within the song, which take from nursery rhymes and hymnals that are far outside the realm of Kingdom Hearts. If ever there was a time to pull influence from some unexpected places, this would be the spot. Dormez-vous?

 

For 40-31: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/123516-the-top-50-songs-in-kingdom-hearts-40-31/

For 20-11: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/123532-the-top-50-songs-in-kingdom-hearts-20-11/

 

Edited by InnerLight13

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