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KHMoM The Top 50 Songs in Kingdom Hearts (20-11)

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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.


20. Rise of the Union (Kingdom Hearts III)

When I first heard it, I was beyond floored. We’re getting into the absolute elite territory of Kingdom Hearts songs. Just to recap, this was the song behind the name-in-game contest’s payoff. Every time it comes on I feel the urge to go walk around in the sun. It simply cannot keep me in one place. Some songs move you emotionally, and others can move you physically. Of note is the subtle “Dearly Beloved” progression that guides the whole song forward. Talk about taking what is otherwise a simple theme and giving it a completely different scope and sound. The core of the song is still in there, and the results in the case of this track are brilliant.

19. Edge of Existence (Kingdom Hearts III)

If a Kingdom Hearts song were to come on in the club, it’d be the Scala Ad Caelum battle theme. One of the biggest disappointments in history was only getting to hear it for a criminally small amount of time in Kingdom Hearts III. Luckily, Re:Mind came in with a steel chair and an explorable Scala, meaning we got to hear this awesome track each time combat called. I think the fan outrage at its lack of usage is a good sign at telling you how hard it slaps. On a musical level, there’s a slight Caribbean (the real one, not the world) flare that we haven’t really heard in any other song from the series. Style points for being among Shimomura’s most unique works.

18. “Night of Fate” (Kingdom Hearts)

A song that sounds like the world is caving in. I find it to be very unsettling, probably because it's mostly just the same seven notes over and over again until you find the cutscene. Is there value in being repetitive? I suppose it depends. I think “Night of Fate” makes it work because it never is just plopped into a random cutscene. There’s always pressure when it is deployed, whether it be the original night of fate on Destiny Islands or the fight between Invi and Aced in Daybreak Town. In that regard, I think there’s a “Jaws” (dun-dun … dun-dun) quality to it. Just seven notes can create all of that tension.

17. “Hollow Bastion” (Kingdom Hearts)

I get big Bach vibes from this one. The combination of small winds and hyper piano works very well, creating in tandem something a bit chaotic musically but also extremely tight from a production standpoint. That first landing in the Rising Falls just wouldn’t be the same without it. Coming off of Neverland, the music of “Hollow Bastion” is an indicator that the Disney stuff is nowhere to be found. And unlike the jazz lounge Traverse Town and beach day Destiny Islands themes, this one has some urgency, as if time is running out. Up to that point in the game, there really isn’t anything that sounds like this one. You can tell the end is near.

16. “Eternal Moments” (Birth by Sleep)

Played during the scene in which Ventus meets Lea and Isa in Radiant Garden, this is one of the absolute best transcendent tracks in the series. More specifically, this is a twist on the original 382/2 Days song called “At Dusk, I Will Think of You.” That song is always used during tender moments between Roxas and Axel on the clock tower. So, when it was switched up a bit and brought back for Birth by Sleep, it was a great way to connect the two games. In the lore of Kingdom Hearts, BBS and Days are two of the farthest away from each other, so having a song to tie them together in what I think is one of the best scenes in the series is special.

15. “Wave of Darkness” (Birth by Sleep 0.2)

Drums! This one very quickly rose up the ranks of Kingdom Hearts music to snag a top 15 spot on my list. Like all of the best boss themes, “Wave of Darkness” is a great mix of doom and epic. It slows down a bit but never loses the tenacity that makes it so impactful on a first listen. The Devil’s Wave fight in 0.2 is extremely cinematic, so the film score sensibilities that carry some of the cutscene songs needed to be used to capture the tone of the battle. I can only imagine this fusion made the track one of the more difficult to conceptualize and write. In any case, this is actually the second highest post-2010 track on the list, so the impression that it’s made has been swift and powerful.

14. “Rage Awakened” (Kingdom Hearts II)

I will never be able to separate this song from the E3 2015 re-reveal trailer for Kingdom Hearts III. Someone at Square must have said, “Let’s get these people hype. What’s the most epic song we have in our arsenal?” The answer was “Rage Awakened.” The elongated string lines in this song are similar to those in “Terra,” so it is only right that this is the battle music for the Lingering Will fight in Kingdom Hearts II. With the E3 trailer and Lingering Will, it has close ties to two of the massive water cooler talking points in the series. For iconic purposes alone, “Rage Awakened” simply could not have reasonably been left off of the list.

13. “Sora” (Kingdom Hearts II)

The main character of the Kingdom Hearts series can lay claim to what I think is the best character theme out there. While so many of the other songs of this variety have an unsure quality of darkness hanging beneath the light, Sora’s is a jolt of fresh air. How appropriate. Not the most technically intense, “Sora” makes up for a relative lack of complexity by being a whimsical little ditty. In context, it gets me ready for an epic Kingdom Hearts II adventure. It doubles as both a representation of the character’s mood and his thirst for excitement. In other words, it’s the perfect character theme.

12. “Traverse Town” (Kingdom Hearts)

Welcome to a brand new world. The trauma of Destiny Islands falling apart may lead a first time player to think what comes next will be more doom and gloom. Instead they’re greeted by a yellow dog and … Starbucks music? It’s a very interesting choice of world and music that hits just right. Whenever I hear “Traverse Town,” I feel cozy, emphasizing the world’s status as the only true hub in the series. With a different backing track to set the mellow mood, perhaps returning to Traverse Town after every subsequent world would feel like a less safe prospect. With this theme, however, you know you can always count on it to feel like home.

11. “Working Together” (Kingdom Hearts II)

Again, context matters. “Working Together” is a fine pop tune that makes me smile every time I hear it. But consider it as the partial follow-up music to the super existential prologue to Kingdom Hearts II. After hearing all about how the Dusks have come for their liege, you might really be in the mood to jam out to a xylophone. Climbing up Master Yen Sid’s tower would not have been the same without it. “Working Together” is emblematic of what makes Shimomura’s music so essential. Considering another composer’s stamp on each world or setting feels like heresy. Her work is an irreplaceable fixture of the series that is inseparable from the feeling of each game.


For 30-21: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/123521-the-top-50-songs-in-kingdom-hearts-30-21/

For 10-1: https://www.kh13.com/forums/topic/123536-the-top-50-songs-in-kingdom-hearts-10-1/


Edited by InnerLight13

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