Now that we’ve gotten to the end of Girls5eva season two, there’s just 6 much we’ve seen the girl group sing about: the hotness of boys in space, UTIs, knee surgery. But in the quest to be famous 5eva, one song has to be No. 1. Using a highly scientific process known as “listening to my own taste,” I ranked the output of Girls5eva thus far, focusing both on whether the songs are good as standalone songs and whether they are actually funny. For the sake of clarity, I stuck to the music available on the show’s official cast recordings, which does leave off several gems we only hear for a few seconds onscreen. (Why didn’t we get a studio version of Dawn’s song where she uses every possible definition of the word “set”? Or the group’s ode to the city of Fort Worth? These are questions I can only yell fruitlessly outside of NBC headquarters and hope for a response.) Until then, we will make do with this list of the excellent Girls5eva material that is available on a music-streaming service near you.
19) “U Ready?”
A filler song that is itself a joke about filler songs, you have to admire the number of ways the Girls5eva writers have the group stall for time. The delivery is very funny, and we get all the girls (including Ashley Park) doing their best ready-for-MTV voices to confirm they are, indeed, “in the house” and “ready.” However, the concept is better as an elaborate joke than a song, per se.
Best line: “If you’re ready, could you say ‘ready’? Because you could be ‘in the house’ and not ‘ready.’”
18) “The Splingee”
Another exercise in specific girl-group humor, Girls5eva describes how to do a “dope” dance move that is supposedly taking the world by storm. It involves whipping your hair, doing figure eights with your waist, blinking with two eyes, and getting all shy like you want to cry. The instructions end with the note that “the only thing left to do is repeat it two more times to make one complete splingee.” Honestly, it sounds like a home workout I should try.
Best line: “Grind up on a ghost, then shake it out.”
17) “Who U Know”
A solo performance by Jeremiah Craft’s Lil Stinker (who later gets canceled and rebrands as a country act), this is a send-up of name-dropping rap singles, with Stinker just listing everyone he knows, from his mom to his friend’s mom to Alfre Woodard.
Best line: “From Zendaya to Zen-die-a!”
16) “Line Up”
”This is the song that launches Girls5eva’s comeback, since Lil Stinker samples “Famous 5eva” on it. We’ll get to their original hit later on, but the Stinker side of it is pretty generic as a placeholder for the kind of song that might sample something from the early 2000s.
Best line: “I know you wanna light up, forever 5eva enough.”
15) “Thinking About Myself”
One of Dawn’s stabs at songwriting early in season two, this is a fairly direct ballad about self-involvement. It does have some great zealous grandstanding vocals from Renée Elise Goldsberry, though.
Best line: “Crying harder than anyone at a funeral for a great-uncle I barely knew.”
14) “Space Boys”
In the chronicles of Girls5eva’s adventures in dating, here we have them going on an interstellar boy-kissing mission. Sadly they don’t have a TARS to keep them company, but after checking every planet they can (including “the stars”) they find some space boys (“more exotic than a waiter from France!”). On the show, the song accompanies some flashbacks to a young Gloria trying to avoid making out with actual boys, but solely as music, it’s just a low-key sci-fi jam.
Best line: “We found a planet full of girls, but we left!”
13) “Boyz Next Door (Puber-Dude)”
To match the queasy sexualization of the Girls5eva, this number offers up the chance to objectify the just-recently pubescent members of Boyz Next Door, who have become the “hottest boys in the cul-de-sac” with a “Backstreet’s Back”–style anthem of their own. Who could resist their thin little mustaches, awkward growth spurts, and bland conversation?
Best line: “Floppy hair, greasy brow, Adam’s apple going pow-pow-pow.”
12) “Can’t Wait 2 Wait”
Back in the day, Busy Phillips’s Summer and Andrew Rannells’s Kev collabed on this break-out Christian-pop single about the joys of not having sex yet. Its fun hook and a peppy atmosphere bely the sheer grossness of the overall message.
Best line: “Premarital urges aren’t itches to be scratched, so look up medical oddities until those feelings pass.”
11) “New York City Moms”
An obvious sequel to “New York Lonely Boy” (more on that below), this song brings on Ingrid Michaelson(!) to perform an ode to the women of the city who have chosen to wait to have kids. A celebration of the moms who have “bumps poking out of Eileen Fisher” and are “judged by their husband’s out-of-town sister,” the Girls5eva writers can riff endlessly on very niche New York micro-communities, and bless them for that.
Best line: “Spent their 20s in a disco, still younger than moms in San Francisco.”
10) “Summer Brings the Fall”
Kev’s best attempt at a torch song involves an increasingly convoluted series of attempts at wordplay that I can’t help but respect. It starts out with “thought you were for ev, thought you were for Kev, you were like whatev, now I pray to heav … for strength” and just gets more forced from there.
Best line: “Thought I was your male, cause you’re my holy grail.”
9) “Larry’s Song”
The girls get their Taylor’s Version moment with this kiss off to their former manager that references many of the show’s recurring jokes about the indignities of early aughts fame, including him promising a steak knife to whoever seduces Carson Daly. The twist by the end is that they’ve finally gotten some financial and personal control, and thus, “everything we do belongs to us.”
Best line: “Only let us eat crab, cause you can’t get fat from food that’s so damn hard to get at.”
9) “At the Beep”
No, you’re tearing up thinking about a fictional character who died in an infinity-pool accident. In this episode, Gloria finally gives up on her conspiracy theories about Ashley’s death and accepts that she might really be gone. (I do wonder if Ashley Park would’ve been available for a longer run in season two if Emily in Paris hadn’t gotten so big.) This results in a somber number where girls say goodbye to Ashley through her still-active (because Gloria has been paying) answering-machine service.
Best line: “It should have been me.” “I did a lot of cocaine, so much cocaine.”
Starting off season two, the girls have got momentum, yeah, um, it’s their moment (bless you, Jeff Richmond) with a song that’s relatively straightforward within the Girls5eva canon but is also a solid earworm. I have to respect that groovy baseline, too.
Best line: “Unstoppable, this unst-unst ain’t toppable.”
7) “I’m Afraid (Dawn’s Song of Fears)”
Sometimes you just have to let Sara Bareilles loose with a piano and sing like she’s performing “Gravity.” Here, Dawn’s attempt to write a song on her own ends with her just listing things she’s afraid of, from the fact that she might thrive under Scientology to her fear that she’ll text a pic of her vagina to her dad. There’s something very funny to me about the way Bareilles says “my hummus is fungus” and I have to own that.
Best line: “I’m afraid that the second I leave town I’ll get a UTI. Why can’t they sell those pills over the counter? I don’t need a doctor, I know exactly what it is.”
6) “Dream Girlfriends”
The satire of Girls5eva cuts deepest here, in this song from their original run about all the ways they’d be willing to debase themselves to appeal to men. The list includes the fact that their dads are dead, that their moms are overtired so there’ll be no pushback, that they want to watch you play darts and love watching stand-up (but not by women). “Dream Girlfriends” cuts both ways, managing to make the men it’s supposed to appeal to sound pathetic as well. The girls are short so they don’t know you’re bald!
Best line: “Tell me again why Tarantino’s a genius.”
5) “Bend Not Break”
Near the end of season two, the women of Girls5eva realize their best song is actually about Gloria’s knee surgery. Metaphorically, it’s really about how they have to learn to compromise and acknowledge each other’s weaknesses to support their success, but there is also literally a joke about how she uses a cane. Anyway, it’s got a groove that’s hard to shake and does really make you want to dance (carefully, in a way that doesn’t risk further knee injury).
Best line: “We got our secret weapon already, and it’s got eight legs, four smiles, and a cane.”
4) “Famous 5eva”
Perhaps the best theme song in the vast universe of television today, here Girls5eva embraces the joys of counting by promising they’ll be famous 5eva — ’cuz 4eva’s too short. Those synths have an addictive crunch, and there’s something about the way they describe the series of cars they’re driving in (first a Lexus, then a Mercedes and then a Maserati) that’s gleefully ridiculous. The show has to make you believe the girls really are talented, and that there’s something joyful about watching them perform. This does both.
Best line: “We’re Girls5eva, could we get a high SIX?”
Put your hands together for a “We Are the Champions”–style celebration of big pussy energy. Girl5eva’s absurdist answer to “WAP” celebrates their “Vitamin P” with some gospel-choir-esque harmonies. And the remix, which outdoes the original, adds in some church bells to heighten the energy. It will make you tap into whatever B.P.E. you have of your own.
Best line: “Square feet, I’m going for miles, upgrade, taking up the aisles, open up those classified files from the Department of Treasury.”
2) “New York Lonely Boy”
The best of the Girls5eva songs in terms of straight joke-writing, “New York Lonely Boy” applies a Simon and Garfunkel sensibility to the tales of hyperarticulate soft boys who know too much about mixing plaids and the dangers of restaurants on the corner (they just try too hard). Its comedy is sort of tangential from Girls5eva’s overall focus on the music industry, but it’s so perfectly realized that it doesn’t matter. Any show that can deliver such a specific encapsulation of a type — to the extent that I now think of various former St. Anne’s students who’ve became indie celebrities (okay, just Lucas Hedges) as New York Lonely Boys — deserves to run forever.
Best line: “His playground is the lobby, has a palate for wasabi.”
1) “Four Stars”
If “Famous 5eva” had to establish Girls5eva as it was, then “Four Stars” has to do the work of making you believe the second iteration of the group has come into its own. It does this delightfully well, with an anthem about embracing your imperfections that includes plenty of tossed-off jokes from each of the band members. (I’m particularly fond of “women are an ocean of secrets!”) Plus there’s something great about the harmonies of everyone singing “four stars” together. I have put this on exercise playlists, and it works!
Best line: “The best things in life are free, that’s why rich people never carry wallets.”