When the Jem and the Holograms movie bombed in 2015, lasting only two weekends in theaters and breaking records for the worst performance of a movie opening on more than 2500 screens, it became a testament to Hollywood hubris. It reminded Hollywood that they can’t take a classic 80’s cartoon, strip it of everything that made it fun and unique, reinvent it for a younger audience, ignore all the older fans, spend $5 million dollars, and assume they’re going to have a hit on their hands. Universal Studios and director Jon Chu’s unsuccessful reinterpretation of the show, originally created by Christy Marx, led to a major box office failure that dashed any hopes Jem fans had of seeing the show make it to the big screen in a way that respected the characters and the spirit of the original.
Fortunately, thanks to 65 episodes available on DVD, fans can enjoy the real Jem in all of its animated glory, with all of the elements not included in the film, including car chases, exploding mansions, imperiled orphans, runaway yachts, globe-trotting adventures, battling bands, and the memorable, infectious music that was at the heart of every episode.
In honor of the real Jem, here is a top 10 list of the best Jem songs from the original cartoon series.
10. Truly Outrageous
Truly Outrageous perfectly captured the essence of Jem – an upbeat, outrageous fantasy that let you believe you could be anything you wanted to be.
9. When It’s Only Me And The Music
One of several songs to make this list that focused on the power of music – in this case, losing oneself in music and dance to find emotional freedom.
8. You’re Always There In My Heart
One of the more poignant Jem songs used in an the episode where Kimber struggled with memories of her father on Father’s Day. It reached an emotional level uncommon for most animated shows.
7. Music is Magic
The song that won Jem and the Holograms the battle of the bands against The Misfits, Music is Magic is joyous anthem about the power of song and the magical ability it has to “let you see the world the way it outta be.”
6. Can’t Get My Love Together
Although focused on Jem’s self-created love triangle with Rio and herself as Jerrica, Can’t Get My Love Together is a lyrically rich song about yearning to sort out complications of the heart that are infinitely relatable.
5. She’s Got The Power
It’s fun, upbeat, and a perfect celebration of Synergy unleashed. This song is everything that was missing in Jon Chu’s film.
4. Friend or Stranger
This one makes the list not only because it’s a great song, but also because of how well it was used in the cartoon. It capped off a 2-part episode, where 3 Starlight girls run away and Jem and the Holograms give up attending a music award show to host a charity for runaways, after realizing their prior commitment to Danse was more important. During the song, tearful orphans are reunited and an orphan boy is acknowledged for saving the concert from Techrat’s sabotage. And who can forget the look on Pizzazz’s face when she crashes the concert to brag about winning the music award only to find that nobody cared because they were all captivated by this song? It’s overboard in sappiness, but it works so well on many levels.
3. Our Love Makes You Beautiful
A touching ballad Jem sings while performing in a rock version of Beauty and the Beast as the beast transforms back into a man, thanks to the power of Beauty’s love. Musically, it was one of the series’ strongest episodes and one of the few where all 3 songs were sung by Jem and the Holograms. When combined together, all 3 tell the story of Beauty and the Beast perfectly.
2. We Can Make A Difference
From the misty opening of the video, to the determined optimism of the lyrics, to the powerhouse note at the end, We Can Make A Difference captures the inspirational quality of Jem – no challenge was so great that it couldn’t be overcome by working together.
1. Let the Music Play
This song was used in an episode where Jem and the Holograms went in search of the mythological city of Shangri-La to help give their music a new sound. In the process of trying to thwart them, Pizzazz and Roxy got scratched by poison briars and the only way to save them was with the magical music of Shangri-La. The Holograms’ chant-like opening gives this song a sound like no other in the series. Even though it’s another song about the power of music, this one touches on the restorative power of music to heal and rejuvenate down to the soul and that’s a huge part of what gives Jem and the Holograms longevity with its fans. The music inspired them and the messages in the songs resonated beyond the series’ cancellation in 1986.