By Joseph Walter
That simple phrase sparked a collection of some truly kick-ass (and an abjectly awful few) theme songs for a generation of Power Rangers fans, and now, as I watch through many of the seasons I overlooked as a youngster, I wanted to discuss which ones from the almost-25 year-old franchise I believe take the ultimate cake in terms of theme songs to accompany people transforming into multi-colored superheroes who then pilot gigantic, combining robots.
The theme song reflects the dire situations of the show (both in a meta-sense and in fiction) with a high-intensity feeling. It also has a pretty obvious sense of cheese, from the (awesome) opening countdown, to the goofy "in Spaceeee!" announcer.
It's undeniably catchy and its chorus is an absolute ear worm (especially the "Go! Go! Go! Fly!") but it's hard to be upset when considering the sick solo at :33 or the ultra-meta "long live the Power Rangers" lyric that occurs in the full version of the song.
What sets this song apart almost immediately is its legitimately hard-rock edge, with a rough riff and face-melting shredding to start. For a kid, this was mind-destroying. Immediately after this we get the famous "Go Go Power Rangers," and it's hard not to appreciate the straightforward approach to these lyrics. The strangest part is that they don't seem cheesy unless you really take a step back and think about it. If you're just listening the song or hearing it during the show, no chorus could be more fitting for the martial arts action on screen.
This song is legitimately one of the legendary, archetypical pieces of Saturday morning intros that will always have its place among the Pop Culture Kingdom. And while it's not the top of this list, its importance will never be forgotten.
My only real issue is that, while it made an awesome orchestral appearance in the new film, it wasn't the basis for the score as a whole.
Instead, I continued to enjoy the episodes of the original seasons and Zeo I had on tape for years to come and only casually watched the end credits to Lightspeed Rescue after coming home from school. I even remember an advertisement for the final episodes of Lost Galaxy, which intrigued me, but it was still not enough to draw me in.
Fast forward to Jetix on ABC Family, where I caught an ear-whiff of Ninja Storm's impressive intro, which compelled me to tune into a couple of episodes. Jetix started airing older seasons of the show, including MMPR so I started watching those and then, by the time Dinothunder was announced, I was officially on a journey through the back catalog of the franchise I grew up with.
Now that that little aside is done, let's get back to the alluring theme of Ninja Storm: it's awesome.
It's the first song on this list to actually be structured more like a genuine piece of music rather than an intro theme, featuring a reserved opening (with fairly clever lyrics and progression) that sets the stage to tell the story of the series, and then when we reach :45, it actually returns to the chorus at full-power (and not just the taste the first run-around brought us.)
Then there's that inclusion of the infectious guitar that goes with the lyrics... ugh. It's so... cool. And I'll never get over that one shot of the Battlized Red Ranger doing that quick Ninja-pose with the explosion behind him (borderline sacred editing, editor.)
It's catchy, it has a fully-fleshed out progression, and it gets the job done (while also giving a nod to the original theme with its inclusion of gratuitous "go's," which I've always enjoyed in this franchise's musical continuity, however threadbare.)
Lost Galaxy also has a unique distinction among its peers throughout the series: it has an excellent incidental score for each episode. While Lightspeed Rescue's is also present (and thoroughly enjoyable) something just works better in Lost Galaxy's implementation of the concepts. That's possibly due, in part, to how unbelievably wonderful the theme song is.
Adapted into a wide array of leitmotifs for the score, Lost Galaxy's theme is a full song with an exceptional hook and a magnificent motif, which is specifically what greets us immediately upon the start of the intro.
The lyrics aren't overtly cheesy, and they do a great job of telling the story through concepts rather than explicitly. Its ascending verses give a strong sense of adventure and discovery, which is fitting to the premise of the season, and I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about the "ah" version of the main motif at :32, which leads into the battle cry of a refrain, "turn on the power!" With one, final referential "go!" the theme wraps up with the fantastic, awe-inducing motif.
And that's the thing: that motif stirs actual awe. We, as viewers (listeners, in this case) should be in awe of this ancient power, the discoveries in the Lost Galaxy, the Lights of Orion, the power of the Megazords and so on. It works majestically in this theme song but, again, it's even more powerful within the show itself, like during this sequence with the "Magna Defender."
I'd also like to take a moment to discuss the genius inclusion and use of chimes throughout the instrumentation. They offer perfect punctuation to the "awe" factor, and infuse a shocking amount of gravitas to the overall feeling of the theme. In short: God, those chimes are awesome.
Side note: If you liked Power Rangers as a kid, and have wanted to try a few more seasons as an adult, I recommend Lost Galaxy as a starting place. It's a clean break in continuity from "the Zordon Era," and offers some nicely fleshed out sci-fi, great characterizations and the most morally gray individual to ever grace a season of Power Rangers, the aforementioned Magna Defender (seriously, that arc made me cry. And he's got an exceptional theme motif.)
To start, it's probably the most cognitively intriguing.
Zeo was the first in the series to make a major break from the three seasons of Mighty Morphin'. Noticeably different powers, suits and villains are just the tip of the iceberg. These changes were necessitated by the need to use yet another season of Super Sentai footage, and instead of continuing to use the suits from MMPR, they decided to take the plunge and go with the new ones, which corresponded to the footage.
The composers likely knew that these changes could potentially alienate young fans of the show, so they took the original theme song, used it as a musical core, and built a new theme around it. That approach covered all their bases: New show in the same vein as the original gets a new song that reminds the listeners what the latest season was built upon. Genius.
As for the song, its start is a goose-bumps inducing chorus of "Zeo," and then it hits us with a savage riff of "Go Go Power Rangers" to immediately seal the deal for those who were skeptical.
The lyrics also do a fantastic job of conveying the meta-concept and in-show concept: despite the new looks and powers, they're "stronger than before" but still "rangers at the core," just like how the Zeo Crystal amplified their Ranger powers to the utmost limits.
The rising notes of the verses and high-energy guitar build excitement, while the slight references of "go go Power Rangers" go a long way to continue peaking the excitement. Finally, when it feels like the energy can't be revved up any further, they climax with easily the best version the MMPR theme ever committed to sound. Yes, it's even cooler than the orchestral one.
It's this nostalgic-but-refined bridge that takes an already kick-ass theme and, forgive the reference, "turns it to eleven."
Dinothunder has a memorable theme with cheesy-but-attractive lyrics that'll bore themselves deep into your skull. Despite its bad-ass, "dark" tone for the opening moments and verses of the song, the refrain is nicely upbeat. This is a perfect theme for the tone of Dinothunder as a whole, which made use of very weird footage from its Japanese counterpart, Abaranger, while also having some exceptionally troubling and serious plot lines, along with a terrifying villain made specifically for Western audiences.
SPD is another great piece by Ron Wasserman, the man who graced us with the original theme. The show itself is one of the best seasons the franchise has to offer, and the theme is nicely done, if not a little repetitious, a'la Power Rangers in Space.
Lightspeed Rescue is very much in the style of Lost Galaxy (likely thanks to shared composer, Jeremy Sweet [as far as I can tell]) and it follows that song's structure to a tee (along with incidental motifs in the show itself) with an excellent, awe-inducing theme to start things off (complete with more of those holy chimes... keep an ear out for their expert implementation later on) followed by verses that vaguely deal with concepts reflecting the show's subject matter before hitting a repetitious chorus, with one more rendition of the excellent motif at :28 (with a cool "Power's on its way..." lyrical sequence) and concluding with a comparative whimper. Essentially, while I still think it might belong somewhere on this list (maybe where In Space is now) it's mostly a less-successful version of the Lost Galaxy theme, but barely so.
So what do you think? Did I miss anything? Should Mystic Force's theme be the top of the list (if not the entire list?) Let me know below!
And May the Power Protect You ;-)