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Totally Biased Look: RWBY V1 OST

Ah the RWBY vocal tracks.

Love or hate the series itself, even a lot of the hatedom can still admit the music is absolutely top notch. Jeff Williams has a superb talent for composition due to his wide range. Everything from the slower ballads like Home to the Broadway-style Hero to the heavy rock/metal pieces like Bad Luck Charm… The man is just gifted.

Of course, helping out is his daughter, Casey Lee Williams, on most vocals. She has an incredible range to be able to keep up with the rather wide genre demands her father puts out. But she rises to challenge in usually spectacular fashion.

And with the wide range of music styles, everybody has their own opinion on what makes for a “good” RWBY song and a “bad” RWBY song.

Personally, I stand by there being no bad songs, just ones I don’t like as much. 

Needless to say, this article series covers what I think of each RWBY soundtrack covering up to Volume 7. These are strictly my own personal opinions and are not meant to demean what anybody else thinks of the songs. These are ranked basically solely on how much I personally enjoy them. 

There are some loose criteria I use in order to rank them. They’re not applicable to every song, though.

Regardless, I’ll still try to break them down using some sort of criteria. Each song has a score of how much I enjoy it, but the loose criteria doesn’t create any sort of formal point grading system. 

For each soundtrack, I’ll cover my least favorite to my favorite. Then, at the very end, I’ll provide my overall ranking of each song out of 57. There are some very loose “rules” for this, but they aren’t hard and fast.

Also, because this is my personal list of songs, I’ll also be talking about headcanon and personal stuff.

The Criteria

How fun/easy is it to sing along to?

Do deeply do I relate to it personally?

How fun is the beat?

Does it have any serious headcanon applications?

How likely am I to listen to it if it comes up in shuffle?

The “Rules”

1. Original vocal tracks only. No remixes or acoustics except for one very special exception. They’re just not to my personal taste most of the time. 

2. Explain each criteria if it’s not obvious what it means. This will often involve explaining my personal headcanon and/or AU applications. I consider clear answers to be stuff like “Pretty likely” or “Easy to [x].” I don’t feel that needs much elaboration. But things like “Kinda” require a bit more. So I won’t explain everything because i just feel most will be easy enough to understand on their own.

3. No technical musical aspects. Mainly just because I am not formally trained in musical composition. I’ve spent a lot of time in choir, so I know some stuff. But I can’t sightread to save my life, let alone talk about stuff like key signature and all of that. 

Score Explanations

So here are the general sentiments of each area. My scale goes from 0-10. I will admit they are very…vague. It’s just a bit hard to define, given these are very personal rankings.

0: I get literally zero enjoyment from these songs. Not even on my playlists.

1: Not my personal taste and/or find them generic. Either instant skip or seen as white noise.

2: Completely indifferent to. Either skip or seen as white noise.

3: Generic, not to my taste, but generally have a nice hook. Sometimes skipped, usually let it pass as more background noise but I’ll bop to the beat.

4: I begin to engage with the song. They have good beats and I’ll sing and maybe dance along a bit. Generally pretty fun songs but also rather “what you see is what you get.” Not super deep to me. Still an impersonal relationship to the song.

5: I’m starting to really enjoy the songs. They upgrade from “bops” to “jams.” Personal relationships with songs begin to form.

6: These are basically the same as 5 but just better. Either they tend to be a lot more fun and/or my personal relationships with them are a lot deeper. Basically they go from “pretty good” to “really good.”

7: This is where the songs become “excellent” to me. I form even deeper personal relationships to the songs. They have a lot of thematic relevance to my interpretations of the world and characters.

8: Things go from “excellent” to “amazing” here. These are the songs that strike some of the deepest meanings to me personally. The thematic relevance to my take on the world and characters is at its highest.

9: This is almost the pinnacle of perfection. “Transcendent” is about the best way to describe these songs. I may not have a deep personal connection, but, thematically for their canon context or my headcanon world’s, it’s basically flawless.

10: This is reserved only for the songs that mean the most to me on a personal level. They strike the deepest. Thematic relevance to world and/or characters doesn’t matter. This is about what means the most to me on my own personal journey.

Overall Scoring

At the end of each soundtrack, I’ll provide my overall score and placement. Total points tend to be out of 80, but V5 was out of 70 and V7 was out of 90. However, I still think these scores are comparable enough. 

Some of the overall scores will seem low. For example a 45 could easily be interpreted as really low since it’s only a little over half of 80. However, that’s actually really high. If you look at the above scoring explanations, it’s hopefully clear why. For anything to go to an 8 or above, it needs to be near absolute perfection for me. Most songs will be 7 or below. 

There are two 10s, one 9, seven 8s, twelve 7s, nine 6s, five 5s, eight 4s, five 3s, two 2s, three 1s, and two 0s. 

Most are clustered around that 4-7 range which are generally seen as generally the “average” range in most grading scales. So a lot of them will come out to what looks like an “average” or even “failing” score. Because of that distribution, the average is about 44. But, really, most of the soundtracks fall within the 40-50 range. Only two particular outliers fall outside of it: my absolute best and my absolute worst.

V1 Note

I’m not including Red Like Roses Part 1. This is mainly because there’s just not enough for me to latch onto as a full vocal track. It was mainly just the “proof of concept” backing for the Red trailer. It was made to be synced to a fight scene. That’s not to say the vocal work wasn’t impressive especially as Casey was 12-14 at the time. (I’ve seen both ages floating around.) The few lines that are there are haunting and beautiful. But I just don’t think there’s enough to call it a full vocal track.

Also considering how much people love the V1 soundtrack…this particular take is probably gonna be considered a hot take and kinda controversial. 

Gold

[Image Source]
[Image description: Yang sits off to the right side of the screen, her hair glowing. Her symbol is to the left of her, silhouetted against pure black]

Score: 4

Overall Ranking: 45 / 57

How fun/easy is it to sing along to? Fun and relatively easy

Do deeply do I relate to it personally? Not deeply

How fun is the beat? Pretty fun

Does it have any serious headcanon applications? Not really

How likely am I to listen to it if it comes up in shuffle? Pretty likely

It’s a good song and I won’t deny it. However, it’s just personally my least overall favorite of Volume 1. 

It’s a great insight into Yang and her view of the world and her relationship with people. It really lays out her character extremely well. It shows just how selfless of a person she is. She’ll do whatever she can in order to make people feel better. And I really admire that about her. 

Personally, I do think that it also hints at the fact she tends to stuff down her own feelings. Everyone else’s happiness is what matters to her. Her own doesn’t. She doesn’t want to seem like she’s cracking under the pressure to anybody that needs a base even if she knows she needs to slow down or take a break. I know that contradicts her talk with Blake in V2, but not every headcanon lines up with canon.

It’s a pretty solid image song, but not much beyond that.

From Shadows

[Image description: A mostly crimson screen with some specks of black floating across it. Blake sits silhouetted against it in pure black.]

Score: 4

Overall Ranking: 44 / 57

How fun/easy is it to sing along to? Very fun and pretty easy to sing along with

Do deeply do I relate to it personally? Kinda

How fun is the beat? This is a jam

Does it have any serious headcanon applications? Not really

How likely am I to listen to it if it comes up in shuffle? Pretty likely

Honestly, I don’t have a lot to say about this one. I’ve listened to it up and down and all around and inside out. I know this song pretty well. It’s, again, a good song, but it’s exactly what it appears to be.

It is, again, a fantastic image song that’s an excellent insight into Blake during her White Fang days. The duet between Casey and Jeff in this one is of the serious highlights of the track. It really does a good job of capturing the similarities and contrasts between Blake and Adam and their mindsets. They’re unified in wanting rights for Faunus. They rightly feel angry at being treated like animals simply because of their race. It’s unfair and they’re angry about it.

But, while angry, Casey’s voice is a little calmer than Jeff’s, offering a good reflection of Blake questioning things more. She started off peaceful and turned radical because of him. Jeff’s voice is generally a lot harder, showing off his much harsher and deeply ingrained anger and superiority toward humans. 

The reason I say I sort of relate to it is because I’m a jaded idealist. I was someone who once believed in the best of people. I thought that people were inherently good and selfless. However, being on the internet has changed that (namely tumblr). I’ve become…rather misanthropic. People just seem to be inherently selfish and lacking in any and all empathy toward others. They just don’t care about others or respecting them. So yeah, I can relate to the sentiments in this song on some level.

This Will Be The Day 

[Image Source]
[Image description: A white circle takes up most of the screen. The word RWBY sits off to the right side in pure black. Ruby herself stands to the left in silhouette as well, holding Crescent Rose behind her back with the main scythe end near the bottom center of the screen. Her cloak stands out in bright red to the bottom right hand corner of the screen.]

Score: 4

Overall Ranking: 38 / 57

How fun/easy is it to sing along to? A lot of fun and pretty easy (once you get it down)

Do deeply do I relate to it personally? Not at all

How fun is the beat? Phenomenal

Does it have any serious headcanon applications? HELLA

How likely am I to listen to it if it comes up in shuffle? Very likely

Hoo boy is this one going to be a hot take. 

I think this particular song is very overhyped. 

Like, don’t get me wrong, it’s an absolutely killer jam. The beat, the rhythm, the lyrics… It’s an extremely catchy song and a great first opening theme for the series. It sets up the themes for V1 well. It helps establish the tone amazingly. 

However, I just find I don’t like it anywhere near as much as other people. I find it a killer jam and that’s about it. I have a relatively impersonal relationship with this song. Honestly, the OPs tend to be some of my least favorite songs. I just find them often to be generic.

The past face of this song can definitely be a high barrier to get into in terms of singing. I think my biggest challenge is getting the “I don’t want to hear your absolution / Hope you’re ready for our revolution / Welcome to a world of bloody evolution” right because “absolution, revolution, and evolution” are so similar. It’s a great play on words but it makes it difficult to keep them all straight

The headcanon applications of this song are pretty fun for me. This is not the last time I will mention this, but I have an AU called Fear and Sacrifice (more on why when we get to each song). I personally used this song for Ruby’s theme. The short version of the AU is that Summer works for Salem and was an inside agent during the STRQ days. She originally started a relationship with Qrow to manipulate him but it turned genuine along the way. Ruby was a mistake and she yeeted herself out of there as soon as humanly possible. She paralysed Qrow a year later, leaving Taiyang to raise Ruby and Yang by himself. Ruby eventually learns of her Branwen heritage and decides to join the tribe. However, she bounces between there and Vale with Raven’s Semblance. 

This song is just so very much Ruby in this AU. Due to me messing up basic math, she’s actually only fourteen entering Beacon. Because of her short height and everything, people underestimate her. She’s a surprise due to the sheer ferocity of her fighting and strong will. She’s basically a bolt of lightning that can’t and won’t be controlled unless she wants to be (RIP Ozpin). There’s also a lot to say about the family dynamics but we’d be here all day if I went into it…and this is only 

Mirror Mirror Part 1

[Image source]
[Image description: Weiss stands by herself against a black background in her Beacon outfit. Her expression is neutral.]

Score: 5

Overall Ranking: 37 / 57

How fun/easy is it to sing along to? It can be a challenge

Do deeply do I relate to it personally? Extremely so

How fun is the beat? Pretty fun

Does it have any serious headcanon applications? Yes

How likely am I to listen to it if it comes up in shuffle? Pretty likely

Oh Weiss, Weiss, Weiss. My baby. My bean. My OG.

So to back up a little, Weiss is one of my favorite characters because hers is a story I relate to well. The struggle for identity is common in fiction and applies to most people even in real life. As somebody that is both LGBT and Autistic, her songs have really hit me deeply. 

Honestly, I want to save a lot of my story for a later entry.

My headcanon for Weiss runs basically entirely counter to that of canon. Once those walls are broken away, she becomes extremely shy, demure, and very uncertain. That might sound like an insult to her character, but look at her songs. Especially Mirror Mirror Part 1 and 2. I took inspiration from these songs and just went a different route. Plus, with the abusive environment of Schnee manor, it’s not unreasonable Weiss could turn out like that if you zoom in on Jacques’ behavior, tweak it just a little, and then add in a bit of cultural worldbuilding for Atlas.

In this case, my Atlas is extremely sexist. Jacques learned to not educate Weiss because of how unruly Winter was. So he only taught Weiss how to read and music theory.The only other things she learned until thirteen (at least under teachers) were things like embroidery, manners, and all that other ‘fun’ female stuff. 

She was trained to be little more than a doll. So when presented with freedom and choices after being told what to do all her life, she’s terrified to fall outside of that little box. But she eventually does and becomes extremely strong, though in a much different way than canon. 

As for singing, the biggest challenge in this song is that bridge. That freaking operatic bridge. I’m an alto but with the right breath support, I can hit it without trouble. But the quick rhythm of it still makes it really difficult. It was kind of annoying to learn to put it lightly.

Red Like Roses Part 2

[Image source]
[Image description: Summer Rose stands on a cliffside against a stormy grey background in the middle of the screen. Her hands are clasped in front of her and she looks down.]

Score: 5

Overall Ranking: 34 / 57

How fun/easy is it to sing along to? It is extremely fun, but the rhythm makes it extremely difficult. Especially the chorus.

Do deeply do I relate to it personally? Not really.

How fun is the beat? So much fun

Does it have any serious headcanon applications? Not really

How likely am I to listen to it if it comes up in shuffle? Very likely

Hoo boy another really hot take. 

Once again, I find the song to be a bit overrated.

Again, don’t get me wrong. It’s a great song. Casey, Jeff, and Sandy all being in on it is absolutely fantastic and amazing. The beat is killer. The lyrics are great. It’s an amazing view into Ruby’s psyche and a glimpse at what happened with Summer’s death.

But I just personally don’t find it to be as great as probably 90% of the fandom does.

You can analyse and get a fair bit out of it for Ruby’s motivations and mindsets, but I still find it to generally just be one of those “what you see is what you get” songs. It’s a bit deeper than that, of course, but I dunno. I just don’t find it to be the absolute best RWBY has to offer. 

I May Fall

[Image source]
[Image description: Velvet stands in the middle of the screen, crouching down like she’s about to jump. Replications of Penny’s weapons made of hard light dust hover behind her. Sparks fly up from the bottom left-hand corner of the screen.]

Score: 6

Overall Ranking: 24 / 57

How fun/easy is it to sing along to? Really fun but still has its difficult moments due to the beat

Do deeply do I relate to it personally? Yes

How fun is the beat? Amazing

Does it have any serious headcanon applications? YUP

How likely am I to listen to it if it comes up in shuffle? Almost a guaranteed listen

Okay, I’m gonna make an observation about V1 and V2 songs: why are there some randomly disconnected ones

Like most of us tend to associate this particular song with Velvet and her V3 stand due to it being played then. 

But why is it a V1 song? I see, like, zero connection with anything in V1. 

Despite those misgivings, it’s such a good song. It’s one I’ll almost always listen to when it comes on. I just find it to be an extremely inspirational piece personally. 

I have depression, anxiety, and PTSD which can really get me down a lot of the time. I often just want to curl up and not do anything or just give up entirely. I feel like the darkness will consume me. I just have nothing left to give. 

But then I’m reminded that I’ll only fall to these things if I let them consume me. I’m not talking down to people that have bad days, weeks, months, or even years. I understand what it’s like. It’s not a choice to have depression or anything. It can sap you of everything. A positive mentality won’t save you from the literal faulty wiring in your brain. This is just my own personal path I walk and my own mentality. 

Even if I only make one small decision to do something to feel better that day, then I’ve had a small victory. It’s like facing down the shadows and “creatures of darkness” the song talks about. 

As for my headcanon, this more ties into my normal universe. It’s my song tag for Blake whenever her chapters come up. It would probably seem like Wings is a better choice as that’s a song for her. That was my original plan, but then I figured out the trajectory of her character arc. And this fit better. 

The arc is similar enough to canon for the first 4-5 volumes. There are some unique twists in my take, of course. She eventually stops hiding the fact she’s a Faunus around Beacon. She starts doing outreach on the campus and educating people about unknown Faunus history. Basically, look back at my comments about Weiss and she starts off similarly. She understands what Weiss is going through due to what Adam did to her. And she doesn’t want to be a hypocrite. So Weiss forces her to grow in unexpected ways. It gives her strength and confidence that she wouldn’t have normally in canon.

Everything comes crashing down at the Fall and she bolts for Menagerie…except it’s Weiss following her instead of Sun. So the Menagerie arc parallels the Beacon arc but in reverse. 

No confrontation happens in V6 with Adam due to some other plot stuff I made up.

V7 is set in Atlas with full martial law declared. The Faunus are rebelling. The military’s trying to put them down. Blake is a face they can trust, so she becomes a leader during that period. I’m not sure of the specifics, but that’s the general gist. At some point, she and Weiss take Adam down there. (This arc is two years long in universe. Much different from canon.)

So yeah. This song is just perfect for her refusing to give up even under the worst pressure once she gets on her feet fully.

I Burn

[Image source]
[Image description: A mostly black screen with a ball of fire in the middle. Yang bends over in the very center of it, her body blacked out but her hair glowing brightly, a separate light source from the fire. The image is reflected on the mirrored floor.]

Score: 7

Overall Ranking: 15 / 57

How fun/easy is it to sing along to? YEP

Do deeply do I relate to it personally? nah

How fun is the beat? Out of this world.

Does it have any serious headcanon applications? No.

How likely am I to listen to it if it comes up in shuffle? Basically a guarantee.

This is another “what you see is what you get,” but, come on; it’s I Burn. It’s not deep. It’s just a Badass Boast song. But it’s just amazing. It’s hard to say a lot about this song in any depth mainly because it is so surface level. That’s not a bad thing though. 

Wings

[Image source]
[Image description: Blake takes up the left-hand side of the screen, a sad look on her face. Her cat ears are visible. Lamp posts with blue banners hanging from the run along the right-hand side of the screen. Some trees and a water feature can also be seen in the Beacon courtyard she’s in.]

Score: 7

Overall Ranking: 13 / 57

How fun/easy is it to sing along to? Very much so on both sides

Do deeply do I relate to it personally? Extremely so

How fun is the beat? Slow and methodical but memorable

Does it have any serious headcanon applications? You bet it does

How likely am I to listen to it if it comes up in shuffle? Extremely likely.

I know this is probably a surprise for my favorite song. Don’t see people talk about it a whole lot. I think the ballad songs honestly tend to fly under the radar since people tend to prefer the catchy beats like I Burn or the more forward ones like Red Like Roses 2. And that’s fine. This entire article series is about just how subjective music taste is. 

But these songs tend to be my personal favorites for each soundtrack because they tend to be the most meaningful to me personally. Plus, this is just how my music taste skews. This doesn’t mean it’s entirely predictable what my favorite songs are. But most of the ballad songs are pretty high up.

This song hit me so hard because I know what it’s like to feel like a stray. I was never the popular kid in school. I hung out with the misfits. I still don’t have a lot of friends. 

I’ve been waiting for a sign of what I’m supposed to do for a very, very long time. It’s not something I’ve found yet either. I have a general path laid out for me (linguistics) but that might not be it. I’m almost thirty and I’m still adrift. 

But, like I said earlier…I can still choose to pick myself up and act on things. Even though I feel like my wings are clipped and even broken at times, I can still walk. If I can’t walk, I can crawl. I can still make one small step to keep moving forward. Even if it’s just taking a shower to do my hair, that’s something accomplished.

As for my headcanon, it’s probably not what you’d expect. It doesn’t have anything to do with Blake, at least not directly.

Basically I made this song diegetic—that is, to say, it exists in universe as a real song. I made it the story of an unnamed OC, a first-generation Menagerie Faunus returning to the mainland after the Faunus Rights Revolution. She fell in with a radical group (not the White Fang) but managed to get out. She then just…wandered until one of my OCs up there in age helped set her straight. She came back to Menagerie to start writing songs. Of course, this is all extreme metaphor. 

One interesting tidbit is the word “stray.” I ended up making it a pretty bad slur toward Faunus, but those from Menagerie especially. Menagerie wasn’t just ‘given’ to the Faunus. Basically after Mistral and Mantle couldn’t punish unruly Faunus with slavery anymore, they just sent them to Menagerie to die. So it’s literally equivalent to Australia. 

To say someone from Menagerie is a “stray” is to imply they have no home, no family, have no place of origin. It completely negates the history of the people who have built and fought to survive there. It trivialises it in the worst possible way to them. 

She did that as an artistic choice because she was a stray in every sense of the term following her departure from her days of radical action.   

Relative Rankings

So here we are at the end of my Volume 1 review. 

Overall, I think it’s a pretty solid entry and an excellent first foot forward for the series in terms of music. All of the songs are honestly really strong and I understand why people hold this volume in such high esteem. However, there are a lot of songs and soundtracks I personally like a lot more. 

If you weren’t keeping tally, my overall rating of is a very solid 43 out of 80 points. That makes it my third favorite volume. And, honestly, it was number 2 for a while. 

While I did give the rankings for each song, here’s the visual comparatively. (I will be doing this for each volume and they’ll all be color coded.)

[Image description: A 12 column long by 10 row array. Every other column is narrow and has numbers in it. The first is 1-10. Second is 11-20. The others follow that pattern until the last one which only goes to 57. A few spaces are filled in with golden text: 13 for Wings, 15 for I Burn, 24 for I May Fall, 34 for Red Like Roses 2, 37 for Mirror Mirror Part 1, 38 for This Will Be The Day, 44 for From Shadows, 45 for Gold. All other squares are whited out.]

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