The following contains my thoughts and random comments about the songs on the "Once More, with Feeling" soundtrack. It is assumed that one has already watched the episode before reading this page. There is a mild spoiler to the fifth episode of the seventh season near the bottom of this page.
This song works in establishing Buffy’s inner state, and in establishing that the songs in this episode will be establishing the characters’ inner state. Sarah Michelle Gellar does a good job, but she, and the other actors, will do better later on.
"If We’re Together" loses a bit of its impact on the CD, where we cannot see how Buffy’s near-nihilistic statement is misinterpreted as an inspirational call to action.
This song chronicles writer David Fury’s triumph in the never ending struggle between man and mustard. This is in contrast to the more mundane struggle between woman and mustard, which is why Marti Noxon had a different song.
This is one of my two favorite songs on the soundtrack. First, Amber Benson gives the best vocal performance on this track, even though Joss Whedon was mean and wrote the song to be about one octave above Benson’s normal range. Second, this song is not nearly as simple as it might sound. In context, I actually count five different layers:
When this CD was at a listening station at various Borders stores, this was the recommended track. I believe that this should have been released as a single.
This is a fun song that loses a bit without the dancing. The double entendres were much less subtle than in the previous song. One problem is that Emma Caulfield is clearly a better singer (and dancer) than Nicholas Brendon.
One advantage in listening to the soundtrack CD rather than watching the episode is that one can hear the final line of this song much clearer without the dialogue from Giles, Anya, and Xander. I wonder what Marti Noxon thought when she first heard that line.
James Marsters does a good job except that he has a little trouble keeping his accent, which is much harder than it sounds. For some reason, the series of lines that rhyme with est/essed reminds me of the series of lines in Bob Dylan's "Visions of Johanna" that rhyme with ode. The line, “If my heart could beat it would break my chest” is one of my favorite lines on the CD.
Michelle Trachtenberg was much more confident in her dancing ability than in her singing ability, so she requested that she dance rather than sing. I do not think that there was much merit in her insecurity. She was not as good as Amber Benson, but nobody else was either. The main difference is that, despite claims to the contrary, I suspect that Benson has had more than just a crash course in singing, whereas Trachtenberg’s voice sounds a bit more raw.
None of the regular or recurring actors were cast in the show based on singing ability. The same cannot be said for the actor playing the guest villain. Hinton Battle did a great job in this song.
Allegedly, Anthony Stewart Head is the only regular cast member with extensive vocal training (although I still believe that Amber Benson has more than she has let on). This is a good song, but I am not convinced that a fear that Buffy is too dependent on Giles is really that plausible, especially after his feeling left out in the fourth season. As the father figure, it would have been better if he struggled to find the right balance between supporting Buffy and letting her be independent.
It would have been a disappointment if the two actors with the best voices did not have a duet. They both do a great job. I consider this song to be arguably the most important moment in the sixth season. Giles and Tara are the two most mature characters on the show. The fact that both of them believe that they can no longer stay means that the less mature characters will be on their own. The rest of the sixth season shows the result of the decisions made in this song.
This is my other favorite song on the CD. Like "Under your Spell," this song is also layered. It is a rouse oneself to battle song on the surface, but it goes deeper. The fire represents life’s responsibilities, with slaying being the metaphor used on the show. Buffy still patrols Sunnydale (that is, touches the fire) but it leaves her cold. Spike tries to convince himself that he is ambivalent, but, in the end, he is with Buffy. The others tried to sit this out, they too are drawn to the fire. In the end, they all acknowledge that the fire has them in its grasp, but they will walk through it and let it burn (that is, accept the consequences).
Interestingly, Sweet seems to have the greatest insight on this matter. He noted that the characters believe that they are guided by the distant redness (an external motivation). However, the characters came because slaying is not just a duty, it is a calling. It is inside them. There is no other explanation for why they continue to endure sacrifice and loss for no external reward.
Sarah Michelle Gellar’s singing is better here than in "Going through the Motions." Interestingly, it is Spike and not one of her long-term friends who saves her.
This is important because Sweet cursed the characters to sing one more song,
The characters were not as happy as one might expect after defeating the villain. The title question is very relevant.
The kiss is much more important than this song, which echoes three previous songs.
The upbeat version of "Where Do We Go from Here" is quite amusing, especially after hearing the pain in the normal version. I like the fact that they used a new arrangement of the typical theme music to open the episode. However, I do not know why the track containing that theme was pushed toward the end of the CD.
These are three of the best episodes of the fourth and fifth season and contained some of the best music from the later seasons of the show. However, they felt a little out of place next to the songs from "Once More, with Feeling." I think these tracks are mostly filler.
It is a good thing that Joss Whedon mostly stays behind the scenes, except when he is dancing. His singing was quite weak and was still better than his piano playing. His wife was a better singer. This track is interesting in showing how the songs were created, but I would much rather have had Anya's song, "Mrs.," on this compiliation instead.
My personal ranking of how well each of the actors sang: