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Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Justin Bieber–esque Pop Song Doesn’t Shy Away From the Creepiness of Child Stardom

Luca Padovan sings Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's "I Want to Be a Child Star." He is wearing a jacket that is patterned like an old taxi, with stars and musical notes and lightning bolts on it. There is a backup dancer in the middle of some choreography in the background. There are also large stage lights in the back.
Luca Padovan sings Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s “I Want to Be a Child Star.”
The CW

Let’s talk about Slumbered, the obscure ’80s animated movie that has influenced Rebecca Bunch since childhood. It played an outsize role in Friday’s episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, “I’m Making Up for Lost Time,” where we learn that Rebecca even keeps a VCR around just so she can watch it. But the movie’s presence on the show goes back to the Season 1 finale, when a young Rebecca mentions it to an uninterested playmate in a flashback, demonstrating just how early in life she formed her unrealistic fairy tale–level expectations of romance—and Hollywood’s role in perpetuating them. The writers have so far kept the details of the movie vague and familiar enough that Slumbered could plausibly be a real, long-forgotten Disney movie consigned to the vault. It’s not, but it has a plot borrowed from Sleeping Beauty, a title that evokes Tangled, and a love ballad that makes you want to do it on a magic carpet.

That ballad is “One Indescribable Instant,” written by Adam Schlesinger and originally sung on the show by the legendary Lea Salonga, who appeared as Josh’s aunt (and 1984 Star Search contestant) Myrna in the first season. The song itself falls somewhere between “I See the Light” and “A Whole New World,” as a breathless tribute to the exact moment that two people fall in love. (Blurring the line between fiction and reality even further is the fact that Salonga provided the singing voice for two Disney princesses, Jasmine and Mulan.) It’s no wonder “One Indescribable Instant” makes such an impression on Rebecca, who is too young to see any irony in a song that uses almost a dozen adjectives for a moment that’s supposed to be indescribable.

In one indescribable instant

There is no time or space.

In one indescribable instant

It all falls into place.

In one indescribable instant

Your dreams will all come true

’Cause in that one indescribable, magical, mystical, endless, incredible, barely believable, truly unlikely, but not inconceivable, what-are-you-kidding-me-no-it’s-for-real-able instant

The only words you’ll need are

I love you.

I can’t imagine any performer not breaking out in hives at the prospect of covering a song originally sung by Lea Salonga, which probably explains why, despite being thematically significant at the end of the first season when Josh and Rebecca finally get together, the song hasn’t been attempted again at length until now. (Burl Moseley’s Jim managed a few bars of a reprise last season before being shushed, but it was played entirely for laughs.) On Friday, young Luca Padovan, guest starring as Rebecca’s estranged half-brother in town for a visit, went full Salonga with a reprise.

Fortunately, Padovan not only has the face of a cherub but the voice of an angel. Too bad that that angel might be Lucifer because Tucker Bunch isn’t really a Slumbered devotee but a troubled kid and a master manipulator, just like his sister. He’s never even seen the movie, but he knows how much Rebecca loves it, and he uses that intel to score an audition for a part in Peter Pan. It works, mostly because Padovan is a Broadway-caliber performer, and Tucker really is talented—unlike Rebecca, who we’re reminded yet again, can’t sing well outside of her elaborate musical fantasies. “My brother’s a good singer,” she exclaims at the end of the song, having failed to harmonize. “And it’s not just in his head!”

Padovan has the well-deserved honor of singing both songs in “I’m Making Up for Lost Time.” The other is “I Want to Be a Child Star,” which, like “One Indescribable Instant,” shows how kids absorb messed up messages from Hollywood.

Bloom has been leaning into the underlying darkness of vacant, auto-tuned teenybopper pop since “I Steal Pets,” but the blisteringly honest “I Want to Be a Child Star” is explicitly about aspiring to have the kind of career trajectory that follows premature fame. “I want to be a preteen Hollywood train wreck/ A cautionary tale/ I want the kind of fame that’ll warp my brain/ And eventually land me in jail,” sings Tucker. The aesthetic of the music video and throngs of screaming girls suggest a Justin Bieber type, but the lyrics about suing for emancipation, the drug-fueled meltdown, and the desperate attempt at a comeback could apply to any number of stars: Amanda Bynes, Lindsay Lohan, Macaulay Culkin, etc. Let’s hope young Padovan has his head on straight, or this song is going to look uncomfortably prescient.

Best song of the week: They’re both fun, but I’ll give it to “I Want to Be a Child Star” for originality. At the same time, the song gets at a larger problem I’m having with the music in Season 4, which is that it’s starting to favor clever, catchy holiday parodies or songs about the legal profession that can stand on their own outside of the Crazy Ex-Girlfriend world. Don’t get me wrong—the show is good at making those kinds of videos that seem destined for internet virality. But the trade-off is fewer songs that are emotionally resonant or even relevant to our main characters. Rebecca’s breakup with Nathaniel seems like a missed opportunity for a musical number with a little more oomph, especially since Nathaniel is still (metaphorically) singing “Nothing Is Ever Anyone’s Fault,” the Season 3 duet about shirking responsibility—except now, as Rebecca tries to fix her life, he’s singing it solo.

We could use a little less “Heavy Boobs,” a little more “You Stupid Bitch,” is all I’m saying.