From the period-specific tunes of “The Crown” to the surprising instrumental reworkings of modern pop hits in “Bridgerton,” this season’s Emmy contenders in music supervision showcase the growing field’s continued influence.
“Bridgerton” may give veteran music supervisor Patsavas her best shot yet at an Emmy thanks to her clever use of chamber music-style covers of modern pop songs, which help trace the emotional journey of Daphne and Simon (Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page) in Regency-era London.
The Vitamin String Quartet’s renditions of Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next,” Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You,” Shawn Mendes’ “In My Blood” and Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy,” along with Duomo’s cover of Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams,” sent streaming numbers into the stratosphere soon after the Netflix series debuted in December.
According to Patsavas, discussions about “how a period project could be relevant and inviting,” musically speaking , began months before shooting with producer Shonda Rhimes and series creator Chris Van Dusen. Says Patsavas: “How could the source [music] moments be seamless, presented with a wink and yet still feel appropriate to the beautiful costumes and production design? [Listeners] might sense that they knew the song, but it wouldn’t be an immediate recognition. You’d hear the lyrics in your head.”
Another cover was tailor-made by score composer Kris Bowers, playing piano, and cellist Hillary Smith, of Celeste’s “Strange,” for the couple making love for the first time. Not all the music is faux-classical. Many numbers are the real thing: selections by Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Vivaldi and Chopin are also heard in the background of “Bridgerton.” Themes in Bowers’ dramatic underscore were inspired by Ravel piano pieces initially suggested by Van Dusen. Patsavas, who is now director, music creative/production for Netflix, is a trailblazer in the music supervision sector, with early credits on “Grey’s Anatomy” and the “Twilight” films. She has three Grammy nominations and eight more from the Guild of Music Supervisors but has never won a major industry honor.
Kansas City in 1950 is the setting for the fourth season of “Fargo,” and that time and place influenced many of music supervisor Phillips’ choices of songs.
As Phillips explains, show creator Noah Hawley sends her (and composer Jeff Russo) his scripts six to eight months prior to shooting. “He writes with music in mind,” she says. “He gives us some initial jumping-off points, me for listening and Jeff for writing.”
To wit: Hawley had Duke Ellington’s Jazz standard “Caravan” in mind for the opening of the season’s first episode, which chronicles the history of ethnic businessmen during the first half of the 20th century. Phillips licensed the Ellington tune as the centerpiece, and Russo adapted the music into different period-appropriate arrangements over the first 20 minutes.
Not all the music needed to be specific to that period, though. Jazzman Art Blakey’s “Moanin’” dates from 1959; Willie Dixon’s “Insane Asylum” from 1968; and Johnny Cash’s “What Is Man” from the 1970s. Says Phillips: “It’s important to capture the emotion.
Richmond, composer-songwriter-music supervisor on “Girls5Eva,” is no stranger to coming up with songs in a hurry. “All those years of writing pastiches and jingles and musical numbers on ‘Saturday Night Live,’” he says. “The train is moving, write it quickly, get a demo out.”
The Peacock series imagines a short-lived ’90s girl group plotting a comeback after a rapper samples their one big hit. It fell
to Richmond to re-create that decade’s “girl-power ballad” style for the song flashbacks as well as the new tunes to drive their hoped-for resurgence.
Creator Meredith Scardino’s early scripts had “pieces of songs,” and at first, Richmond says, “we didn’t necessarily know if they were going to be full-length.” “Dream Girlfriends” was designed as a big comeback number, but “Space Boys” was a comedy cutaway and “New York Lonely Boy” was a minute-long song playing in the mind of Dawn (Sara Bareilles).
Many were penned by Richmond and Scardino, but as Dawn begins to write her own material in the series, “we knew that the arc of the music should be a little more honest, sound a little more like Sara’s songs would sound.” So she began contributing too, and the finale song, “4 Stars,” is hers alone.
The pandemic complicated the process, as Richmond was writing and producing in his home studio, sending music to arranger-mixer-guitarist Hanan Rubinstein for improvement, the cast was often singing live during shooting (and tweaking the vocals during post-production), and Richmond was adding strings — all recorded remotely — for the final mix of songs and score. “Things got very hectic,” Richmond says.
Season 4 of “The Crown,” which focuses on Princess Diana’s time in Buckingham Palace, featured more songs than in previous years. “It’s a natural progression as we step into the ’80s, but also the introduction of the younger generation of the royal family becoming center stage,” says music supervisor Bridge.
The opening and closing of Episode 3, as Diana celebrates, and later regrets, her marriage to Prince Charles, is especially compelling for its use of Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen.” At first, Diana is euphoric, and she and her flatmates dance to it in a nightclub. Bridge persuaded Nicks to let the production access her raw vocals, heard a cappella under the end titles.
Says Bridge: “Hearing the power and fragility as well within it, it really reflected where Diana ends up. It felt a perfect end-credits
moment, to leave it in a kind of isolated, lonely feeling, reflecting Diana’s emotion and where she is at the end of that episode. Stevie
was really happy for us to feature it.” That same episode features Elton John’s “Song for Guy,” as Diana dances herself into a frenzy. Bridges re-recorded “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” for a scene where Charles and Diana are touring Australia, and gained permission from Andrew Lloyd Webber to re-record “All I Ask of You” from his “Phantom of the Opera” with a 28-piece orchestra for Episode 9, as Diana presents Charles with a tape of her performance of the song.
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