The unsung and unseen hero in Bridgerton: The music.
The Shonda Rhimes series, based on the books by Julia Quinn, boasts a large ensemble cast and centers around eight siblings looking for love in Regency England, as well as the trials and tribulations of those around them. As you watch the new Netflix series unfold, heck, even just the first episode, you might find your feet tapping away to the classical music playing in the background. How does your body know the beat? Are you simply a classical music buff? Or is this a piece played constantly in commercials?
Nope. It’s because you know this song. It’s not a classical song. Suddenly, the gears in your head start shifting as to put the notes and melody together and realize…this is a something certainly on your Spotify. You realize, it’s a song you often sing along to. It might sound pretty and delicate right now…but, could this be a famous girl power anthem? Yes! Yes, it is! It finally hits you; the song being played by the small orchestra in that early ballroom scene is “Thank U, Next,” by Ariana Grande. And it actually fits the scene perfectly. (God, that was going to drive you crazy.)
But just as you settle into the series, another recognizable tune begins to play. This is a pattern, a game, even, you’ll become comfortable with as you watch Daphne’s coming of age story unravel.
Why put pop songs in a period tale, though?
Bridgerton music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas told Parade.com that all of the sonic choices in the Netflix epic were very deliberate and curated specifically to both the setting (1813 through 1827 British aristocracy), as well as the soapy storyline.
“Music is a conversation that starts very early in the process and in this case, I remember a meeting at the Shondaland offices before filming to discuss what the musical signature of Bridgerton might be,” Patsavas said. “I did a deep dive into Regency sounds, opera, current songs, orchestral covers and other genres for specific scenes and sent ideas that resulted from that conversation. Showrunner Chris Van Dusen chose some on-camera music selects in pre-production and others during the filming process. Later, in post, we tried many options to eventually find the right piece.”
Those pieces included orchestral renditions of ubiquitous pop songs: When Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) escorts sister Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) through Queen Charlotte’s Ball, a classical rendition of Grande’s “Thank U, Next” plays. It works on a number of levels: The sexism of the era was on display as men eye, devalue and dismiss the women who preened and even passed out from their tight corsets to try making themselves viable; and Anthony dismissed numerous gentlemen who Daphne may have otherwise been interested without a second thought.
Of course, the original “Thank U, Next” was about Grande’s lessons from each of her famous exes and is ultimately a celebration of her self-love and agency. Bridgerton takes the tune and turns it on his head: As quickly as Anthony dismisses Daphne’s would-be suitors, they may have easily dismissed her as well, which would have been potentially devastating, as the only real goals for aristocratic women in Regency England were to marry well and reproduce.
Also featured is an instrumental cover of Taylor Swift‘s “Wildest Dreams” from 1989. Without spoilers, the track plays during a moment of romantic elation following some serious strife for one of the Bridgerton couples. Elsewhere in the series you’ll hear classical covers of Maroon 5‘s “Girls Like You,” Billie Eilish‘s “Bad Guy,” Shawn Mendes‘ “In My Blood” and Celeste‘s “Strange.” And they all add emotional, human layers to these scenes that wouldn’t have been there without them.
Patsavas says the choices and their respective placements are each very deliberate, and that the Grande and Swift covers specifically “were able to tell the musical story and amplify a female perspective.”
A large part of what makes the music in Bridgerton great isn’t just the masterful supervision from Patsavas, but the work of Emmy-winning composer Kris Bowers. According to Patsavas, Bowers would have a conversation with the show’s creative team during a spotting session (when a composer and director watch a film or episode together), then create demos to be realized by an orchestra before Bowers’ finished cues were cut to picture.
Bowers worked with musicians remotely from their own home studios, and the seamless mixing and editing are a testament to the talent of the entire Bridgerton team.
“I think Kris Bowers’ stunning score and our instrumental covers and tracks are brimming with ‘the feels,’” Patsavas says. “Classical music has always been one of my genre go-tos to translate joy, sorrow, elation, and foreboding to a viewer. The audience can sense the deft playing, precision and personality of the instrumentalists in the performances. Chris Van Dusen, Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers thought the sounds of the score combined with classical versions of current hits would be the right way to create the sonic point of view for Bridgerton.”
What is that sonic point of view? You can come to that conclusion on your own but we like to think the themes of the covers–female empowerment and appreciation, and self-love–turn what could have just been a portrayal of the way things used to be for women into a message of how far we’ve come and what still needs to change.
Below, find all over the covers you can hear in Season 1 of Bridgerton and tune into them here.
Bridgerton soundtrack cover songs
1. “thank u, next” – Vitamin String Quartet
2. “Girls Like You” – Vitamin String Quartet
3. “In My Blood” – Vitamin String Quartet
4. “bad guy” – Vitamin String Quartet
5. “Strange” (feat. Hillary Smith) – Kris Bowers
6. “Wildest Dreams” – Duomo
Next, find out what Julie Andrews told us about working on Bridgerton.