Set in the early 1800s, “Bridgerton” is known for bringing to life the ornate decadence associated with the Regency period, from ballgowns to gilded throne rooms. But it also brings plenty of modern twists. For example: the soundtrack.
Season one introduced us to the classical covers we didn’t know we needed, like “Wildest Dreams,” “thank u next” and “bad guy.” And season two’s release on March 25 brought a whole new track list, stacked with a pop classic from Rihanna, '80s anthems and an iconic Bollywood song.
In addition to classical covers, “Bridgerton” also features an original score by Kris Bowers, the composer behind “Inventing Anna,” “King Richard” and “When They See Us.”
Bowers and “Bridgerton” music supervisor Justin Kamps talked with TODAY about the process of developing the soundtrack for season two and any hidden meanings behind their selection of pop melodies.
Finding the ‘sound’ of the show
When scoring season one, Bowers’ goal was to find the “sound” of “Bridgerton.” His task from show creator Chris Van Dusen was to create music with a modern, “fresh take on the Regency period.”
Bowers' first instinct was to write music that was traditional to the period and record it with a modern, high quality sound. But it still felt too “expected,” he said. So next, he chopped up all of those traditional samples to make beats, but that didn’t feel right either.
Then, with inspiration from piano pieces by Maurice Ravel, Bowers found the sweet spot: the impression of the nineteenth century. Even though it meant jumping forward in time a hundred years, it embodied the dreamy, romantic sound that he wanted for the show.
“That just opened the door for me in terms of like, how else I could approach the score, in terms of harmony or feel or orchestration,” he said.
Creating the soundtrack
The first step in scoring a scene involves a spotting session. Bowers, along with Van Dusen and producers, will watch the episode through and talk through each moment that will need music. Since the show already had its signature sounds, this time around, these spotting sessions focused on finding the emotions they wanted to hit.
From there, Bowers goes to his piano and just plays.
“I usually just improvise until I find something that feels like the feeling we’re meant to feel in that scene, and then kind of build up from there,” he said.
“It has a modernity to it that is very much inspired by pop music in terms of how it feels rhythmically and harmonically and melodically at times, but it’s all rooted in the rich orchestration of that time period.”
Kris BOwers Composer
As for the covers, many factors go into selection, Kamps said. Sometimes it depends on the choreography of a ballroom scene, sometimes it’s about the feelings of the character, and sometimes it’s about the emotions the show wants to convey to its audience. Another consideration is something most viewers probably don’t even consciously think about: the lyrics.
Even though they aren’t heard, the covers often jog the memory of the original song.
“If you read the lyrics, and you think about what’s happening in this scene, you’re like, ‘OK, I get it,’” Kamps said.
Pop covers, Regency music, impression — all of these combinations blend together to create the unique sound of “Bridgerton.”
“I think it has this romantic quality to it,” Bowers said. “It has a modernity to it that is very much inspired by pop music in terms of how it feels rhythmically and harmonically and melodically at times, but it’s all rooted in the rich orchestration of that time period.”
For Bowers, musical scores are meant to take listeners on the same emotional ride that the show or film does. He often plays these scores for his 3-week-old daughter, and even though she has no idea what she’s listening to, for Bowers, he immediately feels emotions swell. And he hopes audiences feel the same listening to the music of season two.
“The best thing could be is if people enjoy that journey so much in watching the show that why they listen to the music, they feel as much of that emotionally as possible,” he said.
A guide to the season 2 soundtrack
“Sharpening My Knives” by Kris Bowers
This composition features the signature Lady Whistledown theme heard in season one and plays as Eloise Bridgerton’s debut is interrupted by the arrival of the latest copy of the gossip sheet. Its title comes from Lady Whistledown’s opening lines: “I was sharpening my knives.”
Part of creating the score for season two was evolving the themes found in season one, Bowers said.
“With the Lady Whistledown sound, now we know who that character is,” Bowers said.
Following the reveal that Penelope Featherington is the writer behind the gossip column, Bowers expanded on the season one theme, adding in additional tones that feel unique to Penelope and connected to her secret identity.
“Stay Away” by Nirvana, performed by the Vitamin String Quartet
“Stay Away” can be heard in the first episode as Anthony Bridgerton meets the eligible ladies of the season, questioning them as if for a job rather than as a potential love interest. The fast-paced violin only increases throughout the montage, matching the speed with which Anthony scratches potential names off his list. The song also increases in volume, emphasizing the mounting stress Anthony experiences as the eldest son and manager of his family’s estate and as a suitor.
The title also matches Anthony’s own detached feelings going into courtship. Instead of looking for romance, Anthony hopes to marry without love and affection, prioritizing duty to his family over the wants of his own heart.
“Stay Away” was originally recorded by Nirvana in 1991 for the album “Nevermind.”
“Material Girl” by Madonna, performed by Kris Bowers
This cover of the iconic Madonna track plays as the Sharma family arrives for their first ball of the season. Lady Danbury and Kate discuss potential suitors, based on traits like rank, finances and appearance. The ballroom is decked out in flowers and each dancer wears their finest dresses and jewels.
Reimagining the ‘80s track involved listening closely to the original song and finding ways to represent those sounds with an orchestra, Bowers said. In the absence of vocals and drums, Bowers turned to more traditional instruments of the time, like the harpsichord and cello.
“For me, any cover that’s really effective, you feel the same feeling you feel from listening to the original song,” he said.
In regards to the song’s lyrics, viewers discover as the season progresses that one reason behind Kate’s efforts to find a match for sister stems from their financial struggles. Behind her family’s back, she works to secure their future by making a deal with her mother’s estranged family, the wealthy Sheffields. For women in the Regency period, it really was a material material world, and Kate is a material girl.
“Diamonds” by Rihanna, performed by Hannah V and Joe Rodwell
Being named the “diamond of the season” is the highest honor to be bestowed on a young lady. In season one, it made Daphne the object of all the eligible bachelors, and in season two it does the same for its recipient.
“Diamonds” is a fitting track to accompany the episode one scene where Queen Charlotte surveys the women of the season and picks her favorite. In the end, that honor goes to none other than Edwina Sharma, making her the object of Anthony Bridgerton’s attention this season.
“A Gift for Edwina” by Kris Bowers
This song is one of Bowers’ favorites because it marks the first time viewers hear Kate and Anthony’s theme in its entirety. In episode two, Anthony brings Edwina a horse as a gift, only to realize that when she said she liked horses, she was referring to the fictional kind. This moment is tense between Kate and Anthony, both making their disdain for the other clear.
“The first iteration of Kate and Anthony’s theme feels almost like doomed to me,” Bowers said.
The two characters start out as enemies, and even when their sexual tension grows, both characters act purely out of duty to their families and know that to giving into attraction could lead to devastation.
However, the theme evolves alongside the character’s relationship. It appears throughout the score, moving from moments of levity with Kate and Anthony’s cheeky banter to moments of passion later in the season.
“Dancing On My Own” by Robyn, performed by the Vitamin String Quartet
As Anthony continues his pursuit of Edwina, he simultaneously dodges his growing chemistry with Kate. But things come to a head when he dances with Kate in episode four, set to a classical cover of “Dancing On My Own.”
Only, they aren’t on their own. The two dance in a chemistry-filled sequence, full of longing looks and slow-motion camerawork. But the irony between the scene and the song is intentional, Kamps said.
“Even though in this moment, they’re together, but they’re not together in a way that they’d like to be,” Kamps said
At the end of this dance, Kate reveals that after her sister marries, she will return to India. Anthony stops the dance and leaves, visibly upset at the notion of Kate’s absence.
“There’s that little bit of a bittersweet feeling that you’re not quite together or that someone is someone else’s,” Kamps said.
“You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette, performed by Duomo
By episode five, Edwina and Anthony are engaged, and the arrival of the Sheffields exposes Kate’s plan all along — if Edwina marries someone with a title, her family will receive financial support. After this reveal, Anthony considers withdrawing his proposal, until Kate begs him to reconsider, even going as far as using his first name over “Lord Bridgerton” for the first time.
She finds him on a dawn horseback ride and makes an impassioned plea for him to marry Edwina, burying her own feelings.
As the classical cover of “You Oughta Know” starts, Kate says to Anthony: “This feeling between us, it will pass.”
Only the passionate lyrics of Morissette’s 1995 hit may suggest otherwise. Despite the opening lyrics “I wish nothing but the best for you both,” the pop song is from the perspective of a former lover angry at an ex who left, leaving her a “mess” of emotions.
“Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham” performed by Kris Bowers
As Edwina and Anthony prepare for their wedding day at the start of episode six, the iconic Bollywood track “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham’’ plays, from the 2001 family drama of the same name. In that scene, the Sharma family conducts a Haldi ceremony and spreads turmeric paste on Edwina’s arms and face which is blesses the soon-to-be bride.
Charithra Chandran, who plays Edwina, said at a press conference that hearing the song for the first time moved her to text Van Dusen that “This literally brought tears to my eyes because it’s a collision of both my worlds,” she said.
“Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles, performed by Steve Horner
Every iconic wedding scene needs a wedding march to match. As Anthony and then Kate walk down the aisle in tempo with the song, the music swells in time with Edwina's arrival. Holding her mother Mary’s hand, Edwina walks down the aisle to marry who she thinks is the love of her life, only to shortly after discover the truth of her sister and fiance’s feelings.
The key lyrics “If we never learn, we been here before / Why are we always stuck and running from / The bullets?” reflect Anthony and Kate’s desire to escape their own strong sense of family responsibility as well as their continuous failure to stay away from each other.
Kamps described Styles’ 2017 track as a “showstopper,” which complements the grandeur of the wedding.
“The string cover fits that same showstopping moment of the wedding,” he said. “We’ve kind of built up to this big wedding that the queen is putting on and it’s got to be like the biggest thing.”
“What About Us” by Pink, performed by Duomo
The rest of episode six is dedicated to Edwina’s choice: to marry Anthony, or to not. In the end, she decides that she deserves to wed for true love, telling Anthony that he cannot satisfy her. She also tells Kate that she refuses to live out her older sister’s carefully laid plan for her, and instead will forge her own way. She leaves both stunned as an orchestral cover of “What About Us” begins.
The song also plays as Eloise visits Theo and confesses her growing feelings for the printer’s assistant.
The original song features lyrics like “What about all the plans that ended in disaster? / Oh, what about love? What about trust? / What about us?” questioning about how to find bravery in the face of failure. After episode six, all of Kate and Anthony’s plans have been destroyed, and now they must face the consequences.
“To Wait” by Kris Bowers
Heard at the end of episode six of season two, this composition marks a culmination in Kate and Anthony’s growing relationship. Here, the two finally kiss, and the music swells to match. Bowers used Kate and Anthony’s theme to build up to the long-awaited moment of passion. This iteration of the theme emphasizes romance, compared to earlier versions in the show that took on darker overtones, Bowers said.
“If the melody is really clear, then you’re able to take into all these different emotional spaces and still make it work,” he said.
“How Deep Is Your Love” by Calvin Harris and Disciples, performed by Kiris
After seven episodes of a slow burn romance, filled with intense gazes and many interrupted moments of intimacy, Kate and Anthony finally give in to their worst-kept secret: their feelings. An orchestral cover of “How Deep Is Your Love” provides the backdrop for the only sex scene in season two of the show.
Kamps said the song’s “passionate and sensual build” matches the development of Kate and Anthony’s relationship.
“It’s just kind of like this slow boiling over of everything,” he said. “And then they give in to their desires at that moment, finally.”
And at this point in their relationship, their feelings for each other are, fittingly, from their “deep connection,” he said, rooted in shared family responsibility.
“Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus, performed by the Midnight String Quartet
It's not a Regency romance without the happily-ever-after. While Van Dusen was writing Kate and Anthony’s last dance scene before saying “I love you,” he listened to the Midnite String Quartet’s cover of “Wrecking Ball,” Kamps said.
“Sometimes the songs that we use to shoot the sequences will not be the songs that end up making the final cut, but ‘Wrecking Ball’ was the one song that made it all the way through,” Kamps said.
The lyrics of “Wrecking Ball,” such as “I came in like a wrecking ball / I never hit so hard in love” summarize Kate and Anthony’s journey through the season, from enemies to forbidden lovers.
“It’s all about like someone coming into your life, and just like totally blowing it up,” Kamps said.
At the start of the season, Kate and Anthony have clear plans for their future, neither of which involves anything close to love.
“And then they meet each other in the first episode, and everything just gets blown up from there,” Kamps said. “I just feel like that song’s just a really good way to bring it all together in the end.”