Megan McManus argues it's time we re-examine classical music, and why it deserves a place "Bach" in the charts – no longer relegated to study playlists.
Shonda Rhimes’ latest regency romance series Bridgerton has certainly made waves in recent weeks. With its historicised Gossip Girl context, eye-catching costumes and raunchy sex scenes – the series has captured the attention of a nation very much in need of a heavy dose of escapism. Another surprisingly popular aspect of the Netflix drama has been the soundtrack. Whilst we can all agree that most period dramas and historical films do have reasonably decent accompanying music (need anyone be reminded of the 2007 Pride & Prejudice soundtrack? Or that of Downton Abbey?). Bridgerton’s musical production team really have pushed the boat out.
Whilst the classical string quartets so indicative of the period drama remain present, the Bridgerton soundtrack takes a refreshingly avant-garde approach. Instead of treading the well-worn path of using period music for a period production, the Bridgerton music team decided to infuse the soundtrack with recognisable present-day songs. The soundtrack comprises several modern classics, such as Ariana Grande’s thank u next, Taylor Swift’s Wildest Dreams and Maroon 5’s Girls Like You. These familiar and well-beloved 21st-century tunes are given a 19th-century twist throughout, and judging by public response, this style of music is something we would like to see more of.
When Bridgerton was first released at Christmas, my Instagram stories were predictably flooded with appreciation for the Duke, as well as the romance between him and Daphne. More surprisingly, I noticed that appreciation of the soundtrack was almost as present as the love for the characters and story itself. Several of my friends posted the classic screenshot of the Spotify app with a song proudly showcased, but, instead of their usual musical choices, it was the Bridgerton soundtrack they chose to plaster across their social media story updates. Whilst I haven’t gone quite this far (yet), I must admit that I have given all of the songs a listen through at least a couple of times now, and this is a bandwagon that I am most definitely jumping on to.
Although classical music might typically be associated with the older generations and Spotify’s seemingly never-ending selection of "study music" playlists, it looks like the classical music revival is really heating up thanks to the release of Bridgerton and its popular reception. And this is a revival in which it seems that the youth of today will be very much involved. Indeed, one of the first suggestions on YouTube when typing in "modern songs" is "modern songs turned into classical music". A simple search for this yields hundreds of results, with playlists like "Orchestral Covers – Pop Songs" abounding. These works are not merely the limited domain of a few enthusiasts, however. A video titled "Black Eyed Peas – My Humps (feat. Mozart)" currently has over 1.5m views on YouTube – impressive viewing statistics by anyone’s standards. I am also happy to report that on YouTube there is also a WAP Cardi B/Mozart Remix – the modern listener is truly spoilt for choice.
Many of the modern classical artists becoming so popular at the minute are young people in their 20s and 30s. It seems that, by and large, the classical genre is opening itself to a wider audience, with many new listeners coming from more youthful age groups. And why shouldn’t this be the case? Whilst the mixing of musical genres is nothing new, throughout history, it has yielded frankly brilliant results. Whether we’re listening to indie rock, country blues, or reggaeton, it is clearly evident that people of all ages love mixed-genre music.
Modern-classical music bridges not only genre but arguably centuries. Periods of history are fused together masterfully within the genre. The blending of a 200-year-old tune with a two-year-old one, creating something interesting and enjoyable to listen to, most certainly constitutes a form of artistry. Increasingly, and quite rightly, classical music is being appreciated in and of itself within a modern context, by modern people. Rather than being confined to a specific genre of historical cinema, perhaps more familiar to our parents and grandparents than to us, such music is now arguably breaking from within these confines and being appreciated in its own right. Listened to, not only within the context of a series or studying, but as a standalone, enjoyable activity. In a climate of Covid-19, anxiety and stress, the increase in production and enjoyment of an enriching, up-and-coming musical genre is definitely something to be celebrated.
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