Emmy Award-winning composer and pianist, Kris Bowers creates genre-defying music that pays homage to his jazz roots with inflections of alternative and R&B influences. So how would he adapt to composing the score for Netflix’s hot new period drama, Bridgerton? He promenades Headliner through the process of putting a modern spin on a classic genre.
Bowers has composed scores for an eclectic range of hard hitting films and documentaries, including Ava DuVernay's devastating Netflix mini-series When They See Us, Kobe Bryant's Muse, Green Book, Dear White People, and has recorded, performed and collaborated with Jay-Z and Kanye West on their Watch the Throne album.
So far, so cool. So I was surprised to see that Bowers was the composer behind Netflix’s new period drama romp, Bridgerton. Sure, a certain Duke of Hastings sent hearts aflutter and a record-breaking 82 million households around the world collectively swooned at the technicolour Regency period romances and gasped at the scandals that unfolded (Duels at dawn! Pregnancies out of wedlock!), but is Bridgerton cool?
To be sure, I watched the whole thing, strictly for research purposes.
Released on Christmas Day, the show reached a captive, house-bound audience ready for some guilty-pleasure escapism into a world where Zoom doesn’t exist. And guilty they were – the show reached millions that remembered the thrill of Mark Darcy in his wet shirt in Pride and Prejudice, those who weren’t even born at the time, and everyone in between.
Yes, the husband-hunting themes may be the same, but Bridgerton is a period drama that appeals to the modern viewer.
What Bridgerton is slick at is rejecting historical accuracy with its refreshing multiracial casting. In fact, the characters of colour are some of the richest and most powerful on the show, and you can’t fail to notice its winking soundtrack filled with classical covers of modern songs, including recent hits by Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish.
When it came to composing the score, Bowers was deemed just the man for a modern take on this classic genre. Since 2013, the Juilliard-educated pianist has established himself at the forefront of Hollywood’s emerging generation of genre-defying composers.
What sets Bowers apart is his unique ability to compose music that resonates across such a diverse continuum of artists, storytellers and audiences. Naturally, he used his instrument of choice for most of the score, although other traditional instruments that sounded like they were from the time were included, but with modern flourishes.
When first offered the job, Bowers could not have imagined that the series would go on to smash Netflix’s record to become its most-watched show by a wide margin (The Witcher only managed a mere 76 million in its first 28 days).
“I don't think I could have ever seen this coming!” he begins. “I assumed that it would have a following just from it coming from a book…” he trails off.
“I've always been a fan of romantic movies and shows myself; I think I’ve watched more romantic comedies than my wife! I knew that aspect was going to be successful and popular because it was handled really well. I think that it's really easy to make a love story cheesy; to make a love story that really feels like it's saying something a little different is a challenge, and I felt like this was doing that.”