On the throne, ruling over the waves of turbulence rocking the palace in the Nineties, Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth II. Waiting fretfully in the wings, impatient heir apparent Prince Charles, now played by Dominic West. And languishing in a state of internal exile, Diana, separated from Charles and engaged in civil war with her in-laws, with the future People’s Princess gloriously portrayed by Elizabeth Debicki.
This is the Royal Family, still duty-bound by history and convention, but also rocked by divorce and disaster. So, fittingly, The Crown now goes from the faithful to Faithless. Marking the show’s shift into an era when British pop culture was undergoing its own seismic upheavals, the pioneering electronic group – founded in the year (1995) that Diana gave that interview on Panorama – have remixed Hans Zimmer’s totemic theme music.
The fresh spin by Faithless of Zimmer’s composition speaks to The Crown’s unerring ability to reflect the periods in which the regal dramas play out. And it reflects the power that a great theme can have in teeing up storylines and becoming inextricably linked with the stories that are about to unfold. Done perfectly, as Zimmer and now Faithless have with the hit Netflix series, a great theme becomes a character on the show, in and of itself. And The Crown’s music isn’t the only one…
Game of Thrones and House of Dragon, by Ramin Djawadi
Like his fellow German composer Zimmer, Ramin Djawadi has serious form at writing for royal courts – albeit in the case of Westeros, a fictional monarchical system where there are more fire-breathing dragons than Diana-hunting paparazzi. His theme for Game of Thrones, propelled by sonorous cello, managed to evoke a classic medieval court, while also foretelling intense, off-with-their-heads drama. It worked so well over eight seasons of the mothership show that HBO brought it back for this year’s prequel series. “In the original main title, we always… thought of it as an overarching theme that connects all of the characters and the journey and the adventures of this universe,” said Djawadi ahead of the launch of House of the Dragon. “So we felt it would be appropriate to connect it with this main title theme again.”
Succession, by Nicholas Britell
The music for this saga about Manhattan media dynasty the Roys – royals by nature and almost by name – won American composer Nicholas Britell the 2019 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music in its first series. It’s easy to hear why. The score has a classy, strings-laden sweep that’s resonant of the luxurious, 0.1‑per-center lifestyle led by family patriarch Logan Roy. One listen to Succession’s opening titles and you think of pampered, champagne-class executives comfortable in their PJs (that’s private jets, not pyjamas). But at the same time, those smoother musical themes are undercut by jarring, almost discordant piano chords that suggest a playpen full of squabbling millionaire children. Let the family feuding commence.
The White Lotus 1 and 2, by Cristobal Tapia de Veer
Such is the power of the opening music for Mike White’s scabrous take-down of holidaying rich folk that it’s already a phenom on (where else?) TikTok. “No i will not be hitting ‘skip intro’ thank you very much” is one typical response from fans who are enjoying luxuriating in Cristobal Tapia de Veer’s quirky, colourful music for the current, second series of The White Lotus. For last summer’s Hawaii-set first season, the Chilean-born composer created a main title theme, fittingly titled Aloha!, that subtly suggested trouble in paradise with its sound effects redolent of jungle squawks and screeches. Now, for the current second season, with the action shifting to Sicily, Tapia de Veer has crafted a piece, Renaissance, that begins with Italian opera-adjacent sumptuousness – then, bang on the one-minute mark, it cranks up the beats to a club-ready dance banger. The message is clear: hysteria is coming…