How ‘The Pursuit Of Love’ Reinvents the TV Period Drama Soundtrack

It’s the Roaring Twenties and, simply hours after strolling down the aisle with a rich however obnoxious conservative, aristocrat Linda (Lily James) has simply realized she’s made a grave mistake. If this was Downton Abbey, then the newlywed’s despair would little doubt be soundtracked by a melancholic chamber piece befitting of a grand interwar wedding ceremony. In Amazon’s newest British import The Pursuit of Love, nevertheless, the bride’s reception blues are heightened by “Modern Girl,” a world-weary anthem from riot grrrl survivors Sleater Kinney. 

Anachronistic-sounding TV interval dramas look like all the rage these days. Netflix’s latest journey again to Regency-era London in Bridgerton featured orchestral variations of chart smashes from the Teen Choice Awards brigade. Set a number of a long time additional into the 19th century, Apple TV+’s Dickinson even noticed its literary heroine twerking in her bodice to rapper iLoveMakonnen a lot to purists’ dismay. 

But this newest adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s 1945 novel about the contrasting fortunes of two cousins – first screened by the BBC again in May – isn’t concerned about what’s dominating Spotify playlists. The newest full-time addition to Nick Cave’s backing band The Bad Seeds, music supervisor George Vjestica has as a substitute dug deep into his eclectic file assortment with selections spanning from the late Fifties Neapolitan jazz of Marino Marini’s “Guaglione” proper as much as Catalan folks duo Maria Arnal and Marcel Bagés’ 2017 single “A La Vida.” 

Vjestica was primarily given free rein from his sister-in-law, sequence author and director Emily Mortimer, other than one small caveat: “anything except for music that is contemporary to that period.” Speaking at the BFI and Radio Times TV Festival earlier this yr, the Brit explained she was allergic to the “sexless, weird jazz” that emerged post-World War I and wished one thing that represented heroine Linda’s “rock and roll soul.”  

Lily James in The Pursuit of Love
Photo: Amazon

Mortimer, who additionally performs wayward mom The Bolter in the three-part miniseries, was closely impressed by Sofia Coppola’s daring Marie Antoinette throughout her first time in the director’s chair. And her love of the divisive 2006 biopic seems to have partly rubbed off on Vjestica, too. New Order’s brooding debut single “Ceremony” additionally graces The Pursuit of Love in its opening episode. 

Like Marie Antoinette’s curator Brian Reitzell, he additionally sometimes breaks up all the out-of-place choices with classical compositions that might be acquainted to its characters. Here, the likes of Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville: Una voce poco fa” and Strauss’ “Thunder and Lightning Polka Op. 324” are performed to signify Dominic West’s Uncle Matthew and his unwillingness to maneuver with the occasions. The formidable patriarch, who’s susceptible to looking down his youngsters by fields on horseback, even pops the former on his gramophone whereas sharpening his whipping methods. 

Yet for the most half, Vjestica, who makes a short cameo as a member of a ballroom band, repurposes tracks which have by no means been anyplace close to a corset. Played in the opening scene the place Linda’s stress-free au naturel on a roof terrace, The Who’s unusually-optimistic ditty “Blue, Red and Grey” initially positions the drama in the swinging seventies. That is, till the bomb that interrupts her ‘me time’ makes it clear we’re in the midst of The Blitz.  

Unlike the trendy pop hits blatantly designed to reel in the TikTok era elsewhere, The Pursuit of Love’s songs hardly ever sound incongruous. The Y2K electroclash of Le Tigre’s “Deceptacon” – which seems when Fanny (Emily Beecham) and Linda steal a automotive on their approach to a celebration – exemplifies the cousins’ rebellious spirit higher than any huge band commonplace may. Cat Power’s superbly pensive cowl of Phil Phillips’ “Sea of Love,” in the meantime, completely captures each the heartbreak and quiet sense of optimism in Fanny’s closing monologue. 

And the second the place the flamboyant, silk pajama-clad Lord Merlin (Fleabag’s “hot priest” Andrew Scott) livens up a boring debutante ball to the vibrant glam-rock of T. Rex’s “Dandy in the Underworld” could be the handiest character entrance you’ll see this yr.

If there’s one criticism of Vjestica’s crate-digging, it’s that he depends a little bit too closely on the literal. Only French audio system will know that Juliette Gréco’s playful chanson “Déshabillez-moi” – heard throughout a boutique altering room montage – interprets as “Undress Me.” More blindingly apparent, nevertheless, is Nina Simone’s “Be My Husband” (performed when Linda ensnares her Parisian lover) Joan Armatrading’s “Woncha Come On Home” (performed whereas Linda is ready to listen to from him) and Karen Dalton’s “Are You Leaving for the Country” (performed whereas Linda, sure you guessed it, returns house to the Oxford countryside).   

Still, it’s not daily you get to listen to the latter, an idiosyncratic folk-blues interpreter who operated on the fringes of the Greenwich Village scene, on mainstream TV. Likewise cabaret veterans Yves Montand (“Rue St. Vincent”) and Blossom Dearie (“Plus Je t’embrasse”). On the nostril it generally could also be, however The Pursuit of Love proves that even the British costume drama can sound très stylish. 

Jon O’Brien (@jonobrien81) is a contract leisure and sports activities author from the North West of England. His work has appeared in the likes of Vulture, Esquire, Billboard, Paste, i-D and The Guardian. 

Watch The Pursuit of Love on Amazon Prime

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.