Vitamin String Quartet on fame after performing classic renditions of pop hits for Bridgerton
Bad Guy by Billie Eilish and Girls like You by Maroon 5 in a period drama? Leave it to Shonda Rhimes to ensure we hum along as we fall in love with Victorian characters in her latest masterpiece — Bridgerton. Most of these tunes can be credited to the music ensemble Vitamin String Quartet (VSQ), who worked in tandem with composer Kris Bowers and music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas. We learn that VSQ is a series of string quartet projects developed and produced by CMH Label Group, rather than being a traditional quartet.
This is not the first time you would be hearing such orchestral renditions from the Los Angeles-based outfit. Known for their tribute albums to rock and pop acts for around two decades, they have also made music for some all-time favourite shows, like Gossip Girl and Westworld. However, as Bridgerton continued to amass record-breaking viewership, VSQ acquired more and more listeners. We reached out to James Curtiss, director of A&R and creative director at CMH to understand the phenomenonal status their music acquired recently. He says, “The attention is certainly gratifying and overwhelming. Now, so many more people have discovered who we are and what we do.” He informs us that the musical ensemble features rotating artistes and the team is ever-evolving. “With players, arrangers, producers, filmmakers and other creatives, we work with quite a lot of people to engineer the world of VSQ,” says James.
They had a feeling that Bridgerton would become the giant hit it did. But what they didn’t quite assess was how widely the music of the show and their work will be talked about. Since its release in December 2020, the show has certainly become a phenomenon. “It’s like being part of a meme, something truly viral. We were approached almost a year prior to the show airing,” says the CMH head honcho.
Songs were recreated with soulful violin and cello elements. For the show, they recreated songs like
In My Blood by Shawn Mendes, Bad Guy by Billie Eilish, Girls Like You by Maroon 5, and Thank u, Next by Ariana Grande — all performed as VSQ renditions. When the gorgeous Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) and the dashing Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page) — two of the main characters of the show — gifted television viewers with scintillating chemistry and iconic moments, VSQ’s classical rendition of contemporary numbers played in the background. The tunes certainly played a big part in making the show a huge hit.
Making of hit tunes
We find out — Netflix’s music supervisor Alexandra, who worked with VSQ earlier — knew what she wanted for the show. Her vision was lucid, thereby helping VSQ to create such epic music. James shares, “She was well-aware of what we do, obviously, so when the show-runners were looking for these classical renditions of contemporary music, they knew to come to us for some of the music.” The brief they got was open-ended, aiding free-flowing creativity. They were told in a nutshell what the show was about. They understood it was quite a female-driven project. He adds, “We kind of ran with those ideas, used our own suggestions from our catalogue, with a lot of back and forth between their team and our music supervisor, Aron Silverstein and myself. The four songs chosen were not just aired on the show, but also released as part of their soundtrack promotion. There was a huge focus on the music and that made all the difference.” VSQ worked on it with their signature sounds and made it a part of the show’s mould that fits perfectly. Never for a moment did these pop songs in a setting inspired by the 1800s Regency-era seem out of place.
The much-loved television drama helmed by Chris Van Dusen, is gearing up for the next season. It will focus on Anthony Bridgerton’s narrative, based on the Bridgerton series author, Julia Quinn’s second book in the series, The Viscount Who Loved Me. Fans have been hoping that the string quartet group will be back to the fore making music for this season as well. “We’re hoping so too. After the second season had been announced, we immediately reached out to their team to discuss potential collaborations on it. My wish is that you not only hear VSQ in Season 2 but that we pop up on screen somewhere in one or more episodes. You have to dream big,” says James, as he signs off.