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Is a TikTok musical a Bridgerton too far? Not for Barlow & Bear : NPR


Abigail Barlow (left) and Emily Bear have made magic collectively and say they discovered kindred artistic spirits.

Jessica Pons for NPR


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Jessica Pons for NPR

Abigail Barlow (left) and Emily Bear have made magic collectively and say they discovered kindred artistic spirits.

Jessica Pons for NPR

That is half a collection of options from All Issues Thought of on first-time Grammy nominees, forward of the April 3 awards. You may learn and hearken to the opposite profiles on Saweetie, Arooj Aftab and Jimmie Allen.

Our protagonists, two younger ladies of eligible age, are within the metropolis for the season. They spend the afternoon within the firm of a rich benefactor and his household, marveling on the high-ceilinged ballrooms of his property.

As a substitute of returning to their quarters to relaxation earlier than their night engagement — a sought-after efficiency on the theater — our women as a substitute take excessive tea, the place they obtain sudden information that has them weeping with pleasure.

And later on the efficiency, the pair spot an esteemed gentleman with whom they’d corresponded beforehand, who was delighted to see them and conveyed the effectively needs of his social circle at their excellent news.

Nonetheless, our women’ season wasn’t for marriage, however awards.

In between making TikToks with Andrew Lloyd Webber whereas touring London’s Drury Lane Theatre and working into actor Jonathan Bailey (who performs overbearing large brother Anthony Bridgerton within the Netflix adaptation of the regency drama) Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear obtained a Grammy nomination for Finest Musical Theater Album for his or her undertaking, The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical.

With a mixture of character songs just like the delightfully jaunty “If I Have been a Man” for spunky, society-abhorring Eloise, and plot-driving items just like the sweeping, Schwartz-ian “Each Inch” that exhibits Daphne and Simon catching emotions, the duo Barlow & Bear brings the interpersonal drama of the hit Netflix present to life, attaining the exceptional feat of each preserving traces from the present wholesale and including new emotional depth to missed characters like widow Girl Bridgerton.

Bear and Barlow say their success collectively comes from a basis of friendship and mutual pursuits.

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Netflix launched the present in December 2020, and with eight well-paced episodes that mixed a realizing, gossipy tone with well-loved style tropes, it was the season’s binge-watch for folks seeking to, as Barlow states, “escape right into a make-believe world.”

As a songwriter, she additionally instantly acknowledged the present’s kindred musical theater power.

“​​Once I watched Bridgerton, there was an amazing feeling that it must be on stage not directly,” she says. “It was good: Numerous drama, escapism, a personality for everybody to narrate to.”

Stymied creatively on the time, Barlow capitalized on her enthusiasm for the present to place that idea to the take a look at. What emerged had been the start threads of “Ocean Away,” a personality tune for main girl Daphne Bridgerton, which Barlow posted on her TikTok account, which she makes use of as a artistic sounding board for nearly all her authentic work.

“I used to be really experiencing author’s block for like three or 4 months earlier than I wrote that tune,” she says. “I used to be like, if folks like this concept, possibly it will be a TikTok collection. Perhaps I am going to do it for multiple character. However actually, it was only a songwriting problem to place myself in another person’s sneakers, even when that was a make-believe character.”

The evening she wrote it, Barlow additionally texted the tune to Emily Bear, who additionally clicked with the concept.

“She orchestrated it like 45 minutes after I despatched it to her and I received like a full verse and refrain of orchestration for that tune,” Barlow says. After seeing just a few extra songs she posted begin to choose up traction, “We noticed the way it snowballed and we simply determined to proceed.”

Abigail Barlow, a 23-year-old songwriter from Alabama, and Emily Bear, a 20-year-old classically skilled pianist and composer from Illinois — the youngest ever nominees for his or her Grammy class — met by mutual associates. Barlow needed to work on a stage musical and had been in search of a collaborator, however the foundation of their finally profitable musical partnership is a basis of friendship and mutual pursuits.

“We knew we had been going to jot down collectively however I used to be like, ‘Let’s simply get collectively as girlfriends first.’ And so I had her over and we watched The Bachelor and made macarons and simply type of chatted and received to know one another,” Barlow says.

“I graduated highschool early — we each did,” Bear says. “Which is actually why I really feel like we linked as a result of after we first met one another, we did not have any associates in L.A. and we had been like, ‘Oh my God, you get it.'”

The duo say their particular person expertise complement one another and permit them to be artistic.

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Jessica Pons for NPR

Barlow graduated at 17 and moved to L.A. at 18 to pursue songwriting: Gigging, attempting to satisfy the precise folks and persevering with to develop her viewers on social media, the place she began doing livestreams and posting covers at 16. Bear began her skilled profession even earlier, together with her first of a number of appearances on The Ellen Present at age 6, and as she received older, splitting her time between finding out at Juilliard (classical piano, jazz, piano composition) and NYU (movie scoring, manufacturing, orchestration.)

After finishing a tour and graduating at 15, Bear determined to take a niche yr earlier than beginning at Berklee; by the top of the yr, she was residing in L.A., had been signed by an agent and was working as a composer. She took one other hole yr; this time, she met Barlow.

“While you work with somebody in a artistic subject, there are such a lot of little tiny issues that go in direction of whether or not or not you’re employed effectively with that individual. And you possibly can be within the room with probably the most wonderful, unbelievable, proficient musician of all time and simply not work effectively collectively,” Bear says. “We had been associates and it was nice, however we did not know the way we had been going to jot down collectively, prefer it may have been a complete practice wreck, or it may have been like, high quality or no matter.”

As a substitute, she says, the 2 shared an on the spot chemistry. “I keep in mind strolling out the session being like, ‘Ohhhh.'”

“‘That is what it feels prefer to have a enjoyable session,'” Barlow supplies.

Though the 2 of them “have very complementary talent units” within the conventional sense — a singer and lyricist, a pianist and producer — Barlow says there is no clear division of labor, with the 2 bouncing concepts off one another and sharing duty for the composition as an entire. “I believe the place we’ve got weaknesses, we sort of fill in one another’s gaps. And simply placing a puzzle collectively together with her is so enjoyable as a result of she at all times is aware of precisely the place to take one thing.”

“And vice versa,” Bear says. “We now have very related tastes in writing kinds and speeds, which I really feel like pace is essential as a result of if you’re a quick author and you’re employed with somebody who is just not as quick, it does not imply that they are not good, it is simply laborious. And so we simply…”

“Clicked,” Barlow finishes, illustrating their level.

For Barlow and Bear, the artistic chemistry is actual and easy.

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The Grammys, sadly, would not have a class for one of the best music native to social media, so Barlow & Bear’s nominated work is not the TikTok collection, however the 15-song album they recorded and launched in September — the official Unofficial musical, if you’ll. However the app’s function was indispensable to its creation, each within the six-week strategy of writing the musical initially of 2021, and the fervent reception that led to its present recognition.

Barlow says sharing their work on social media throughout the artistic course of was by no means in query.

“I’ve been placing my authentic pop music on TikTok like 5 minutes after I completed writing for years and years now,” she says. The immediacy of suggestions from followers and commenters is instructive, and Barlow sees a direct correlation between her work attracting consideration on the app and constructing a subsequent viewers on streaming platforms.

“If in case you have a tune that individuals love that blows up on TikTok, you possibly can guess that there is going to be extra streams in your tune on Spotify simply because it went viral on TikTok,” she says.

For the Bridgerton musical, folks additionally appeared to like how interactive it was.

“Everybody on this planet was speaking about this one factor,” Bear says — the present was the highest present on Netflix going into 2021 — and so “they felt like they might give their two cents whereas we had been writing they usually had been a part of the method.” One of many duo’s favourite lyrical couplets, “Coloured in inexperienced / Gilded in gold” from the Daphne-Simon duet “Alone Collectively,” even got here from a commenter.

“Musical theater is a really classically gatekept artwork type,” Barlow says. “It is very costly to go to a Broadway present, it is like 200 bucks a ticket, and so not many individuals can go to these and there is a large group of people that have by no means even been uncovered to that sort of leisure.”

“I simply beloved that a lot of our viewers that’s now very into musical theater had by no means listened to any of that of their life beforehand,” Bear says. “And I simply love that we’re capable of present folks how numerous of an artwork type it’s.”

The audio for this story was produced by Jonaki Mehta and edited by Christopher Intagliata. The article was written by Cyrena Touros.

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