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The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

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The Story of Barlow & Bear and the Birth of Grammy Winning Musical “Bridgerton: The Unofficial Musical”

The musical album inspired by Netflix’s hit series “Bridgerton” started with a simple question “what if ‘Bridgerton’ was a musical?”
Photo Courtesy / YouTube Barlow and Bear

A singular TikTok video has now turned into a Grammy win for Emily Bear and Abigail Barlow. Barlow’s first two videos, which collectively have over eight million views, took the hit Netflix show “Bridgerton” and created a marvelous musical. 

The lyricist and singer, Barlow, quickly took inspiration from the show after its airing in December 2020. Her first Tiktok titled “Ok but what if Bridgerton was a musical?” gave the main character, Daphne Bridgerton, her own theme song. Then, the second video with almost a million likes, sparked their own “TikTok Musical.” 

Taking a popular scene from the show — such as the one where the Duke of Hastings tells Daphne that he burns for her — and putting away all questions of their love for each other, she creates an unforgettable love ballad. She then sent the track Bear’s way, who put a full orchestra behind it. Beautifully composed by Bear, with heart throbbing lyrics by Barlow, the TikTok videos took off which led to the series of musical melodies of “Bridgerton.” 

One after the other, each song was a hit. Viewers waited for the videos, flooding the comments baying for new songs. 15 songs developed over six weeks. Multiple parts to the videos grew with new instrumentals from Bear. Likes, views, comments and duets grew in numbers, as did notice from the media. Prior to even the hint of an album drop, news outlets like Playbill took recognition of the new musical. Then on Feb. 25, 2021, the two were guests on country singer and The Voice judge Kelly Clarkson on her talk show “The Kelly Clarkson Show.” 

The album was teased on TikTok for several months before the two released the news. Originally the demos were only available to listen to on their website, but the duo went to TikTok on April 6 announcing they would begin studio recording the album. Soon after, they announced their new contract with the Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and Kraft-Engel Management. Thus not only giving them a team and more resources for “Bridgerton,” but also future projects. 

The two women needed this project to help their mental health throughout the pandemic. Barlow was quite honest throughout the journey how hard she was struggling with her life and career prior to the uprising of #bridgertonthemusical on TikTok. “I have this pit in my stomach that that was my big break and that’s all that is ever going to be of my music and it terrifies me,” Barlow said in a timeline video depicting her journey and revealing her mental state — posted just a week prior to the first song being released. The caption of the TikTok, posted on Mar. 3, 2021, read, “If you wanna give up, it’s probably about to happen. So, don’t give up just yet.” 

“It was a passion project from the beginning,” Barlow explains in a YouTube video, stating the duo didn’t set out to make money or get famous. “We just did it because we love to write and we love Bridgerton.” 

On Sept. 10, 2021 “Bridgerton: The Unofficial Musical” was released to streaming platforms. Within two hours, the album was iTunes’ No. 1 US Pop Album and was in its top 10 across the world, according to the Grammys. I honestly give myself some credit for contributing to this No. 1, considering I may have listened to it on repeat in the shower, on the subway, while doing homework…you get the picture. 

15 songs, 38 minutes, one composer and one singer. It’s very untraditional for a musical theater album, but it works so well. Each song is written with such care and truly puts you into the TV show. My top-two songs attest to this. Track 3, “If I Were a Man” perfectly encapsulates Eloise Bridgerton’s disdain for high-society and yearning to have the same rights as a man. While Track 9, “Friend Turned Foe” immerses you in the inner-family battle of honor and ethics, as well as the popular argument on how far a person will go for someone they love. 

Prior to release, some commenters flooded TikTok confused as to why Barlow would be the only singer, playing all the characters. She explained on Apr. 7, 2021 how the project was a demo-album and what that meant. Regardless, the question was still asked constantly. On Aug. 4, 2021, she took to the comment section on her TikTok how comparatively to other musicals, like Lin Manuel-Miranda’s time process of writing Hamilton, the album is coming out in a more than timely manner. 

In all honesty, I was shocked as well. With TikTok at their disposal, I thought of how easy it would have been to find the perfect ‘Duke of Hastings’ or ‘Queen of England’ to sing. Regardless, this did not deter me. Barlow does such an amazing job distinguishing which character is singing with her change in diction and tone. It is easy to follow along and enjoy the musical. That is more impressive than finding singers for each character. Furthermore, even with all the clamor, the two had the great honor to perform at the Kennedy Center for its 50th Anniversary Concert Celebration where President Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden were in attendance. 

Duo Receives Grammy Nomination For Bridgerton ‘Musical’

Photo Courtesy / YouTube Recording Academy / GRAMMYs

Barlow and Bear received their Grammy nomination on Nov. 23, 2021 at the most fitting location, high tea. Bear was the only female composer in the category for Best Musical Theater Album at this year’s Grammys, which appeared on April 3. The dynamic duo went head to head with icons such as composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and the legendary Broadway musical “Les Miserables.” Yet, above all odds, the two women took home their first Grammy.

This win is a step forward for not only women in music, especially composers, but also for small artists. This started as a simple TikTok video inspired by a “binge-worthy” show on Netflix during the peak of the pandemic. It changes the gateway to a Grammy and gives hope for the underdogs everywhere. 

To any ‘haters’ who still remain unsatisfied with the un-casted demo album, Barlow reminds her audience that her intention was to create something for herself by stating: “We are eternally grateful to Netflix for even letting us release the concept album. That was a gift y’all. We wrote this for fun and to get out of our slump. We didn’t ask for permission to use their intellectual property.” 

Now Barlow and Bear fans are curious as to what is on the horizon. A new musical soundtrack for season two? A stage production of the album? Another Grammy in store? Only time will tell, but for now, I will continue to play the musical on repeat. 

You can listen to “Bridgerton: The Unofficial Musical” on all streaming platforms.

 

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About the Contributor
Sophie Williams
Sophie Williams, Digital Editor
Sophie is a senior majoring in Photojournalism with a minor in Public Relations. She has held several positions including Staff Writer, Photographer, Assistant Features Editor, Co-Features Editor and Features Editor. Sophie is serving as the Digital Editor this year and hopes to revamp the Torch's digital presence. Some fun facts: Gossip Girl is her favorite TV show, she is an educator at lululemon Soho and her enneagram is Type 6. You can reach Sophie at [email protected].
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