There’s no surer sign that change has come to Buckingham Palace in season four of The Crown than the fact that it arrives to the sounds of Stevie Nicks. For most of the Netflix show’s run, it has relied on a stately orchestral soundtrack to track most of its action, with the occasional song or other form of music peppered in. Hans Zimmer did the title theme, Rupert Gregson-Williams did the first two seasons, and Martin Phipps composed the music for the third and fourth. But as Diana enters the picture, and the queen faces the roiling social changes of 1980s England, The Crown deploys a greater number of selections of popular commercial music from the time.
“Our vision that creator Peter Morgan had from the outset was to feature more needle drops throughout this season,” the show’s music supervisor Sarah Bridge told Vulture. “It felt like a natural progression as we step into the ’80s and the younger generation of the royal family begin to take center stage.” With an eye to the introduction of Diana, whose presence drives a lot of the new music selections this season, Bridge walked us through a few of the key musical moments.
Diana loses herself dancing to “Song for Guy” by Elton John (Episode 3, “Fairytale”)
Knowing they wanted to embed more contemporary music throughout the season, Bridge and Morgan often experimented with ways to incorporate it. This scene, where Diana dances to Elton John as the score kicks in, “began as an exploration between whether it’s best to feature score or a commercial song,” Bridge says, “that in the end, became an amalgamation of the two.”
Diana skates through the palace listening to Duran Duran’s “Girls on Film” (Episode 3, “Fairytale”)
“Diana had a love for a variety of music and it was widely known that Duran Duran was one of her favorite bands,” Bridge says, “so it felt very appropriate to feature them at some point.” As the episode focuses on her experience, it includes a number of musical cues. Here, “Girls on Film” tracks her “adventurous spirit” alongside her feeling of being “incredibly contained.”
“Music throughout this episode is featured and used as a comforting escape for her from the realities of what she is living through,” Bridge says.
“Edge of Seventeen” plays as Diana tells her friends she’s engaged, and then again over the closing credits of the episode. (Episode 3, “Fairytale”)
“This song was chosen in advance of filming the scenes,” Bridge says. “The opening of this episode is the happiest we see Diana in the show and the director, Benjamin Caron, and I both felt that the song captured the spirit of the euphoric joy that Diana was feeling in this moment.” She had proposed the idea of a song playing across the montage of Diana’s celebration, ending with it occurring diegetically in a club where everyone is dancing. Then, while editing the sequence together, Bridge was working through various possible portions of the song, and “whilst listening through were captured by the raw beauty and haunting feel of the acapella.” She says this led to its inclusion over the end titles, since “it felt very significant and connected to the place of isolation where Diana finds herself at the end of the episode.”
Charles and Diana dance to “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” while on their tour of Australia, and it plays again over the credits. (Episode 6, “Terra Nullius”)
The scene is based on archival footage of the tour in question, and The Crown team decided on the song because “we collectively felt it captured this moment of a growing understanding and connection between Diana and Charles, alongside injecting fun and glamour into the performance.” The version you see was recorded specifically for the show. “We pre-recorded this song in a studio in London and then featured the same musicians and singers on-camera,” Bridge says.
Diana performs “All I Ask of You” from Phantom of the Opera as a birthday gift for Charles (Episode 9, “Avalanche”)
In order to capture two of Diana’s more elaborate presents for Charles, including the Phantom performance (which reportedly did happen) and her dance to Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl,” the show had to get approval from both Andrew Lloyd Webber and Joel (or Jo-el, as the Queen calls him). The Phantom scene was a live recording captured on the day of filming. “We worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s company to provide us with all score parts and also hired one of the show’s original conductors to feature on-camera,” Bridge says.
Diana sings Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” in the car with her two sons (Episode 9, “Avalanche”)
Of this lighter moment in the story line for Diana, Bridge says, “Everyone loves a family singalong in the car, right?” As the plot hurtles into more strife between Charles and Diana and his family as a whole, Bridge notes that it “felt important to feature a song that was fun and well-known, encouraging us to connect with Diana as a warm and loving mother, to see her in her world outside of the confines of the Royal Family.”
Non-Diana bonus tracks: We hear a selection of a different kind of ’80s music as the working class man Michael Fagan infiltrates the palace to talk to the Queen. (Episode 5, “Fagan”)
This episode “felt like a stand-alone piece musically within the season,” according to Bridge, as the show’s sound moves beyond both the royal family’s taste and Diana’s. “It was a chance to shift the tonal landscape and connect to Michael Fagan’s world and his representation of a disillusioned Britain,” Bridge says. “Music played an incredibly strong social, cultural, and political role throughout this period and we sought to give authenticity through it by featuring bands such as Joy Division, the Cure, the Specials, the Beat.” Margaret Thatcher, as Bridge points out, was “one of the most condemned politicians in British music,” and so the episode ends with “Whine and Grine/Stand Down Margaret,” released just a year after she first became prime minister.