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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 3 March 2021

What is the Vitamin String Quartet? How 'Bridgerton' has inspired a new interest in classical pop

VSQ covered Ariana Grande, Maroon 5 and Billie Eilish for the hit show on Netflix

BRIDGERTON (L to R) REGƒ-JEAN PAGE as SIMON BASSET and PHOEBE DYNEVOR as DAPHNE BRIDGERTON in episode 108 of BRIDGERTON Cr. LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX © 2020
BRIDGERTON (L to R) REGƒ-JEAN PAGE as SIMON BASSET and PHOEBE DYNEVOR as DAPHNE BRIDGERTON in episode 108 of BRIDGERTON Cr. LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX © 2020

Fancy listening to some Ariana Grande and Maroon 5 with a hefty dose of strings?

The success of Netflix drama series Bridgerton, which, according to the streaming platform, has been watched by 82 million subscribers since debuting in December, has spawned various new cultural fads.

This includes a renewed interest in Britain's 19th-century Regency era fashion, as well as historical romance author Julia Quinn, whose 19-novel Bridgerton series inspired the show.

Another career that took a fortuitous turn on the back of the series is that of the Vitamin String Quartet, also known as VSQ.

The US classical music collective scored the show with knowing pop culture references and swooning takes of Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next, Maroon 5’s Girls Like You, Shawn Mendes’s In My Blood and Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy.

In addition to big streaming numbers buoyed by admiration for the Bridgerton soundtrack, VSQ's own music catalogue has seen a 350 per cent surge in listenership since the show premiered.

These new fans will have a feast of classical pop to dig in to.

What is the Vitamin String Quartet?

Formed in 1999, VSQ is more of a collective than one band. Created by record company CMH Label Group, the initiative is a series of string quartets working with different arrangers to create serene homages to a wildly eclectic array of popular artists.

With more than 300 albums released, the project has covered seemingly every popular artist you can think of, from The Beatles to Adele, Lady Gaga to Radiohead, and System of a Down to Bruce Springsteen.

Even the music of death metal giants Slayer received the classical twist with a whole album, 2006’s The Death Angel Remains, which is full of string versions of their pummelling hits.

The hundreds of songs released make for an epic body of work. This is something radio station WXRG once took full advantage of, as, between 2012 and 2014, the small US broadcaster in the state of New Hampshire played nothing but VSQ songs 24 hours a day.

Major players in TV

While it may seem like they became overnight sensations thanks to Bridgerton, the collective has been a favourite of television producers for a decade.

Some viewers may have unknowingly heard their works in a bunch of high-profile shows, such as sci-fi drama Westworld, which used VSQ's renditions of Nine Inch Nails' Something I Can Never Have and Radiohead's Motion Picture Soundtrack.

VSQ also lent its talents to hit comedies Modern Family, Shameless and Gossip Girl.

Why does show business love VSQ so much?

Well, according to project director James Curtiss, the music offered by VSQ complements what hit shows do, in that they create content that's both innovative and comforting.

“We have fans in high places it turns out,” he told online publication All Access Music. "A lot of the placements we’ve received in film and television have come from creators and productions reaching out to us.

“They are always looking for a unique spin on something familiar, which is a good chunk of what we do on our day-to-day with VSQ."

Brand manager Leo Flynn, meanwhile, told Nylon: “We like to think we're building something that people can use to literally soundtrack their day. Whether you're looking for that intimate, romantic moment, like you get in Bridgerton, or you're looking to calm or focus or relax and elevate. Whatever it is, you can build it in our world.”

Here are three other pop songs by VSQ we recommend listening to:

1. 'Blank Space' by Taylor Swift

In VSQ's hands, this pop banger becomes something pastoral; a piece you would want hear in the garden with a nice cup of tea.

2. 'Can’t Feel My Face' by The Weeknd

While ditching the hedonism of the original, VSQ retains the rhythmic melodies, yet rearranges them all in a style almost resembling a waltz.

3. 'Bad Romance' by Lady Gaga

This needs to be in the next season of Bridgerton. It's fun, punchy and dramatic enough to score a lavish gala scene or a frolic across the palace gardens.

Updated: January 28, 2021 07:13 PM

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