How Jack Antonoff Curated the Soundtrack for Christian Dior Series ‘The New Look,’ Featuring Nick Cave and Perfume Genius

When Grammy-winning musician Jack Antonoff was curating the music for AppleTV+’s series “The New Look,” he shared ideas of instrumentation and a list of artists he had in mind for who could form the soundtrack.

“We started looking at the wish list and who was realistic,” says the show’s music supervisor Mark Wike. “We looked at who was touring and who was doing what. It was all about the different variables to make it happen.” In the end, Bartees Strange, Lana Del Rey, Florence Welch and Nick Cave were among the artists who Antonoff gathered to help curate contemporary and new original recordings of classics.

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The series follows the rise of Christian Dior (Ben Mendelsohn) as a designer living and working in Paris during the Nazi occupation. Juliette Binoche plays Coco Chanel, already established herself as a grand designer, and the series follows the pivotal moment when Dior makes his mark on the world by setting up the House of Dior and sets in place the rivalry between the two designers.

Cave’s cover of the Edith Piaf classic “La Vie En Rose” plays at the end of the fifth episode. “He wanted Nick and that worked out spectacularly,” Wike says.

Bartees Strange reimagines “You Always Hurt the One You Love,” the Mills Brothers classic.

Composer James Levine recalls having done the music for the episode when he heard the demo and placed the song. “I found the spot and baked it into my print of my cue and sent it on. I said, ‘You can’t separate this. You can’t change it,” he says of how the score bleeds seamlessly into the song playing.

Adds Wike, “That was a Jimmy touchstone, that handoff. But Bartees and Jack came into the studio with an open palette and they did a rift on the melody. They added in a plunky baseline, and Jack came in and put a very cool Mellotron (an electro-mechanical musical instrument) in there. It just evolved as they jammed together, and that’s why that sounds the way it did.”

Perfume Genius’ take on the Dinah Washington standard, “What a Difference a Day Makes,” plays over a fashion show sequence.

Wike’s challenge was navigating how to feature the song more, so he turned to Levine. “I dropped breadcrumbs from the song, taking some of the melodies and harmonies and deconstructed them into my cues,” Levine says. “By the time you get to the song, it feels familiar and there’s a relief because you’ve heard the song along the journey, and feels inevitable.”

Levine was drawn to using a piano to compose the main title theme.

When navigating what that would sound like, he went back to the cues he had written for the Christian Dior character. “That was one of the first themes I wrote, and it was one of those cues that when you put it up against picture, it could play anywhere,” Levine says.

Levine used violins and pianos for Dior’s cues so when it came to the main title theme, he worked with Wike and showrunner Todd Kessler bouncing ideas as he experimented with various arrangements. “We needed to create a narrative with the visual and the music,” Levine explains.

As he jammed in his studio with those ideas, it started coming together. “The theme tells three stories of what we’re doing in the first season. There’s the war, so you hear that in the early part of the music. And then it shifts to the thread and fabric storytelling aspect before shifting to hope and survival.

Musically, Levine injects strings into the theme, making a profound statement in the moment.

“It’s meant to grab you,” Wike says.

Adds Levine, “It goes from this big war thing and drops to nothing with the cello, and then just the violin. We don’t get the orchestra back until those last seven seconds and the whole theme has these big shifts which is really unnerving but great.”

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