'The Crown' Season 2 Soundtrack Is Fit For A Queen

Alex Bailey / Netflix

Among The Crown's many strong suits is its music — a rich, orchestral score courtesy of Rupert Gregson-Williams. The first season's songs were so well-received that they landed the composer his first Emmy nomination, and come Season 2, The Crown's soundtrack will have high expectations to fill. The official album is slated for release Dec. 8, when the series will also return, but there are several guesses to be made about the kind of music that will be present — and how it will come into play — throughout the series' second run.

As a whole, the show is quite dialogue-driven, and it often leans into the everyday noises that punctuate real life: the clattering of breakfast plates, the crunch of grass. Its music, then, is used sparingly but purposefully, lending emotional resonance to unspoken moments. In Season 2's first episode, for example, a slow, romantic swell backs Elizabeth (Claire Foy) and Philip (Matt Smith) as they steal a quiet moment in the palace; later, a tense, staccato build underscores the Egyptian troops as they storm the Suez Canal and seize control. As Gregson-Williams told ASCAP in August:

"[Showrunner/writer Peter Morgan]’s writing is so sharp, that I try not to interfere too much. There is no need for me to comment on it, because he tells the story so very well, but I hope that when music appears, it has something to say. I don’t really underscore much of the dialogue-driven scenes; they speak for themselves."
Coco Van Oppens / Netflix

At the same time, Gregson-Williams is careful not to overpower the scenes, so as to reflect the noble restraint so fundamental to understanding The Crown's characters. "We felt that pushing the grandeur too much, pushing the drama and emotion too far, would take us away from what these people, especially Elizabeth, felt," he told Variety in May. "She deals with it with such calm. I didn’t need to be telling the audience what they should be feeling.”

Beyond the score, though, there are also a handful of other songs woven in to help signify the era in which The Crown is set. They're hard to catch, because they blend so seamlessly with Gregson-Williams contributions, and they won't be on the official soundtrack; As in Season 1, only selections of the original compositions will be included. But listen close and you'll hear them. Season 1, which spanned from Elizabeth and Philip's marriage in 1947 to the disintegration of the engagement between her sister, Princess Margaret, and Peter Townsend in 1955, featured tracks like Johnnie Ray's 1952 hit "Cry" and Alma Colgan's 1955 chart-topper "Dreamboat."

The Crown's second season will usher in a new decade, picking up amid the 1956 Suez Crisis and running all the way through the retirement of the Queen's third Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, in 1963. Musically, though, it doesn't seem to lean too hard into the '60s, instead opting for songs like Cole Porter's '30s standout "Begin the Beguine" and Humphrey Lyttleton's 1956 jazz breakout "Bad Penny Blues." Certainly, such a transitory period provides a ripe musical backdrop: The rock 'n' roll that defined the '50s gave way to more pop-influenced sounds, sparking trends like the British Invasion and Beatlemania.

But the English royals had bigger fish to fry: rumors of Philip's infidelity, John F. Kennedy's visit, and the Profumo affair, to name a few. Perhaps the music of the '60s took a backseat so as not to detract from the more immediate plot lines. After all, the Queen didn't meet the Beatles until 1965, so that may be something to look forward to when The Crown returns for Season 3. In either case, rest assured: The show's Season 2 soundtrack lives up to the first.