Curating a playlist is one of the first steps in my planning process for any writing project. Gathering a collection of music that captures the themes in the story or fits a character's personality or encapsulates specific scenes has always made it easier for me to slip into the world of my writing.
And if there's one kind of scene you're nearly guaranteed to find across my WIPs, one that almost always comes up in some capacity, it's dancing. Interactions at balls and assemblies are among my favorites to write, and that lends itself to love interests and would-be suitors being partnered up for a set.
Naturally, I have a separate playlist dedicated to dances, and plenty of the inclusions are things one would expect to see on the list. All kinds of quadrilles, reels, country dances, and the like. But then, there are some unexpected inclusions. Modern hits I collectively refer to as Now That's What I Call Regency!, inspired by the Now That's What I Call Music! series. It's a little similar to the soundtrack for Bridgerton featuring instrumental arrangements of pop songs like Madonna's "Material Girl" or "Wildest Dreams" by Taylor Swift. Although those pieces have a tendency to take me out of the moment when watching the Netflix show, including them in my writing playlist makes it easier to visualize the scene playing out. I wrote about popular line dances such as "Cotton Eye Joe" and "The Cha-Cha Slide" being in this playlist, but those are not the only contemporary entries. Quite a few pop songs have been added to the Now That's What I Call Regency! collection and I thought it would be fun to share a handful of them.
Qualifications And Considerations
Before going into the inclusions of Now That's What I Call Regency!, it makes sense to go over some of the things that can put a particular song in that playlist. The feel of it is among the most crucial. While a fair number of period dramas portray historical dances as slow and stately, a majority of dances taking place at a ball or assembly during the 1810s were actually much livelier and spirited. You'd see a lot of hopping and skipping among the movements, and it would be at a much faster tempo than pieces used in many adaptations. Many songs in the Now That's What I Call Regency! playlist shares a similar beat. Some are also linked to particular memories I have of dancing, like various dances I attended throughout my school years and the cèilidh I went to during my visit to London in 2018. Transporting myself back to those nights makes it easier to set the scene in my mind. After all, as was already explored in my post on "Cotton Eye Joe" being in this playlist, there are similarities to the way modern-day line dances in a high school gymnasium and those at a Regency Era assembly room are performed. Generally speaking, it's a matter of the vibes. If it feels like it fits, into the playlist it goes. Now let's take a look at some of the tracks featured in Now That's What I Call Regency!.
An Irish Party In Third Class, Gaelic Storm
Featuring "John Ryan's Polka" and "Blarney Pilgrim", this piece is the score of my favorite scene in Titanic.
Granted, there is a century separating Titanic and the Regency Era when my stories are set, but the scene is very similar in tone to some of those in my WIPS, especially those taking place at assembly halls. For context, balls were private events requiring an invitation from the host. Some assemblies were open to the public, but others required a subscription membership to attend. Assemblies, therefore, often created an environment in which classes might mingle. In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy and the Bingley siblings attend the assembly at Merryton. While Bingley himself dances quite a bit, Darcy abstains, as someone of his status dancing at a lower-class event could be unsightly; he does, however, dance with Elizabeth at the Netherfield ball because, there, it is acceptable to him since he is among more of his own set. The party in Titanic is of a similar nature. Going from a stately* dinner to a "real party" down in steerage is one of several moments that really demonstrate the contrasts between Jack and Rose's respective places in society. The cuts between this looser atmosphere of the lower decks where there is dancing and laughter and the stiffness of the drawing room where men in suits sip their brandy as they talk business matters truly solidify this. I have a handful of characters who would be more comfortable in the latter, so I love including scenes that puts them a little out of their comfort zones. Whether that means a visit to the assembly rooms in town or simply dancing at all, seeing this other side of them come out the way Rose is able to let go of her prim and proper upbringing for a few short moments in steerage can make for some interesting moments.
Additionally, this piece lands itself in Now That's What I Call Regency! because it has a special memory linked to it—and not because Titanic is my favorite movie. The second of the two pieces included, "Blarney Pilgrim" was played at the cèilidh I went to in London. To this day, it remains one of the best nights of my life, and having a piece of music that bring those memories back to the surface helps me sink into similar moments my characters are experiencing. Needless to say, "An Irish Party In Third Class" has a lot of reasons for being included in Now That's What I Call Regency!.
Back To You, Twin Forks
As I briefly mentioned at the top of this post, the playlist has similarities to the way Bridgerton incorporates contemporary pop songs into its historical setting—and my mixed feelings towards it. This isn't the only period drama I've had this sentiment towards. Reign, which followed Mary, Queen of Scots, had a soundtrack of the same ilk and took a similar approach in its costumes. Like Bridgerton, the Reign soundtrack didn't always work for me because while I was into the show, recognizing music from Sam Smith or The Lumineers or Bastille would take me out of the scene. There were a few musical selections that I thought fit better than others. "Back To You" by Twin Forks is featured in one of the first episodes of the show, set between dancing and flashbacks to Mary and Francis's childhood. The juxtaposition between the feathers falling in a pillow fight and dropping from the ceiling at a party like confetti, and then the camera shifting between Mary, Francis, and Bash setting up the (first) love triangle. It's gold. "Back To You" fits the scene perfectly, and I find it also works for writing dances set in the Regency. This has a lot to do with the jaunty tempo. And lyrically, it gives me strong second chance romance vibes. When I do get around to writing a second chance romance, you can bet "Back To You" will land in that WIP-centric playlist, too.
Lonely Heart, 5 Seconds of Summer
5SOS ending up in pretty much every single one of my WIP playlist won't come as a surprise to longtime readers of the blog. They've been my favorite band since I was in high school, and this summer marked the fifth time I saw them live. 5SOS is featured in my Now That's What I Call Regency! playlist more than once actually, but I'm highlighting only one of those tracks today. "Lonely Heart" is found on their fourth studio album CALM. I love how the tempo revs up when launching into the chorus and slows down again. I can easily imagine my characters being pulled into larger circles as the chorus starts before breaking off into smaller groups again. It just works. And so it has a place in Now That's What I Call Regency!.
Let Me Be, Escape The Fate
Escape The Fate is a rock band that typically has a heavy, gritty sound, not unlike A Day To Rememnber and Breaking Benjamin for example. "Let Me Be," however, is more of a ballad, much gentler in tone that a lot of their discography. And I adore it. Quite a few of my dance scenes take a somewhat romantic turn. Some take place soon after the love interests are introduced, while others mark the moment one character realizes that they may, in fact, like-like the other. Having music that not only fits the beat expected at a Regency Era dance but also embodies the tone of the scene can help bring these threads to life. On that note, so concludes That's What I Call Regency! vol. 1. This could very well be the first in a series of posts highlighting the music I listen to when I'm away from my WIPs or just need a little boost of inspiration before coming back to them. Having music playing in the background doesn't work for all writers; I personally lean towards instrumentals for writing sessions and save anything with lyrics for when I'm away from my WIP. Dances, however, where music is already such a prominent element, seem to be an exception in my writing habits. There's something about having music on that helps the scene come to life in my mind, and therefore makes it easier to bring these imaginings to the page. Only time will tell if there be a vol. 2 of Now That's What I Call Regency!. But with all the fun I had working on this post, the chances seem likely.