The Flight Attendant‘s opening title theme is the best new theme of the year. It is jaunty, dangerous, and energetic. Full disclosure: I never press skip when I watch the Comedy Series contender, and I dance in my seat. Composer Blake Neely was thrilled to provide a theme (and score) that is as agile and spry as the series itself.
Neely was determined to create a theme that reflected Cassie’s mental and emotional state. He made it even harder for himself by only using percussion, but the drumming is reminiscent of your heart pounding in your chest. Listen to the theme again and imagine being chased by an assailant. Neely created a sound that feels like your pulse quickening and slowing.
The main title theme can sometimes feel like a fading art because a lot of shows opt to not have one, but Neely’s work shows why they are so important. They reflect the mood of the show we are about to watch and amps us up for potential drama.
Awards Daily: I’m so glad you’re nominated. The Flight Attendant has such a great main title and theme.
Blake Neely: What’s great is that they even allowed a main title. So many shows don’t have them and I was happy that it was in the script.
AD: Did you see the title sequence before?
BN: Steve told me what they visually wanted. They didn’t have anything when I was brought on, and I wanted to dive in and get started. I just wrote this crazy piece of music that I thought would be too wacky. I sent it and they loved it and they thought it was the sound of the show. When I got the titles back with my music, I thought it was so cool. I didn’t have to chase their edit. It was very symbiotic.
AD: The show has an elusive quality to it. It’s sly. Do you plan to keep us off-kilter? I feel like I’m on a balance beam and someone is pushing me.
BN: Cassie is off-kilter for all the episodes and she is trying to find the balance in life. I just writing and it started feeling right and this sense of panic threaded through. It’s a thriller and a drama and a crime show and it’s hugely emotional. I couldn’t be one thing. It had to be everything. It needed to be a frenetic panic attack.
AD: Did you want to use specific instruments?
BN: I put myself in a tight box on this one. In the concept meeting, I told them that I saw Cassie as a broken child and I wanted to use a child’s broken instrument. Steve asked if I considered percussion and I countered with wondering if we could only use percussion. I left the meeting wondering what I had done. I knew piano would work and marimba is percussion but then I wanted to play more in the sandbox. I realized that my lamp could make sounds or my bike could be percussion. There’s some fun stuff.
AD: And then a digeridoo shows up, yes?
BN: It was me blowing through a PVC pipe (laughs)
AD: That’s amazing (laughs)
BN: I was banging something with it and then I blew into it. It’s basically a digeridoo. It was a challenge, but it was so inspiring to do.
AD: How did you want to play with the loudness and the volume? At one point, it gets really quiet but then it kind of explodes. So much happens in such a short amount of time.
BN: I love pop songs that get quiet and then explode. The theme stays in one key the entire time but it’s really propulsive. You get excitement with these dips and these surprise instruments. There is one thing that comes in and then it never comes back. Hopefully it will inspire you to listen to it again once it’s over. With dynamic and instrumentations, I wanted change it up in one piece of music.
AD: How did the pandemic change your process at all?
BN: It was the only show I was working on. I could focus all my attentions on this one score and the theme. Fortunately, I already decided I was going to play everything so I didn’t have to send music out to other musicians and then mix it. That was a nightmare during quarantine. The downtown allowed us to think deeper about how we create things. I wonder what the score would’ve been like if the pandemic didn’t happen.
The Flight Attendant is streaming now on HBO Max. You can listen to Blake’s score over and over as much as you wish!