The heart flutters, melts, and swoons conveyed through electronic beats and thrums is just one of the reasons Netflix’s Heartstopper is perfectly addictive. Composer Adiescar Chase gives us an insight into her process of creating the heart-stopping soundtrack. (Image source: Netflix Tudum)
By Jemma Jones | @ItsJemmaJay
Warning: Contains mild spoilers.
For those living under a rock, the recently released Netflix show, Heartstopper, is an adaption of a comic of the same name by writer and artist, Alice Oseman.
Directed by Euros Lyn, Heartstopper is a story of pure queer happiness, and follows the relationship between two classmates, Nick and Charlie.
Along with garnering a large fan-base, the series has been highly praised by critics, and is one of few Netflix shows to earn an 100 per cent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Heartstopper’s music flows throughout the series like a heart pulses blood through the body.
Every scene captures emotions with its fantastic visuals – but also through the sound that can replicate a quickening nervous heartbeat, or a sudden pit at the bottom of your stomach.
On a cold Tuesday night, I jumped onto Zoom to chat with the genius behind the soundtrack of the critically acclaimed, queer, teen Netflix show, Heartstopper – Adiescar Chase.
Chase was fresh from graduating with a Master of Arts at the National Film and Television School in England when she got the news that she would join the production of Heartstopper as composer.
“I was very fortunate to not only get a Netflix job so soon after graduating, but to get this show,” she said.
An often overlooked but important feature of TV and film, Chase’s job was to compose an original soundtrack for Heartstopper.
Through synths, strings, and even voice modulation, she created a series of light-hearted electronic songs that fit the fluffy and sweet story of Nick and Charlie to a par.
Chase was already highly accomplished having 13 composing credits before Heartstopper, but now she can say she is the composer for a successful Netflix show.
When discussing her music style, she mentioned her composition work in the 2021 documentary Between the Trees, which explores the complexities of nature and trees.
She explained a strange technique she used – sound sampling the face of a leaf – which I couldn’t quite believe.
Essentially, she turned leaf data into electronic sound, and she brought these interesting methods into creating the Heartstopper soundtrack too.
“There are some vocals in there where I’m singing and tapping my chest, so it sounds like this jolting sound… or because they’re in a school, I just got some pencils and a book, and started tapping pencils on the book,” she said.
“It might not be noticeable, but it just creates an interesting sound, because you’re not going into a sample library.”
She worked mostly chronologically with the pre-shot episodes, and there was a one-to-two week turn around for her to create the sound for each episode.
Fortunately for Chase, she felt “in very safe hands” with the rest of the Heartstopper team.
“They all seemed like they had a clear mind of what they wanted the show to be, but at the same time, I felt a lot of trust,” she said.
“I felt like they trusted me to explore and try and create a sound that was specific to Heartstopper.”
She quickly figured out what the Heartstopper sound was, and from there “the pieces just started to fall together”.
A distinctive part of the soundtrack is the way it feels as if it is replicating the character’s inner feelings.
One of the ways Chase achieved that feeling was by using a synth and bending the note upwards.
“By bending that note, I feel like it gives you that little heart flutter, or that feeling when you go over a bump in the road in a car, and your tummy does a little flip,” Chase said.
“That flip can happen, as well, when you see someone you really like.”
You can hear those bends in the notes constantly throughout the soundtrack, and this is completely intentional.
The bendy note is first heard when Charlie sees Nick for the first time, and from then on it becomes a signifier of their shared moments.
“It’s just a little Easter egg that says, “There’s Nick!’, or that he’s on Charlie’s mind.”
As for her inspiration whilst working on the composition, Chase drew on all the music she has listened to throughout her life, but most importantly, she channelled the emotions in the story and from her inner self from when she was growing up.
“I just felt very invested in the characters, and the show itself … I’m a bisexual person and, growing up, it was a very strange journey for me,” she said.
“I don’t really feel like I ever questioned my sexuality – but at the same time, I never really opened up about it.”
A big part of Heartstopper’s authenticity as an LGBTQI+ story is how it deals with topics of figuring out and being self-accepting of sexuality.
This is one of the many reasons for Heartstopper’s critical acclaim from the harshest of critics and millions of supportive fans.
Chatting with one of those fans, they expressed their pride at the show’s success and positive mainstream representation of queer youth.
Sadie Davis found out about Heartstopper three months before the show’s release and has since been “genuinely obsessed.”
“A lot of media present queer stories quite gritty and dark, but this is genuinely one of the first portrayals that I’ve seen of a queer relationship that is so utterly positive and colourful,” they said.
“That representation is so important as well, because it shows young kids, who may not understand their sexuality, that being queer isn’t a scary and dark thing.”
When I asked Davis what their favourite use of music in the show was, they mentioned the inclusion of songs by LGBTQI+ artists such as Baby Queen and Orla Gartland, which were strategically placed throughout the show.
They also praised Chase’s use of music in the show. “It was really like a heart skipping a beat being translated through sound.”
It’s a tumultuous time for Netflix with the rate of cancelled subscription rates growing, and original series are frequently on the brink of cancellation.
But the two-season renewal is a positive indication that Netflix believes in the power of queer joy and authenticity demonstrated in Heartstopper.
Fingers crossed we’ll hear those sweet electric synths return in the coming seasons.
Until then though, you’ll find me blasting the season one soundtrack like no one’s watching.