'Succession' Composer Nicholas Britell Is as Obsessed With Those Memes as You

Nicholas Britell - Getty - H 2019
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Nicholas Britell won an Emmy for his piano-tinkling main title tune for HBO's Succession, but the true measure of the composition's success is the number of memes and GIFs it's generating. "Honestly, when you're writing music, the dream is just that people feel what you're feeling, but this has taken on a life of its own," the 38-year-old composer tells The Hollywood Reporter of the near-constant flood of viral tributes — from memes and GIFs to video clips, like one featuring a trippy Kermit the Frog dancing to it in perfect synchronicity and Pusha-T rapping over a remix.

THR caught up with Britell at the London Film Festival ahead of a screening of the Timothée Chalamet starrer The King, for which he did the music, and even he seemed surprised at the attention. “Honestly, when you're writing music, the initial dream is just that people feel what you're feeling, you know? But the way that this has taken on a life of its own with the memes, and like the Kermit the Frog meme! I mean, there's all these amazing memes. It's been really, an incredible thing,” Britell explained. “The tone of Succession, you know, it's both incredibly serious, because these issues it brings up about the world are very serious — questions of concentrations of power and money and these small groups of people — but at the same time, it has an absurdity to it, and balancing those two things musically was a very, very awesome challenge. ... There's this kind of like very dark, almost like late 18th century kind of dark classical sound, that I'm mixing with these weird 808s and hip-hop beats and things, so it's a very, it's an interesting landscape.” 

Judging by the response the song has been getting, he succeeded. Vice even praised the theme music last month as “undoubtedly the song of the year."

Not everyone has been keeping a close eye on the latest Succession memes, however. Nicholas Braun, aka Cousin Greg — taunted in this season’s penultimate episode with the iconic line “You can’t make a Tom-lette without breaking some Gregs” by co-star Matthew Macfadyen’s Tom — admitted to THR that while he loved the Kermit clip, he eventually had to stop checking Twitter for updates. “It’s overwhelming. It’s crazy you can make something and every second or seven seconds everyone is talking about it. I have to step away from this, but it is funny.” 

A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.