Meet Siddhartha Khosla, Emmy-nominated music composer behind the theme of Only Murders in the Building-Entertainment News, Firstpost
With Only Murders in the Building, the Indo-American Siddhartha Khosla managed to deliver a career-defining Hitchkonian score just after reaching a career high with his sweeping work on This is Us.
When Siddhartha Khosla started composing music for NBC It’s us in 2017, he had no idea the show was going to break records, that its score would explode, or that that would translate to three consecutive Emmy nominations.
By this time, the Native American musician – who was also a part of the indie-pop group Goldspot – had already been in the industry for over a decade, quietly writing music for several TV series, including how I Met Your Mother and CO But no project has quite succeeded in catapulting him into fame like It’s us – it was as if the world was finally discovering the musician in him even if he had always been there.
By Khosla’s own admission, it was “the concert of a lifetime”. If you think that the musician reaches his creative climax with the sentimental and timeless score of It’s us, you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. Khosla thought so too.
And then came Only the murders in the building, the Hulu real crime comedy series that stars Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez. The eclectic show, which concluded its first season last month, is a lot of fun, delicately balancing its theatrical excesses with a strong emotional core. But its secret weapon is undoubtedly its immensely hummable title theme which aptly manages to condense the whimsical quality of Only the murders in the building.
In the three months since the show’s premiere on Hulu, the title’s theme quickly built up a loyal fandom, becoming a pop culture currency in a line with the unforgettable Nicholas Britell. Succession theme. Khosla was inundated with compliments. “People have tagged me on social media to tell me that the theme ‘slap’. I had no idea what ‘slaps’ meant until a lot of people repeated it to describe the theme, ”Khosla from Los Angeles tells me. “I had to search, and that’s a huge compliment apparently.”
It is certainly a testament to Khosla’s success. As is the case with Succession, it is impossible to talk about it Only the murders in the building not to mention its title theme as well. Most artists spend their entire careers trying to reproduce the essence of their greatest work.
With Only the murders in the building, Khosla, on the other hand, managed to secure a career-defining Hitchkonian score just after reaching a career high with his far-reaching work on It’s us.
“Who knows, maybe we can have several gigs in a lifetime,” says Khosla.
Only the murders in the building came to Khosla last year during the pandemic while locked in his apartment writing a modern classical instrumental record just to occupy himself.
It’s us creator Dan Fogelman, who also happens to be Khosla’s close friend and an executive producer on Only the murders in the building, introduced the musician to the show’s co-creator, John Hoffman. “John and I immediately connected via a Zoom call and were successful. I was given a pre-copy of the script, and after reading it, I was absolutely in love with the project. It was pure magic.
On the call with Hoffman, Khosla played a few tracks from the pandemic record he had decided to make. One of these pieces eventually became the main theme of Only the murders in the building. “When I performed the play for John, he immediately claimed it as the theme of the show. A lot of it was about being in the right place at the right time with the right people working together, ”says Khosla. “The theme song is very similar to my personality – quirky but emotional, melancholy but silly.”
Khosla’s parents immigrated to the United States in the 1970s with eight dollars in their pockets. But living the American dream turned out to be more difficult than expected. Both juggled being in school and working full time to support themselves. So when Khosla was born, they decided to send him back to his grandparents in India. Although he was not classically trained, it was these first years that he spent in the country that forged his relationship with music. Growing up, the musician had an appetite for Kishore Kumar and the Beatles.
Honoring this duality of musical influences that shaped it has often been the cornerstone of Khosla’s music production. Take for example, Goldspot’s loud reworking of the 1957 classic ‘Eena Meena Deeka‘(Aasha). The band’s version remains indebted to Hindi film music while adopting a low-key psychedelic rock vibe. And in the clip, Khosla channels the swagger of Beatles guitarist George Harrison. Likewise, if you listen carefully to the It’s us score, you will hear the tanpura. It is the distinctive nature of Khosla’s musical language that sets him apart.
There is no better proof of this fact than Only the murders in the building. Turning around the murder of Tim Kono, Only the murders in the building sees three real crime freaks team up to hunt down Kono’s murderer while recording a real-time crime podcast on the case. Over time, the show goes from a musical trend to a definition by its music.
This helped Khosla understand the mission correctly as the score is a cornucopia of wealth. It’s minimal and calculated – there is no vocals on the title song other than a constant hum (Khosla’s own voice) that comes and goes with the animation of the title. To mimic the spirit of street performers in New York – the setting for the show – Khosla enlisted drummer James McAlister to slap sticks on the Home Depot buckets, and made it sound as if the title song opened with battery. The fact that the trail also hides perhaps the biggest clue to the identity of Kono’s murderer only reiterates its effectiveness.
Yet the greatest musical moment of Only the murders in the building, which has Sting, an attractive bassoonist, and several podcast themes in the mix, is that Khosla is keenly aware of when to rule. It shows in the way he avoids using music as a comedic interlude. “A show like this didn’t need the comedy to be punctuated by the score,” says Khosla. “When you’ve got comedy greats and you’re writing as hard as on a show, you can just focus on grading the emotional and dramatic beats of the story.”
Only the murders in the building are being streamed on Disney + Hotstar.
Poulomi Das is a film and culture writer, critic and programmer. Follow more of his writings on Twitter.