“To buy-in with the right kind of sincerity, you have to embrace the drama,” declares Leo Birenberg, who serves as composer on Netflix’s hit dramedy “Cobra Kai” alongside co-composer Zach Robinson. “We are really into the sincerity of how the score plays from the audience’s point of view,” Birenberg goes on to say. “It’s what you want to hear and cheer along with as the audience, and to execute it right, there’s a sincerity there. That is what we strive for in every single scene,” he explains, noting that the musical cues on this show are meant to be from the heart and earnest rather than ironic or tongue-in-cheek.
“We use that word all the time and that is what we live by,” Robinson agrees, as Birenberg enthusiastically adds that they are “here to have fun with the audience and with the characters.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Birenberg and Robinson above.
“Cobra Kai,” now in its third season, revisits old rivals Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), 30 years after the original 1984 Oscar-nominated classic “The Karate Kid.”
This season sees Johnny and Daniel in a three-way feud with the villainous Kreese (Martin Kove, reprising his role from the original film), Lawrence’s old sensei, who returned last season to take over the Cobra Kai dojo. Old grudges and lots of karate kicks, blood and shattered glass build towards the satisfying season finale in which the two men finally come together with their dojos to take Kreese down next season.
With each season, the series has expanded in the scope of its storytelling, which the composers have welcomed with open arms because it has enabled them to adapt and revisit their building-block themes and cues in new and novel ways through exploring the score’s numerous contrasting styles and genres.
“We set up these the three sound worlds as this amazing launching point and afterwards we just have so much fun being able to weave them together,” Birenberg says. “We have these three sound environments that we work within,” Robinson elaborates. “We have the hair metal for Johnny, for the kids and the newer generation we were combining a lot of modern synth-wave and EDM elements and then with Daniel we wanted to hearken back to the mysticism and spirituality that gets conjured up with the [original] Bill Conti score and with that, Miyagi.”
Although the series flew somewhat under the radar when it ran on YouTube’s premium service for its first and second seasons in 2018 and 2019. when YouTube subsequently decided to cease producing original scripted programming, Netflix decided to pick it up. That wise decision saw the show’s first and second seasons become the most-watched series on the platform, while the third season further skyrocketed in popularity after it premiered in January 2021, cementing it as one of Netflix’s most popular original series. In addition to its impressive commercial success, “Cobra Kai” has also garnered raves from critics, with Season 3 scoring a “fresh” 90% on Rotten Tomatoes.
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