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The Underground Railroad on Amazon Prime: the music behind the new Colson Whitehead novel adaptation

Who wrote the score to the new Amazon prime drama The Underground Railroad? We introduce you to composer Nicholas Britell and everything you need to know about how and where you can buy the soundtrack

Published: May 17, 2021 at 12:55 pm

Colson Whitehead's novel The Underground Railroad was met with huge critical acclaim when it was released back in 2016, and it has now been adapted for a limited ten-episode series on Amazon Prime.


Who wrote the soundtrack to The Underground Railroad?

The orchestral score to The Underground Railroad was written by American composer Nicholas Britell, who has collaborated with director Barry Jenkins on both his previous films, Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, both of which received nominations for Best Original Score at the Academy Awards. It is the first time the pair have worked together on a television project. Jamie Fisher wrote in the New York Times that Britell's work on The Underground Railroad is 'less a single score than 10 intersecting, fully realised musical universes.'

Britell was also behind the iconic soundtrack to Succession.

The Underground Railroad on Amazon Prime

Britell's score to The King was included in the shortlist for the 2020 Academy Awards. He is also set to compose the music to the live-action film Cruella, based on the Disney villain from 101 Dalmations, which is expected to be released later this year.

In his writing for The Underground Railroad, Britell has paired lush orchestral background music with spikier string playing that is more indicative of music that might have been heard at the time by amateur players, such as the South Carolina Social Waltz No. 1.

Britell has uses 'felted' piano hammers to muffle the sound of the piano keys in some of the parts of the score to create a warped sound.

Who is Nicholas Britell?

The American composer entered the industry after studying psychology at Harvard and starting a career at a hedge fund. He is classically trained, which has enabled him to write for large-scale orchestras, such as the 90-piece ensemble used in his soundtrack for Vice. But he has also turned to other genres such as hip-hop for inspiration for his scores and once played keys in a hip-hop band.

The films he has scored have performed incredibly well, ever since his music was featured in Steve McQueen's Oscar-winning film 12 Years a Slave in 2013. He went on to score the Oscar-winning The Big Short, directed by Adam McKay, whose next film Britell is also working on: Don't Look Up, expected to be released later this year.

He has also worked as a film producer, having worked on Whiplash, the psychological drama that depicted an ambitious jazz drummer and received widespread critical acclaim.

The Underground Railroad on Amazon Prime production shot

Where can you stream the soundtrack for The Underground Railroad online?

The soundtrack for The Underground Railroad is available to stream now on Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer.

Can you buy the soundtrack for The Underground Railroad?

The soundtrack for The Underground Railroad is available to buy and download now from the iTunes Store.

The Underground Railroad on Amazon Prime

What book is The Underground Railroad based on?

Amazon Prime's new series is based on the novel of the same name by Colson Whitehead, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2017 and was longlisted for the Booker Prize in the same year. It is a work of historical fiction which tells the 'alternate history' of Cora and Caesar, two slaves in 19th-century America, who try and flee from their Georgia plantation via the Underground Railroad – a network of secret routes and safe houses established to help enslaved African Americans reach Canada and the free states of the US.

Whitehead was subsequently awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction again in 2020 for his novel The Nickel Boys.

The Underground Railroad on Amazon Prime

Where can you watch The Underground Railroad online?

The Underground Railroad is streaming now on Amazon Prime. Subscribe to Amazon Prime now for £7.99 per month with a 30-day free trial.


The series will be available in over 240 countries worldwide.

The Underground Railroad on Amazon Prime

Watch the trailer for The Underground Railroad

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