You may not know him by name, but you cannot escape TikTok without hearing at least one of his songs. He’s Cody Fry, the Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter and composer who has taken the internet by storm. In 2021, three of his songs unexpectedly went viral on TikTok, which caused his musical career to take flight; however, it seems that his viewers don’t think he’s getting the attention that he deserves and they are demanding that Fry gets hired by Disney immediately.
As a singer-songwriter who enjoyed writing orchestra as a hobby, Fry told Atwood Magazine that he suddenly realized, “Why am I keeping these worlds separate?” After he decided to incorporate orchestra into everything he created, a “whole world of creativity opened up.” He has singlehandedly convinced his audience that every song needs a grand orchestration. As if a symphony wasn’t emotional enough to make the average melophile weep, Fry adds an extra layer of sentiment with his gentle voice and soft guitar strumming.
With his recent TikTok explosion and the influx of new listeners and royalties, Fry got the opportunity to record 17 of his original songs with an orchestra. He has recently released “Symphony Sessions,” in which he documents the process of recording songs with the full ensemble. Each player came to the studio to sightread the pieces, only playing it a handful of times before the final recordings were made.
“The most amazing things that humans do are the things [we] do together in large groups,” reflects Fry in “Symphony Sessions.” Only in music do artists get the chance to come together in the same room to make the same piece of art, simultaneously. In bringing this style of music into the pop realm, Fry hopes to give young musicians a reason to continue learning and contributing to the music world.
Without any further ado, let’s dive into Cody Fry’s top three orchestration pieces.
“I Hear a Symphony”
This 2017 magnum opus from the album “Flying” needed a few years to spread its wings before it began to take flight on TikTok. “I was trying to figure out how to introduce more chromaticism and dissonance into pop songs,” he explains in his Song Breakdown video. Thousands of artists have written four-chord songs about falling in love, but the chromatic nature of the track is what makes this song unique. “What makes love so beautiful is all of those moments of unexpectedness,” he says later.
“I Hear a Symphony” begins in the simplest way — a single voice reminiscing about his life as he fell in love. At first, the feeling is effortlessly easy, but as two people connect on a deeper level, they encounter more complex moments of “unexpectedness.” After finishing his first verse, he begins cueing in different instruments. First, the piano is introduced as it plays an elegant and catchy melody. To give the song a sense of motion, the strings sneak in to hold down the chord structure. The cello carries most of the weight in such a high register, adding vital vibrations. Then, in true Disney fashion, Fry reintroduces his simple melody for a third time at the climax of the piece with horns blaring and cymbals crashing. Band geeks might recognize the rhythmic motif in the third verse as George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” “You took my broken melody / And now I hear a symphony,” Fry epiphanizes at the end.
The composer described the experience of this song’s explosion as “getting struck by lightning” in an interview with American Songwriter. After discovering and downloading TikTok, he was flooded with hundreds of videos of story animations, tear-jerking reunions and even a U.S. figure skating championship performance.
Critic Nicholas Gaudet had nothing but kind words for the song, giving it the ultimate compliment of comparing it to “Bohemian Rhapsody.” For Music Talkers, he commends “I Hear a Symphony” as “the true display of passion, love, musicianship and orchestration” and it’s safe to say that we’re all in agreement.
The Beatles song about “all the lonely people” took on a new meaning during the pandemic. The story of the song follows two lonely people: Eleanor Rigby and Father McKenzie. Interestingly enough, Eleanor Rigby was a real woman whose gravestone can be found at St. Peter’s Parish Church in Woolton, Liverpool, the very church where Paul McCartney and John Lennon first met in 1957.
While paying homage to the original string quartet, Fry gave his fans a chance to be a part of the song. Four hundred people recorded themselves on their phone or computer and sent it to him to be a part of the Lonely People International Choir. “What a cool thing to have this song that is centered around the theme of loneliness. Then, bring together 500 people to make it,” Fry told Music Radar. “I love that sort of oxymoronic thing where we’re all lonely together. It’s all a little microcosm of what the pandemic felt like.”
The unique files of legato, operatic vocals aren’t the only thing special about this song. “Eleanor Rigby” requires a 60-piece string section. The cellos act as the metronome, bowing the same staccato quarter notes to hold the tempo down. It all builds up to a massive sforzando, just after Fry sings “Eleanor Rigby” in a hushed voice. From there, the instruments slowly re-enter as he tells the story of the lonely people, which eventually leads to Rigby’s demise. In a moment of grief, Fry strips all of the reverb from the orchestra and vocals to make it feel more intimate.
It wouldn’t be a Cody Fry song without a bombastic orchestral ending, though. He discusses his intentions with the ending in the Song Breakdown. After he’s done singing, the choir echoes “ah, look at all the lonely people.” All the while, the piano inches up octaves with simple chord changes that are neither in rhythm nor the right key. The melody never quite fits in, stumbling around and not being able to find its footing. The staggered chord movements in the strings move the song along. Fry continues building the tension until the last chord that shakes the audience by their shoulders and then releases them into nothingness.
On TikTok, creators use this song for a variety of video styles, but it is most often used to demonstrate moments of shock. For example, Donald Duck uses “Eleanor Rigby” in a duet with Eliana Ghen to announce that he’s pregnant. It also gave Fry the chance to show off his dance moves. The attention that he acquired from this song’s TikTok eruption earned him a 2022 Grammy nomination for best arrangement, instruments and vocals. We won’t be surprised when he wins.
“Underground” is not only Fry’s newest but also his most dynamic and cinematic piece yet. It begins with a short prelude called “Caves.” The minor tri-chord melody gives listeners a sense of how dark and cavernous this cave is. Then the brass blasts major chords, which give the piece a “Star Wars” feeling. “Caves” sets listeners up nicely for the emotional train ride that is “Underground.”
Unbeknownst to the protagonist in this song, they wake up underground in a subway tunnel looking for someone. A small section of woodwinds fashion a far-away train whistle, yet they are still clueless. Although their intuition tells them not to continue, they keep moving. The tone shifts with a suspended cymbal roll to give momentum. Meanwhile, the flutes and clarinets dance above Fry’s vocals, adding more texture and motion.
Then a little white light breaks through the darkness and begins to grow. Nowhere left to go, they watch the train as it hurtles toward them. The strings strike staccato quarter notes as a warning and the French horns wail echoes from “Caves.” But it’s too late. The trombones perform a glissando (doppler effect) to mimic a train whistle as it passes by. The cymbals crash and the music swells, leaving every listener with full-body chills and tears in their eyes as Fry sings, “Love, I see you now / You’ve found me here, underground.”
This masterpiece is finally gaining traction on TikTok, with fans using it to share their story ideas, animatics and acting skills. Still, fans are frustrated that it doesn’t have the numbers it deserves.
Everyone is dying to know how Fry continues to churn out these beautiful, emotionally cathartic songs. “A lot of the time when I write a great song, I feel like I was just kind of in the room when it happened,” he shared with Music Radar. As he writes, he allows inspiration to find him. He gives the music the power to dictate what it wants and where it’s leading, rather than trying to manipulate it to do what he wants it to do. He hopes that he will inspire other orchestration geeks to do the same.
Fry’s growing fanbase on TikTok is continuing to elevate his work in hopes of changing his life for the better. If Disney doesn’t offer this man a movie score contract soon, they’ll be sorry.
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