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The Secrets Behind Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt's Awesome Songs

Composer Jeff Richmond can't stop singing them either!

Joyce Eng

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt composer Jeff Richmond knows how you feel.

"I can't get them out of my head either!" he tells TVGuide.com of the Netflix comedy's addictive earworms. "That probably doesn't mean much from me, but we love that people are loving them and the show. It's overwhelming. Everyone here is thrilled at the love for it."

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Any Kimmy Schmidt fan can tell you that the only thing better than its amazing sight gags, jokes and basically the show itself is its compulsively catchy and hilarious music. For that, you can worship at the feet of Richmond. The Emmy winner, who's also responsible for all your favorite 30 Rock tunes, crafted the songs with co-creators Tina Fey (his wife) and Robert Carlock, who had envisioned music playing a key role in the series from the beginning. "The great thing about 30 Rock and now Kimmy Schmidt is that those guys could find ways of using songs and making Jenna [Jane Krakowski] sing or guest stars sing," Richmond, who also serves as executive producer, says. "I think that made the show feel a little unique. We had this world of talented people who could sing, and Kimmy is proving that as well, so it's fun. Tina and Robert don't shy away from it. They love it."

While some Kimmy songs were always going to be part of the show, others might have been different or not even exist if it weren't for the show's move from NBC to Netflix, which was finalized in November shortly before production wrapped.

"The Netflix model means that you have to deliver all the final episodes with all the final mixes of the sound and score at the same time. On a network show, you're giving them an episode every couple of weeks," Richmond says. "The score and music were very accelerated. We were constantly generating and mixing as we were trying to get this project off to Netflix so they could ... dub it for every nation and continent on the planet. In that regard, you were writing themes all at once, almost like you were working on a movie, and you can go, 'Oh, we can really develop scenes and we can pull music from this episode and put it in this episode because it feels thematic.' You also didn't have time constraints, so you could do a little more if you wanted."

Needless to say, they wanted to. Below, Richmond takes us behind the music (please don't pull a Titus and only watch the first half) of Kimmy's inescapable hits and what we could expect in Season 2.

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The theme song

The Auto-Tuned news segment parody opening was never in question. "From the very get-go, when 30 Rock was done and [Fey and Carlock] knew they wanted to write something for Ellie Kemper and they figured out it was going to be this, they knew how the show was going to open and they knew we were going to go into a viral Auto-Tuned video of this guy Bankston [Mike Britt]," Richmond says. "We all loved those Charles Ramsey videos so much. It was very exciting to think we were going to jump in and do that." A theme song was important because of Kimmy's dark premise and opening scene of the Mole Women being rescued after 15 years in captivity. "It was such a bleak way to start a show, you had to be able to turn a curve very quickly and try to get the audience right on board with something fun," he says. "We thought this was probably the best way to do that."

After Fey and Carlock scripted Bankston's TV interview, they built a 32-second version of the song with Richmond "the way we figured the Gregory Brothers would." The actual Gregory Brothers came into the picture when it was time to create the title sequence. "The main titles company said, 'We can get the Gregory Brothers to do your song.' We were like, 'Great!'" Richmond says. "They came in and they were able to make the video look so cool. Those guys are great. They were able to tweak our Auto-Tune and make that song even more how they would do it."
Though they played around with other phrases from Bankston's interview, Richmond was adamant that the theme feel euphoric and uplifting. "I remember saying, 'Let's not be afraid of using these big words, like, 'They alive, dammit!' and 'unbreakable' and 'It's a miracle,'" he says. "It's about using that word 'dammit' to be emphatic and this declarative expression of hope. It was just a happy exclamation. A bunch of girls singing 'dammit!' in harmony sounds so empowering to me. It was a lot of fun. Mike Britt was great, and we had this cool beat under it. I'm so happy people think it's catchy and they want to talk about it because we think it's totally catchy too."
If you're itching for more, here's the full-length version of the song:

Theme from Spidermen Too: 2 Many Spidermen

When Titus (Tituss Burgess) auditions for the role of Spiderman 12 in the cursed musical from Myron Affleck (aka the third Affleck brother), he performs the title track, which includes such Tony-worthy lyrics as: And I will crush that Spiderman / And then that other Spiderman / And all the Spidermen / 'Til I'm the Spiderman. "We listened to the actual Spider-Man musical and got a sense of what that was like. I think we dog-piled those lyrics," Richmond says. "Tina wrote some, I wrote some, Robert wrote some, and then we wrote it together. That was a case where we recorded it in advance. We had a rough version of that that they went in and shot to."

A longer, jazzier version of the song plays over the closing credits after being cut from the episode. "There was a version where we were gonna play the whole thing under the montage during his audition," Richmond says. "At the time, it felt funnier with a score for whatever reason so we swapped it out. But luckily with Netflix, it's nice to have that real estate to play over the credits for things we didn't have time for in the episode or didn't fit. [The song] for sure is something that could've been on 30 Rock."

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"Peeno Noir"

Titus' spectacul-ar ode to black penis was, as Richmond puts it, "Frankenstein-ed in the edit room." "We went about making that song with the same sensibility that the character Titus went about it, which was, 'Oh, I have a ringtone and I have a rhyming dictionary. Let's go make a music video,'" he says. "We kind of stumbled into doing it that way. It wasn't that purposeful."

Because of the tight shooting schedule, there wasn't time to write and pre-record a track for Burgess to lip-sync to, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. "It just gave Tituss the freedom to be more Tituss-like and find his character," Richmond says. In need of a beat for Burgess to sing to, Richmond dipped into the 30 Rock well -- Denise Richards' "single" "La Piscine." "We were like, 'We gotta get something in there. Let's use that,'" he says. "Tituss would just do his rhyming to that tempo and that beat. It was very fun because we were just like, 'Oh, Tituss, just sing 'Peeeeenooooo Noooooirrrrrrr.' Sing as high as you can and we'll figure this out later.' I remember we said that a lot, 'We'll figure this out later. This is all gonna work.'"

The artful, accentuated "-ar" rhymes were written in the script, with an extra page of alternatives. "Some of them, I would hope [the writers] didn't go [to RhymeZone] because they were so clunky!" Richmond says with a laugh. "We were just building it as we went, which was cool and different. We'd tell Tituss, 'Harmonize on this. What else do you want to do?' It was great because he could do any of that stuff and he had all these ideas."

And Richmond's favorite rhyme? "I think my favorite one is 'Tom Bereng-ar.' I mean, how can it not be, right?"

"I'll Be There for You" (Korean version) from Friends Six White Complainers

So no one told Richmond songwriting was gonna be this way. By far the toughest song to write was the Korean version of the iconic tune. "Oh, jeez. That was crazy," he says. "We were like, 'We have to get Korean singers, professional voiceover singers.' We jumped through a lot of hoops to get an American voiceover singer to learn Korean to sing that song, and to work with a Korean dialect coach so that it'd sound correctly. It was very hard. It's not an easy language."

Only the first two lines -- So no one told you that adults should not complain / You keep a monkey as a pet despite disease -- play on the show because that is literally all they wrote. "That was a case of, 'This is hard. This is all we need. Let's just do two lines!'" Richmond says. "We got enough. Someone should do a full version though."

"Gonna Be Famous" Remix

Titus' "idiot interview fail" viral hit was the "most last-minute of all," according to Richmond. "We had the elements without the song finished, so we had to lock picture without the song and the day before we were mixing, we went in and started playing with it. It was actually part of the storytelling and it had to be good enough that he would be a little of a viral sensation. I remember sitting at home going, 'All I got is fart sounds! I'll just keep using fart sounds as a drum. It's gonna be funny.' We shaved it together the night before musically to work with the video that was already cut."

Like 30 Rock, Kimmy Schmidt is all about the details, so Fey made sure to insert some Easter eggs into the faux YouTube page. "Whenever we do stuff like that, we have to build these backgrounds of Facebook pages and YouTube pages, and you can't use their real names. I remember it didn't quite look right. And Tina said, 'We need the stuff over here,' and she went down the list," Richmond says. "One shot was just the group shot of all the guys in the edit room. One picture was a dog. Then you had Daddy's Boy NSFW and Tracy Morgan Aquarium. It's a nice shout-out."


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"Daddy's Boy"

Richmond's personal favorite is the incestuous little ditty from the unfortunately fake Old Hollywood throwback, the 1938 unfinished musical Daddy's Boy. "The concept of a daddy's boy came up in the writing process," he says. "I can't remember which writer it was, but that is also such a funny thing for Logan [Adam Campbell] to call himself a daddy's boy, and what did that imply? We just kept going with it to see how far we could take it." The result? A ridiculously awesome musical number from the movie. "That felt very 30 Rock, that musical curveball," Richmond, who directed the episode, says. "The show makes a left-hand turn and suddenly we're in a movie with Robert Osborne [hosting a TCM segment]. What a nice man to do that. That felt like a very fun way to heighten it to the point where we're gonna see some of it."

At the time of filming, the show was still at NBC, so "we didn't even know if [the movie] was gonna make the cut because on NBC you only had 22 minutes and it's not actually part of the storytelling," Richmond says. Once the Netflix deal went through, "Robert, Tina and I were like, 'Oh, we can make it go further. We'll start the overture. We can do the movie credits,' so we added those." But that wasn't enough for Fey...

"Dicky Bird"

If you immediately hit "play" on the next episode, you missed one helluva bonus track from Daddy's Boy over the closing credits. "Over Christmas, Tina wanted one more song. So she wrote the dialogue and the words to the 'Dicky Bird' song," Richmond says. (Sample lyric: Twiddle-dee, twit-twoo means I love you / Tweet-twoo twiddle-dee means get off of me) "We were lucky to get Jefferson [Mays] and Nic [Rouleau] back in very quickly to sing it. It's pretty fun when you hear it, right? I remember we mixed it and it sounded very fat and very full on a big stereosonic thing, and we said, 'Wait a minute. We should make it very tinny and mono.' The actual soundscape changes when we go to black and white."

As far as uncovering more "lost footage" from Daddy's Boy, Richmond quips, "Then we might just end up with the whole movie! I keep talking to Robert about this. We should go to Netflix and see if they'll give us money to make the Daddy's Boy musical. How much could that cost? ... What we should do, now that we have the track, is shoot the "Dicky Bird" song. I would love to just see the 'Dicky Bird' scene."

Also on Richmond's Season 2 wish list? For Krakowski and Carol Kane to show off their pipes. "I think that first season, they didn't want [Jacqueline] to feel too much like Jenna, which is a little why we had Tituss do the heavy lifting on the singing," Richmond says. "I think once you get into Season 2, I mean, Jacqueline can sing at a benefit. I'm gonna try to find a way to get Jane to sing. She should sing 'Rural Juror' and then all our worlds will collide into a black hole!"

But wait... do 30 Rock and Kimmy Schmidt exist in the same universe? "They do, I think. One's a jaded view of New York and one's a very sunny, bright view of New York, but it's still the same New York. There was talk at one time that when [the Mole Women] were at the Today show that we would see Kenneth getting out of a limo way, way deep in the background across the plaza because he would be the head of NBC. We didn't do that, but I wish we had. Season 2!"