‘Cobra Kai’ Music: How Composer Leo Birenberg Included Every Kind of ’80s Music

Cobra Kai shows fans what their ‘80s heroes are like today. Ralph Macchio and William Zabka reprise their Karate Kid roles as Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence. Music is a huge part of Johnny’s life as his life still has an ‘80s music soundtrack. The show’s composers, Leo Birenberg and Zach Robinson also imbue the soundtrack with every possible ‘80s sound. 

'Cobra Kai': '80s music icon Dee Snider sings on stage in the show
Dee Snider | Curtin Bonds Baker/Netflix

Birenberg was a guest on Cobra Kai star Martin Kove’s podcast Kicking It with the Koves on Feb. 17. He explained how his score captures every kind of music there was in the ‘80s. Cobra Kai Season 5 returns Sept. 9 on Netflix. 

There’s more than 1 kind of ‘80s music in ‘Cobra Kai’

‘80s music is a whole genre now as music stations and playlists offer hits of the ‘80s. Birenberg recognizes that it’s more complicated than that. Johnny likes heavy metal like Dee Snider, Foreigner and Whitesnake. To the point that Zabka put his foot down about wearing a Jane’s Addiction T-shirt.

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“We had to pitch our concept which is this ‘80s throwback,” Birenberg said on Kicking It with the Koves. “Extremely cinematic, kind of like a nod to various parts of I would say the ‘80s cinematic tradition, but that’s a few different things because you have the synth wave. You have the hair metal.”

‘Cobra Kai’ music encompasses instrumental genres too. 

The Birenberg/Robinson original “Strike First” has become the de facto theme for Cobra Kai. Birenberg explained how that song is essentially the theme song Johnny hears in his own head. Their instrumental music covers a vast array of music, including music inspired by the films.


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“And you also have orchestra that is as busy and epic as you would find in some of these Amblin ‘80s movies,” Birenberg said. “Or in The Karate Kid there’s an orchestral tradition too. We really wanted to encompass all of that because we thought it was necessary for the story.”

‘The Karate Kid’ music 

Bill Conti wrote the score for The Karate Kid. In addition to the rousing All-Valley Karate Tournament music, with its crane kick crescendo, Conti’s score also included softer, Japanese inspired themes. Plus, Conti already wrote the definitive sports movie music for Rocky.

The Karate Kid movies had pop music soundtracks too. “You’re the Best” and “Moment of Truth” were the standout tracks from the first film and Chicago’s “Glory of Love” for the sequel, but each. Karate Kid III had a soundtrack too but did not warrant as many top 40 hits. 

Birenberg and Robinson’s instrumental score pays homage to Conti and the pop music of the ‘80s films. The music licenses do too. They included Chicago’s “You’re the Inspiration” in one episode. So if you think Cobra Kai is just about “‘80s music,” consider there’s a lot more to it than just one genre. 

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‘Cobra Kai’ Music: How Composer Leo Birenberg Included Every Kind of ’80s Music
Source: News Pinoy Buzz

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