We all know The Bachelor Australia recycles certain elements across seasons, whether it’s date ideas, tuxedos, or Jake Ellis. But the reality TV juggernaut reuses one element more than any other: the cymbal swell. I literally cannot stop hearing it.
Once you know what to listen for, they’re impossible to ignore. Truthfully, I’m not even sure shows like The Bachelor could work without them. To prove my point, I watched a recent episode of The Bachelor and tallied each and every time a cymbal swell snuck into the soundtrack. The results were… Well, we’ll get to that in a minute.
First: what is a cymbal swell? It’s the whooshing sound which dots The Bachelor‘s soundtrack, adding spice to light piano lines and morose string sections alike. This sort of thing, basically:
There are long swells, short swells, and little flourishes, each serving a unique sonic purpose. Most of the time they’re a fulcrum for tension and release – any time a contestant just rags on another at the cocktail party, you can expect a cymbal swell in the score. Rose ceremony? Oh baby, it’s time to swell. They also appear between segments as a kind of transitional noise. Elsewhere, Osher Günsberg usually gets one when he pops on screen.
What isn’t a cymbal swell? That question might seem redundant, but The Bachelor‘s soundtrack is unusually complex, and cymbal swells aren’t the only trick Warner Bros. Television uses to keep the thing moving. Nearly every moment of the show is undercut by music, nudging the audience to subconsciously feel some kind of way. Chimes and white noise sweeps also dot that soundtrack, providing mini-crescendos in a thousand different textures and intensities.
Listing each and every time one of those pops up would be impossible, as there’s basically always something happening in the background. Instead, I endeavoured to count each no-nonsense cymbal swell on a recent episode – Season 8, Episode 12, where Locky Gilbert macks on with Bella Varelis and sends poor Kaitlyn Hoppe packing.
Things got off to a blazing start, as the intro’s very first noise is a cymbal swell. The things nearly overwhelm the episode’s customary recap segment, serving as an auditory segue between different flashbacks, and a tiny little flourish sits under the episode’s establishing shot. I counted 13 individual swells in the first one minute and 51 seconds.
More swells appeared in the episode’s first quarter, where the remaining contestants basically sit around and chat before Locky’s arrival. Cuts to private interviews are another big swell magnet. After roughly ten minutes, the swell-o-meter sat at 31.
But things slowed down during the middle section of the episode, where Locky and Bella kissed and made up over a recent tiff. The duo went to smash some plates and whack ’em back together again (a symbol swell?) and he expressed, galootishly, his affinity for her eyes (“Big beautiful eyes” tally: three, maybe more).
You will note that swells are less prominent when the figures on-screen are in agreement, or in a state of conversational stasis. Yet the swells returned when the pair admitted their feelings to each other, bringing the count to 76 around the half-hour mark.
The rose ceremony brought another influx of swells, including a barrage of the things in the lead-up to Kaitlyn’s dismissal. Just like the intro, the episode’s ending – hinting at Locky eating shit in front of Bella’s family – included a stack of swells.
All up, I tallied 106 of them across the episode’s 42-minute runtime. That’s about 2.5 swells per minute.
It’s probably hard enough to score a film or TV show when you already have the script in front of you, let alone a reality TV series where a dozen lovelorn Australians effectively act as your conductor, so I don’t begrudge The Bachelor for turning to easy and reliable audio cues.
As for us? Whether you know it or not, your feelings towards The Bachelor‘s heroes and villains are likely guided by those shimmering sound effects.
Now see if you can unhear them.