Posted by Kayla Tooma on 05/24 at 12:20 AM
Perhaps the most anticipated film of the year, Baz Luhrman’s film adaption of the 1925 F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, The Great Gatsby, has been causing quite a stir. And perhaps getting just as much attention as the film itself is the soundtrack to the movie, produced by rapper Jay-Z. At first, like most people, I was very skeptical about mixing hip hop/dance/modern music styles with the imagery and story of the 1920’s. And while many still criticize this choice, I found every track to work well with the film, in addition to being able to stand alone as songs independent of the film.
Most of the tracks fuse sounds of the 20s era - like Vaudeville, ragtime, jazz and blues - with today’s popular music resulting in a rich, fun, and interesting sound. Some of the tracks make direct connections to the novel and film by either having lyrics related to the story. Some even have snippets of actual dialogue. With a star-studded line-up the artists featured on the album cross over ranges of genres and styles from Jay-Z, Lana Del Rey, Bryan Ferry, various members of the Black Eyed Peas, Gotye, Florence + The Machine, Beyoncé, and Jack White. Overall, the album does well at combining fun, party music with intense melancholia.
Here’s a sampler of the soundtrack, including the three extra songs included in the ‘Deluxe Edition’:
The album opens with Jay-Z’s “100$ Bill” with lines directly from the film, the first being DiCaprio’s Gatsby saying “my life has got to be like this—it’s got to keep going on”. The track continues to be sprinkled with film dialogue against the great beat.
An unexpected cover of the late Amy Winehouse’s soulful and mournful “Back to Black”is performed by Beyoncé and André 3000. The track begins with André who changes the original melody, resulting in a more staccato sound reminiscent of scatting. As a huge fan of Winehouse and the original song, I was slightly apprehensive about the cover but that soon changed when Beyoncé wooed me with her part of the song. Sweet and mournful, Beyoncé’s portion of the song is hypnotically beautiful.
Will.i.am grabs us and pulls out from the ‘black’ and throws us into the party with his ragtime/vaudeville infused dance song “Bang Bang.” The bridge feature’s fun scatting alongside the ukulele and bass heavy beats. It is unclear if the female vocalist on the track is Britney Spears. It is almost unmistakably her voice, but the song is only credited to will.i.am. Seeing as the two recently collaborated on the popular song “Scream and Shout,” it really leaves one wondering if the vocalist is the pop queen or just a vocal sound-a-like. But mysteries aside, the track is catchy and fun enough for a party at Gatsby’s!
And the party continues on with “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody” by Fergie, Q-Tip, and GoonRock. The song is dance beat heavy but incorporates some Vaudeville trumpets and piano that help to situate it in Gatsby’s backyard. The vocals are strong and the song will easily be the anthem of every party this summer.
The party ends and the romance begins with the queen of melancholia, Lana Del Rey, and her track “Young and Beautiful.” The song is utterly gorgeous, capturing the uncertainty of love by asking “will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful? Will you still love me when I’ve got nothing but my aching soul?” But she resolves all doubt by answering her own question “I know you will.” As the song continues, the music builds as she continues to question. Simple yet emotional, the song is easily the tender tearjerker of the album.
Heavily influenced by the jazz and blues of the 20s, Bryan Ferry and the Bryan Ferry Orchestra bring us a new version of “Love is the Drug.” Originally a song by the band Roxy Music fronted by Ferry, the song is smooth, sexy, and great for a saucy slow dance.
“Over the Love” by Florence and the Machine is breathtaking. Florence Welch’s voice on this track is perhaps the biggest gem of the entire soundtrack. The lyrics are heavily influenced by the novel, ending with the chilling chant, and perhaps my favorite fifteen seconds on the entire album, “I can see the green light/I can see it in your eyes.”
The weakest and most forgettable track would be Quadron singer Coco O.’s “Where the Wind Blows.” Her vocals are nice but the song overall is kind of a yawn especially when compared to the other songs that are far more pumped with emotion and/or flare. It’s not a bad song, but it’s not safe against the “skip” button to get to the other more memorable tracks.
Emeli Sandé and The Bryan Ferry Orchestra cover Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” and add some fun roaring 20s flare. Emeli’s vocals are soft and lovely and the music is so much fun—it really makes one want to get up and start doing the Charleston!
Maybe the most haunting song on the album is “Together” by The xx. The song is beautiful and strange featuring ghostly vocals and melancholy guitars and violins that initially whisper. But as the song builds they begin to cry. Listen to it with your eyes shut and you’ll think you’re floating.
“Heart’s a Mess” by Gotye starts out pretty softly and continues to haunt like the tracks before it. However, when we reach the middle of the song, Gotye releases his great vocals that made the world fall in love with his breakout hit song “Somebody That I Used to Know”.
The volume and soul is turned way up with Jack White‘s, of the White Stripes, cover of U2’s “Love is Blindness.” White takes us deeper into melancholy but this time with refreshing soul, some much-needed rock, and undeniable emotion. The hardness of the song juxtaposed with the previous softer tracks really makes an impact. His vocals are stellar and pain-filled, and the music is deliciously bluesy. The constant change of dynamics from soft to hard throughout the song keep it interesting as well.
The track “Into the Past” by British electronic band Nero can leave some unsure. The strings are quite gorgeous in the song, however if the song was stripped of them, one has to wonder how it would sound. The vocals and lyrics are unimpressive, but the strings and beats during the choruses have redeeming qualities.
The closing track on the standard soundtrack, “Kill and Run” by Sia is quite lovely. Her vocals on the track are impressive and decorated by some pleasingly simple piano and strings. Keeping with the theme of haunting melancholia, Sia’s finale track is a gorgeous piece to end the talent-pumped album on.
The album has a terrific range of singers and genres that all somehow connect through beauty, love, and sadness. The dance songs will thrust you from your chair into a wild world of glorious parties and the slower, emotional songs will leave you with chills.
Author: Kayla Tooma
Bio: Kayla Tooma is a senior majoring in English at Penn State. She hails from the great island of Long Island, NY. When she’s not writing, she can be found playing piano, reading medieval literature, watching unhealthy amounts of space documentaries, and making some kind of lame pun. Her favorite genres include a variety of rock, pop, indie, and metal. Some of her favorite artists include My Chemical Romance, Lana Del Rey, Queen, MIKA, No Doubt, Lady Gaga, HIM, The Smiths, The Jane Austen Argument, The Beatles, Beirut, The Dresden Dolls, and The White Stripes. She also has a sweet spot for pop goddesses like Cher, Madonna, and Britney Spears.
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